Early Lincolns Remain Affordable
By Tom LaMarre
Lincoln cent, first of its kind, grabbed the
headlines, but some other early Lincoln cents
made the news, too. They also make worthwhile
additions to a collection.
Cent production soared in 1910. More than 150
million were struck. The Washington Post said
lost cents were keeping the Mint busy. A
headline in the Oct. 15, 1910, issue of The
Mountain Democrat, published in Placerville,
said "Uncle Sam Hunting for Pennies." However,
it needn't have looked so hard. In June 1910 the
Los Angeles Times reported that the government
made a million dollars on cent coinage in 1909.
The situation was the same in 1911, although
cent production fell slightly. The Feb. 10,
1911, issue of The Sheboygan Press said:
"Puzzle To Trace the Lost Pennies. Chase is
smallest that can be made. But of late there
have been more demands for pennies from the
By December 1911 there was a cent shortage in
New York City. When the Hudson-Manhattan
Railroad put a seven-cent fare into effect,
ticket agents ran out of cents to make change,
having used up a stockpile of 300,000 cents the
first day of the new fare.
The city of Frederick, Md. also experienced
heavy demand for "pennies." The Sept. 20, 1911,
issue of The (Frederick) News blamed the "rising
cost of living."
In San Pedro, three men were arrested in late
November and charged with nickel-plating cents
and passing them as dimes at saloons.
In 1912 John D. Rockefeller, known for giving
away dimes to strangers, changed his tune and
told people, "Save your pennies." Apparently
someone took his advice. In October 1912 a
canvas bag containing 10,000 cents was dug up in
Long Beach, Calif. Many of them were probably
Indian Head cents. Treasury officials estimated
that for every Lincoln cent outstanding there
were about five cents of the old Indian Head
design, and that it would take 50 years for
Indian cents to disappear from circulation.
In August 1912 a hoard of 500 1909 Lincoln cents
was stolen from the New York City apartment of
Adolph Thomas. The thieves were apprehended
after they spent the coins.
Lincoln cent designer Victor D. Brenner
announced his engagement in 1913. The
controversy about his initials on the first
Lincoln cents had faded. The March 21, 1913,
issue of The Van Nuys News and the Van Nuys Call
said, "It will be remembered, perhaps, that when
the Lincoln penny first appeared three initials
were placed by the designer in a rather
The Philadelphia Mint kept the cent presses busy
in 1914, but production slipped at Denver and
San Francisco. Inflation was on everyone's mind.
The Aug. 2, 1914, issue of The Lincoln Daily
Star advised, "Before going to bed each night,
grasp a new Lincoln penny carefully between the
thumb and finger and squeeze the same until Abe
yelps for mercy."
The Jan. 2, 1915, issue of the Gettysburg, Pa.,
Star Sentinel cited a report from Cashtown that
a Lincoln "penny" had been found in a duck's
craw. It was probably one of the nearly 30
million cents struck at the Philadelphia Mint
Today, Philadelphia cents from 1910 to 1915 are
inexpensive in circulated grades. The 1914-D, on
the other hand, is one of the key dates in the
Lincoln cent series, and 1910-S to 1915-S cents
are valued at around $20 to $45 in Fine-12.