The first “Wide AM Proof-Style Cent Reverse” on a 1996 Lincoln cent circulation strike was reported by Billy Crawford of South Carolina, according to the Web site of the Combined Organization of Numismatic Error Collectors of America.
CONECA reports that Crawford found the coin “while searching through rolls of cents that he obtained from the bank. In addition to a widely spaced AM of AMERICA the variety also exhibits Frank Gasparro’s designer initials, FG, closer to the Memorial building than on the normal variety.”
The “Wide AM” cent variety, CONECA said, was created “when the Mint inadvertently processed dies intended for proof coinage as business strike dies. The same error also occurred in 1998, 1999 and 2000.”
It further noted that “some 1998-S and 1999-S proof cents can be found mated with a reverse die bearing the ‘Close AM’ business strike reverse processed as proof dies.”
Additionally, CONECA explained, “somehow just before the transition in 1993 after the new ‘Close AM’ dies were prepared at least one ‘Close AM’ die (for each mint) was used to produce a very small quantity of 1992 and 1992-D cents with the ‘Close AM’ design (everything prior to 1993 should have been ‘Wide AM’). These are presumed by some to be test-strikes minted at the end of 1992 to make sure the dies were compatible for striking with the obverse designs. Both 1992 and 1992-D ‘Close AM’ varieties are very rare in any grade.”