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Novelty cents donít carry collector premiums
By Jeff Starck

While in office, President Abraham Lincoln placed his stamp on the nation.

A commonly encountered altered Lincoln cent features the profile bust of President Kennedy. It is usually sold attached to a card reporting "astonishing coincidences" between the men's lives.

Various images have been placed on Lincoln cents, including state map outlines, lucky symbols like a four-leaf clover and horseshoe, and slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King.
Since his being honored on coinage, the nation has placed its stamp on Lincoln. Or, more precisely, next to Lincoln.

In recent years, the Lincoln cent has become a venue for messages political, whimsical and conspiratorial.

Various alterations of the Lincoln cent have been formed outside the Mint, and many of those pieces have found their way into circulation.

The alterations are typically tiny, as the canvas of the Lincoln cent, with its portrait, doesn't leave much room for promotional messages or images.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous tiny added image is the outline of President John F. Kennedy.

In an effort to capitalize on immense interest in Kennedy collectibles, private companies have taken genuine Lincoln cents and stamped them with a crude representation of President Kennedy, then affixed the coins to a card listing historical facts and misstatements of fact.

A 1995 report in Coin World indicated that the Johnson Smith company, a popular purveyor of the novelties, had stopped producing the Lincoln/Kennedy cent.

Though it has been several years since many of these novelties were created, they still pop up in circulation where they are found by a curious collector or noncollector. The pieces are often the subject of reader inquiries. Sometimes, the finders of these cents ask whether the Mint produced the coins in that form.

Kennedy is not the only man of the 1960s to feature on these altered Lincoln cents.

Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, too, has been found in circulation, facing the famed emancipator.

Another commonly encountered alteration of the Lincoln cent is the addition of a state map outline bearing the state's postal abbreviation.

According to the 1995 Coin World story, the Johnson Smith company was still offering 50-coin sets of Lincoln cents bearing each of the 50 states as late as 1995, but the product is no longer included in the company's current "Things You Never Knew Existed" catalog.

Other Lincoln cents marketed by private companies may depict Lincoln smoking a pipe stamped into the coin, or feature so-called "lucky" symbols like a horseshoe and four-leaf clover.

Some Lincoln cents of 1976 bear special Bicentennial messages.

Such pieces as the Lincoln/Kennedy cent and the various other iterations are considered altered coins. As of this date, no secondary market has developed for the Lincoln-Kennedy cents and thus they carry no premiums.


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