Greg Smith of Minnesota discovered what has been identified by John Wexler as a second die pairing for the 1992-D “Close AM” Lincoln cent. The variety, which was first identified in 2001, is considered rare with total population of 79 pieces between the Professional Coin Grading Service, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and ANACS. (See note at end of story)
Smith started looking for Wide AM cents for 1998, 1999 and 2000 and the Close AM cents for 1992 and 1992-D about three months ago. Heritage Auctions’ sales for the coin range from $2,232.50 for a PCGS AU-55 in brown to $8,225 for a PCGS MS-65 Red that sold in January. Stack’s Bowers Galleries has auctioned off several but none in recent years, the last being in 2013 for a PCGS MS-64 Red in that sold for $3,818.75.
In his email to Numismatic News Smith said, “I found a 1992-D Close AM a few weeks ago. I had just started looking for the Wide AMs and Close AMs maybe two to three months ago; [looking through] 50 to 75 rolls’ worth total. I found my first 1998 Wide AM about three weeks before the ’92 [Close AM]. I didn’t even know the scarcity of the Close AMs until after posting a picture on Coin Opps [Facebook Page]. It is currently in transit to John Wexler for attribution and verification. I then plan on getting it certified and slabbed by PCGS and will sell it soon after.”
In a letter to Smith from Wexler, he states, “Your specimen is from a different working die than the one I have illustrated on my website. I shot the necessary die marker photos and will add this working die information to my website as soon as conveniently possible.”
Wexler’s finding fall in line with my theory that the 1992 and 1992-D Close AM cents were most probably deliberately struck at both Mints to test the compatibility of the dies before thousands more dies were produced. Very small changes in a die’s design may prove to be undesirable resulting in problems such as increased die cracking, weakness of strike, or reduced die life in general. These tests probably occurred sometime near the end of 1992 with the intention of the new design being introduced for use in 1993 if they worked out.
The original discovery coin, found by Colin Kusch in December of 2001, was mated with a reverse die that was in mid-die state indicating that hundreds of thousands of coins had been struck prior to that coin. This was a strong indicator that is reaffirmed by the passage of time that the Mint made a concerted effort to destroy all the test pieces and that only a few of the millions of coins that were probably struck actually escaped.
Wexler’s new findings suggest that the presses, which during those years used a quad set up of four die pairs per press, were probably fully loaded with Close AM dies. A study of more coins may reveal that this die or others saw full die runs and that other die pairing exists.
All years of circulation and proof Lincoln Memorial cents dated prior to 1993 (save for the few test pieces from 1992) carry a reverse design style that exhibits the AM of AMERICA spaced wide apart to a greater or lesser degree depending on the date. Often ignored but important is that the Wide AM style for these years also exhibits Frank Gasparro’s designer initials, FG, closer to the Memorial building than on the Close AM design. 1993 is the only year that the Close AM style was intended for use on both circulation and proof cents. From that point forward, the new Close AM style dies were reserved for dies intended to strike circulation coins while the older Wide AM style was maintained for the production of proof cents, though a few mix-ups did occur for several dates.
John A. Wexler first described these design style variations in a Jan. 22, 2001, story where he announced that a 2000-dated business strike cent had been discovered mated with one of the Wide AM reverse dies intended for proof cent production. It had inadvertently been processed as a business strike die and got used as such. Soon afterward folks began to search all Lincoln cents dated from 1994 on, and in short order, specimens dated 1998 and 1999 were found with Wide AM proof style reverses. Still later, 1998-S and 1999-S proof cents were found struck with the Close AM business strike style reverses which are very scarce to rare.
By about mid-2001 all three of the post-1994 business strike dates currently known with a Wide AM reverse were identified. However, collector Colin Kusch, decided to look back wondering if the Close AM dies believed to have been introduced in 1993 might have actually seen a small run at the end of 1992. By early December 2001 he had cornered his quarry by discovering what would be the second rarest of the AM varieties to date, the infamous 1992-D with a Close AM reverse. His find was first reported by me in September 2002. A Philadelphia minted 1992 Lincoln cent struck with a reverse die bearing the “Close AM” of AMERICA design style was reported by Parker Ogilvie of Massachusetts in 2006 and is the rarest of all the proof and business strike style varieties.
For those searching or more importantly, those buying these varieties it should be noted that both 1995 and 1996 Wide AMs have been reported over the years but both coins turned out to be alterations made by mating the reverse of an older coin bearing a Wide AM with the obverse of newer date coin by taking two coins and lathing them in a manner that one coin fits within the other and is glued together in the same way that manufacturers make double-headed or double-tailed flipping coins for sale as novelties. Additionally, PCGS had identified a group of five 1992 Close AM alterations made in a different but somewhat similar fashion from two different coins. Both types of alterations can be seen under magnification within the inside rim of one side of the coin or the other. The 1995 and 1996 were probably “errors” made within a novelty concern that makes double-headed novelty coins that simply dumped them into circulation when they saw the mistake. The 1992 fakes were clearly made to defraud with a number sold to one dealer who sold a small number of them before the alteration was caught.
Readers wanting to see the differences in the reverse dies used for the two die parings for the 1992-D Close AM may be able to find them on Wexler’s website when he posts them here: http://doubleddie.com.
Readers finding errors or varieties are encouraged to report them to Numismatic News editor Dave Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Potter is co-author of “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and has been a frequent contribute to “Numismatic News” and “World Coin News” for many years. More information about the error club, CONECA, that he represents may be obtained from him at email@example.com. An educational image gallery can be found on his website at http://koinpro.tripod.com.
*There was none reported for ICG or SEGS
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