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.
It’s no surprise that Lincoln cents have for decades been one of the most beloved coins in the world to collect.
What I find makes the Lincoln cent 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 then 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 mint mark to complete our Lincoln cent albums and folders?
The 1922 Cent
7 million 1922 cents were made.
All 1922 cents were made in Denver. Therefore, they should all have a D mintmark.
However, not all 1922 cents 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.
The 1922 cents without a D mint mark are called plain cents.
While the 1922 cent with a D mintmark are generally considered as a semi-key coin, compared to the 1922 plain cent, it is relatively common. However, because the 1922 plain wheat cent is so rare, relatively few coin collectors at any one time will ever be able to have an example in their collections.
However, it’s not hard to find a few collectors selling these 1922 pennies on eBay at any one time, as they will fetch, pardon the pun, a pretty penny every time they go on the auction block.
So, as a collector, I begin to wonder — why do some coin folder and coin album companies insist on putting a hole in their albums when very few people can ever afford one? Besides, the 1922 plain cent really is not a regular issue coin. In fact, many can argue it is 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. However, 1922 cents are supposed to have a D mintmark.
Other Popular Errors And Lincoln Cent Varieties
There are many examples of other popular varieties and errors:
- 1955 doubled-die cent
- 1990 no-S proof cent
- 1992 close AM cent
So that comes back to my question – why does the 1922 plain cent get included in standard coin albums and not those other coins I mentioned above, too? Why am I, the collector, required to have a 1922 plain cent in my collection if I want to complete an album?
The truth is that there really is no particular reason why that one coin should be included in a typical album of regular, error-free Lincoln cents. In fact, the 1922 plain cent is really one of only 2 major non-regular issue coins included in many albums. The other coin is the 1955 doubled-die cent.
Why The 1922 Plain Cent Is Often Included In Collections
One of the possible reasons a 1922 plain cent may be included in an album of regular Lincoln cents may be that Philadelphia did not produce any Lincoln cents in 1922. In the 1930s, when collecting Lincoln cents first became popular, many people were finding the 1922 plain cent and thought they were finding Philadelphia cents.
When the the U.S. Mint revealed records to the public, it was learned by many collectors that the Philadelphia mint never did make any one-cent coins in 1922. Philadelphia has produced Lincoln cents in every other year before or 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 cents, then the 1922 Plain 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 cent, 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 is what Capitol Plastics does with their Lincoln cent holders. They offer Lincoln cent holders with and without holes for the 1922 plain cent and 1955 doubled die cent, two wheat pennies with a value of over $1,000.
For the record, many coin folders do not have a hole for the 1922 plain cent. They include:
- Whitman’s 1909-1940 Lincoln cent folder
- Dansco’s 1909-1958 Lincoln wheat penny folder
- Harris’ 1909-1940 Lincoln cent folder
My concern 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 being offering products that do not have that hole for the 1922 plain cent!