As David Lange writes in his excellent CoinWeek article, 1960 was a pivotal year for coin collecting in America.
Rare coins, the traditional backbone of the hobby, continued to thrive, with many historic collections being built – some publicly, some privately. But the real buzz encircling the coin hobby centered on modern U.S. Mint issues. Collector interest in annual Proof Sets was growing year after year. A market for uncirculated coin rolls had developed, with speculators placing bets that desirable Mint State coins had a bright future as the hobby’s expansion continued to grow at a double-digit pace year-after-year.
But none of this compares to the buzz the developed when the Mint carried out the seemingly innocuous act of changing the date style of the Lincoln cent in March of that year.
At the outset, the Mint produced coins using a smaller font for the date. This date style (the “Small Date” variety) is easily identifiable and is comprised of thick stocky digits, tight swoops on the 9 and the 6, and a small 0.
Fearful that the size of the 0 might clog dies and cause unnecessary work, the Mint deployed a completely redone date style with larger numerals. The “Large Date” variety features wider swoops on the 9 and the 6, a large round 0, and is thinner than the small date style.
A majority of the 586 million circulation strike cents struck at Philadelphia and the 1.58 billion circulation strike cents struck at Denver are of the large date variety. Small Date output is believed to have taken place in January through early March at the latest, although the Mint has provided no specific mintage figures that delineate the two date styles.
In January, Philadelphia struck 2,075,000 cents while Denver struck 73,450,000. In February, only Denver struck cents, striking 168,790,000. In March, cent production resumed at Philadelphia, with 36,440,000 struck there, while Denver continued to pour out one-cent coins to the tune of 111,480,000 pieces.
Despite this massive disparity in production runs, Small Date cents from Philadelphia and Denver trade for roughly the same amount of money in today’s market. The availability of this issue in single and roll form leads us to believe that while the 1960 and 1960-D Small Date coinage is not rare, much fewer were struck than their large date counterparts.
Proof issues also feature Large and Small Date varieties.
It is widely believed that the entirety of the Proof Set mintage made in January and February are of the Small Date variety. This accounts for 65,114 sets made in January and 145,711 sets made in February. The Mint filled 1,691,602 Proof Set orders in 1960, which means that Small Date cents account for approximately 12% of all 1960 Proof cents struck. As such, 1960 Small Date Proof cents trade for about double the price of their Large Date siblings. A recently graded example in PCGS PR68CAM sold at an October 2020 Heritage auction for $228.
Note: 1960 Lincoln Small Date cents are scarce with Cameo frost in any grade above PR68 and are scarce in any grade with Deep Cameo frosting.
Even rarer are two elusive 1960 Proof varieties that are struck from dies that were impressed by two separate hubs, one hub with the Small Date and the other with the Large Date. The order in which these hubs were deployed on the working die determines whether the variety is the Small Date over Large Date or the Large Date over Small.
Diagnostics for the 1960 Small Date Over Large Date are easy to identify. Starting at the date, you will see a prominent notch to the left of the 1, small curvilinear impressions of a 9 and 6 over those digits, and what appears like a small donut-shaped 0 over the larger 0.
The Large Date over Small Date variety also shows misaligned LIBERTY, most prominently displayed on BERTY. The date shows both date styles, but you will see that the thinner date style is superimposed over the small date style. The Large 9 and 6 extend over the small 9 and 6. The large 0 reveals the smaller 0 shape on the inside of the digit.
Collecting 1960 Large Date Over Small Date & Small Date Over Large Date Proofs
Both 1960 Large Date Over Small Date & Small Date Over Large Date Proof varieties represent a challenge for collectors and cherry pickers. This family of varieties was first discussed in Coin World’s “Collectors Clearing House” in February and March 1966 and has been popular with variety hunters ever since. Your best chance to find one of these varieties in the wild is by searching through one-owner Proof Sets. Getting ready access to material like that is more likely to happen if you operate a retail coin shop. Assume that most Proof Sets that cycled through the system have been searched through as the Small Date variety is obvious to even non-specialist dealers and brings a premium.
Given that these overdate varieties require the large date, you can eliminate the need to look through Small Date sets.
In certified holders, both varieties carry a significant premium. In Proof 65, both varieties trade for $160 and up. We recommend that the collector pay the slight premium necessary and consider examples in the grade of PR67 or PR68. Examples with Cameo contrast are rare and command a significant premium over the price of Proof examples with a brilliant finish. High grade examples of each of these with Cameo contrast trade infrequently and based on the results from two examples that sold at GreatCollections in 2014, we expect attractive examples to command prices between $1,500 and $2,000 in today’s market.
The obverse of the 1960 Lincoln cent was designed by Victor David Brenner and appears largely as it did when the type was first minted in 1909. The main difference on the 1960 obverse versus the 1909 version is the location of Brenners’ initials, V.D.B., which were added under Lincoln’s bust in 1918 after their removal from the reverse in late 1909. The date, 1960, appears to the right of Lincoln, and the national motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears above the president. On the left of the 16th president is the word LIBERTY.
Frank Gasparro designed the 1959 Lincoln Memorial reverse that replaced the original 1909 Brenner wheat stalk design. Gasparro’s initials FG appear on the lower-right side of the Lincoln Memorial. Below the edifice and along the rim are the words ONE CENT, while the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA run along the top half of the reverse along the rim. Between the top of the Lincoln Memorial and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA inscription is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM.
The edge of the 1960 Lincoln cent is plain or smooth, without reeding or lettering.
1960 Lincoln Cent Designer(s)
Lithuanian-born coin designer Victor David Brenner is best known for his iconic design for the Lincoln cent (1909-Present) (View Designer’s Profile).
Frank Gasparro was an American medalist and coin designer (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||1960|
|Mintage:||Less that 10,000 (CoinWeek estimate)|
|Alloy:||95% copper, %5 tin and zinc|
|OBV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
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