The 1922 Plain Penny: Why Is The 1922 Plain Cent Needed To Complete A Lincoln Penny Collection?

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Lincoln cents are the longest-running series of coins in United States history.

The Lincoln penny is now a century old — so virtually everybody alive today grew up with them and has known their whole life the little copper coin with the portrait of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

Here's a pile of Lincoln wheat cents - made from 1909 to 1958. This is what you will see on the back of a 1922 plain penny.

It’s no surprise that Lincoln pennies have for decades been one of the most beloved coins in the world to collect.

What I find makes the Lincoln penny so challenging to collect and so interesting to study is that there are hundreds of regular date-and-mintmark combinations that have been struck by the various U.S. Mint facilities across the country. Throw in the seemingly endless mixture of minor design varieties, modifications, and reported errors… and Lincoln cents begin to look like one of the most exciting series of U.S. coins to collect and study!

So, it is now that I ask this question…

Of all the hundreds of Lincoln cent varieties, why are we collectors forced to buy a 1922 cent without the D mintmark to complete our Lincoln cent albums and folders?

 

Facts About The 1922 Penny

7 million 1922 Lincoln cents were made.

All 1922 pennies were made in Denver — therefore, they should all have a D mintmark.

However, not all 1922 pennies have a D mintmark! In fact, a small number of 1922 cents have a weakness with the D mintmark. Even fewer in number are the 1922 wheat cents which show virtually no trace of a D mintmark — a 1922 penny without a D mint mark is called a “plain cent” or “plain penny”.

Values for the 1922 plain penny start at around $650, even in the lowest circulated grades. Other 1922 penny values start at about $15 for versions with a D mint mark clearly visible.

While the 1922 penny with a D mintmark is generally considered a semi-key coin… compared to the 1922 plain penny, it is relatively common. However, because the 1922 plain penny is so rare, relatively few coin collectors will ever be able to have an example in their collections.

That said, it’s not hard to find a few collectors selling these 1922 plain cents on eBay at any one time — because they will fetch a a lot of money every time they go on the auction block.

So, as a collector, I begin to wonder…

Why do some coin folder companies and coin album companies insist on putting a hole for the 1922 plain penny in their albums when very few people can afford one?

Besides, the 1922 plain penny really is not a regular issue coin. In fact, many argue that it’s an error coin. It is simply the result of a coin produced from damaged dies. The mint, in an attempt to repair the stamp which produced the coin, filed away the parts of the die and in the process wore away the D mintmark — even though 1922 pennies are supposed to have a D mintmark.

 

Other Popular Penny Errors And Lincoln Cent Varieties

There are many examples of other popular Lincoln cent varieties and errors, including:

So that comes back to my question… why does the 1922 plain cent get included in standard coin albums and those other coins mentioned above do not? Why am I, a collector, required to have a 1922 plain penny in my collection if I want to complete an album?

There is really no particular reason why that coin should be included in a typical album of regular, error-free Lincoln cents.

Did You Know?… The 1922 plain cent is one of only 2 major non-regular issue coins included in many coin albums and coin folders. The other one is the 1955 doubled die cent.

 

Why The 1922 Plain Cent Is Often Included In Coin Collections

One of the possible reasons for a 1922 plain cent to be included in an album of regular Lincoln cents may be that the Philadelphia Mint did not produce any Lincoln cents in 1922. Yet, in the 1930s, when collecting Lincoln cents first became popular, many people were finding the 1922 plain penny and thought they were finding Philadelphia Mint pennies. It wasn’t until later, when the U.S. Mint revealed their records to the public, that it was learned by many collectors that the Philadelphia Mint never made any one-cent coins in 1922. (Philadelphia has produced Lincoln cents in every other year before and since.)

Therefore, one might say that since the 1922 plain cent looks like what a 1922 Philadelphia cent would have appeared like had that mint facility produced pennies in that year, then the 1922 plain cent should be included as a type of proxy cent to fill the gap that the total absence of actual Philadelphia cents creates.

Still the 1922 plain penny, for all of its novelty, is a popular coin. But does the 1922 plain cent really deserve to have a slot in collections of regular Lincoln cents?

I think the answer is no.

 

What’s The Resolution For This Issue?

If coin album manufacturers are going to offer Lincoln cent albums with a hole for the 1922 plain cent, they should also offer an album without the 1922 plain cent hole, too.

That’s what Capital Plastics does with their Lincoln cent holders. They offer Lincoln cent holders with and without holes for the 1922 plain cent and the 1955 doubled die cent — 2 wheat pennies with a value of over $1,000!

For the record, some coin folders do not have a hole for the 1922 plain cent, including:

But my concern really has to do with coin albums — not coin folders. The albums are the more expensive, leatherette-bound coin books that allow for 2-sided viewing of the coins within.

So, with that, I say it’s time for more options with our Lincoln cent albums!

Let’s hope coin album manufacturers are reading this and decide to begin offering products that do not have that hole for the 1922 plain penny.

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44 thoughts on “The 1922 Plain Penny: Why Is The 1922 Plain Cent Needed To Complete A Lincoln Penny Collection?”

  1. Do I spot a counterfeit coin by weighing it? The Silver Morgan Dollar is listed in Red Book as 26.73g. I have a dollar that weighs 25.9 g. Is that ok. Thanks John

    Reply
    • Hi, John –

      Variances in actual weight can be due to extreme levels of wear, which is likely the case wit your coin if it circulated.

      Reply
    • Hi, John –

      Variances in actual weight can be due to extreme levels of wear, which is likely the case wit your coin if it circulated.

      Reply
  2. Hey, Joshua. Can you give me your opinion on whether this is a plain 1922 or not? Also it looks pretty beat-up. Worse for wear than normal?

    Reply
    • Hi, Ness —

      Based on my observation, it looks like this is indeed a 1922 plain penny, strong reverse (the most valuable type). I would grade this somewhere around Good-4, which is ordinarily worth $550-600. The scratches probably knock off about 20 percent of that value.

      This is a great coin, Ness!

      Thank you for sharing the photos with us,
      Josh

      Reply
  3. Hey, Joshua. So I was looking through my coins to see if I find something interesting. I found this coin which was a 1929-S. Wondered if how much it was worth.

    Reply
    • Hi, Joe —

      I’m afraid that is actually post-mint damage on the coin.

      Though eye-catching, the coin is worth only a couple cents.’

      Keep on checking your change for more interesting finds!
      Josh

      Reply
  4. Hi Joshua, sorry if I’ve been bothering you. I don’t really know a lot about this. Anyways I found these coins. They had a golden color to them so I thought they might sell for a bit. Also I found this 2 dollar bill with red typing. Wondered if that will sell.

    Reply
    • Hi there, Joe —

      No worries, and by no means are you a bother!

      Here are my opinions on the coins you posted:

      The 1983 Kennedy half dollar was counterstamped and gold-plated, and therefore doesn’t really have much numismatic value as an altered coin. Some novelty collectors might pay $1 to $3 for such a piece, however.

      The 2000-P South Carolina quarter appears to be worn and is thus worth face value?

      Would you please tell me what year and series the $2 note is? It might be more valuable than face, but I want to make sure first.

      Thank you,
      Josh

      Reply
        • Hello, Joe —

          Assuming there are no errors on your piece that I can’t see in the image, a Series 1953 Red Seal $2 note is worth around $3 to $5 in circulated condition.

          Best,
          Josh

          Reply
  5. The CAPS album for Lincoln Wheat Cents does not have a space for the 1922 plain. I’m actually a bit bummed I’d like to have to brood over that one.

    Reply
    • Hi, Greg —

      I know… Different album manufacturers have their own ideas as to what coins should be included in a “complete” Lincoln cent set. I suggest buying Dansco albums if you want to include the 1922 plain — bear in mind Dansco does not, however, include the 1955 doubled die in its standard Lincoln cent album.

      Best,
      Josh

      Reply
  6. Hi Josh. i have another thing. am i the only one to see it or it is really there (mistake)? that on the Nebraska state quarter the first cow has three legs (i dont see the fourth one)

    Reply
    • Hi, Daniel —

      Very observant! This is a design peculiarity that has more to do with the artist’s perception of angle and perspective. Every 2004 Nebraska 50 States Quarter I’ve ever seen looks this way, and I know of no such 3-legged error with this coin.

      Interesting point!
      -Josh

      Reply
  7. But in addition to the missing “D,” the 1922 “Plain” Lincoln cent has other “dead giveaway” features – namely, that the “L” in “LIBERTY” is run into the rim, the first “T” in “IN GOD WE TRUST” is more weakly struck than the rest of the motto, and the second “2” in “1922” is more weakly struck than the first 2. Plus the “Plain” coin is rarely found with Lincoln’s head fully struck on the obverse, or with the upper wheat stalks fully struck on the reverse, even with a coin that has some marginal mint luster, and would otherwise be graded in the EF-AU range. Therefore a “real” 1922 “Plain” is easy to distinguish from a 1922-D that has been altered by removing the “D” (I should know since I own a genuine 1922 “Plain”).

    Reply
  8. Hi Joshua, Sorry I’m a little late to the party. Thanks so much for your articles! What is your opinion of completing and displaying proof Lincoln cents along with / or separately from the business strikes?

    Reply
    • Hi, Joseph!

      You’re right on time for this party! I hope the articles are helpful and appreciate your readership.

      Something like deciding whether or not to display proof and business-strike Lincoln cents alongside each other is a highly personal matter and is up to what your aesthetic preferences and collecting objectives dictate. However, if it helps to know this, I house my Lincoln cent collection in a Dansco album, which includes S-mint proofs from 1975 to the present alongside the business strikes from those years. I personally think it would be nice to house all S-mint proofs from 1968 on, but that’s just my preference.

      I hope my two cents (hee hee) offers some helpful perspective.

      Best of luck with your collection,
      Josh

      Reply
      • Thank you! I was blown away by the 2019 W proof and rev. proofs, and now am trying to figure out how to display them all together.I love your articles and please keep them coming!

        Reply
        • I appreciate that, Joseph! I certainly will do my best! Good luck in making some more outstanding circulation finds 🙂

          Cheers,
          Josh

          Reply

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