Make 1952-S a Sleeper on the Move
By Paul Green
Finding a Lincoln
cent sleeper is not easy. It is also not easy to
identify a Lincoln cent that has doubled in
price in recent years without any notice. In
both cases, however, the 1952-S happens to be
one Lincoln cent date that can be named to
answer both questions.
Precisely what is going on with the 1952-S
Lincoln cent and why are a couple very good
questions. Historically the 1952-S has never
been considered an especially tough Lincoln
cent. In fact, with its mintage of 137,800,004,
it has not even been considered an especially
good Lincoln cent date from the dates produced
from 1941 to the end of the wheat stalk reverse
in 1958. There are a number of lower mintage
dates from the period beginning in 1941 and
their MS-65 prices are indeed higher.
Actually for many years it was natural to
overlook the 1952-S. Both the 1954-S and 1955-S
had lower mintages. In the case of the 1955-S,
however, there was heavier saving. The
government had announced that 1955 would be the
final year of coin production at San Francisco.
That fact alone was enough to cause heavy saving
of the 1955-S and since it ended up with the
lowest mintage for a Lincoln cent since the
1930s, that saving was only increased.
Another factor was certainly that the number of
coin collectors was growing steadily during the
1950s. The vast majority of new collectors
started with Lincoln cents, which meant that
every year the number of new Lincoln cents saved
was likely to be higher than the previous year.
It was also a case where the 1952-S was
perfectly positioned to get lost in the shuffle.
About the time the 1952-S was first being
released, there was great excitement over the
1950-D Jefferson nickel, which had the lowest
Jefferson nickel mintage in history. Suddenly
people were hoarding the 1950-D and something as
ordinary as the 1952-S Lincoln cent was not
likely to get much attention.
In the years that followed there was really no
reason for change. There were adequate supplies
of virtually any Lincoln cent in the period
after 1941. Moreover, at the time, collectors
were not terribly concerned about top grades.
They were collecting from circulation in most
cases. If a collector wanted an example of any
grade in Mint State there was another
consideration as there were no grades like MS-65
being used with Lincoln cents. The 1952-S was
either uncirculated or not uncirculated, and it
really mattered little in terms of price.
Back in 1998 the 1952-S was at $2.50. In 2006
the MS-65 price of the 1952-S had moved up to
$5. In 2009 it is $9. In terms of percentage,
that is a very solid increase. There is really
no large supply of the 1952-S. In lower grades
the 1952-S might be readily available, but in
MS-65 and better the 1952-S has turned out to be
a sleeper but one that appears to be wide awake
and moving in price.