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Musings on a guide book of Lincoln cents

by Dennis Tucker

In the United States today the Lincoln cent is the most popular “classic” collector coin. Uniquely, it holds that position while also being one of the most popular modern coins.

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To call the Lincoln cent a classic American coin is to group it with Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, Standing Liberty quarters, Liberty Walking half dollars, and Saint-Gaudens double eagles—all well-loved series that were born in the “Renaissance” era of U.S. coinage at the beginning of the 1900s.

Many active hobbyists collect Lincoln cents. So do people who don’t consider themselves numismatists, but simply enjoy saving interesting coins. Among other currently circulating coinage only Washington quarters—specifically, the 1999 to 2008 State quarters—have matched their broad popularity.

Since I started working at Whitman Publishing in 2004, Lincoln cents have never been far from the front burner, measured by reader interest, ongoing numismatic research, and sales of folders, albums, and other hobby supplies.

Serious discussion of publishing a Guide Book of Lincoln Centsgot underway in December 2006. Which grades would we include in the price charts, knowing that there are Brown, Red-Brown, and Red color designations in the higher Mint State conditions? “I need to figure out how to make the price grid not look like a bingo board!” author Q. David Bowers told me.

By the spring of 2007 we were gathering images and photographing coins as needed, with staff photographer Tom Mulvaney focusing on early dates and major die varieties. (Tom, at the time, was also photographing hundreds of pieces for the Guide Book of Canadian Coins and Tokens, and the Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals.)

That June I invited Lincoln cent specialist Charles Daughtrey to write the book’s foreword.

Dave Bowers was simultaneously working on the first edition of the Guide Book of United States Commemorative Coins. He’s always enjoyed working on multiple projects “in parallel,” as he calls it, likening his process to a chess master who used to visit his son’s elementary-school chess club in Shrewsbury: “They had 35 chess boards, and he played 35 opponents all at the same time!”


I touched base with the United States Mint that May, looking for photographs and any new information on Lincoln cents. David W. Lange granted permission to quote from hisComplete Guide to Lincoln Cents, and Cherrypickers’ Guidecoauthor J.T. Stanton offered to go through his notes and photographs of die varieties. Ken Potter, Bill Fivaz, Kenneth Bressett, Sam Lukes, Stewart Blay, Roger W. Burdette, Randy Campbell, John Dannreuther, Beth Deisher, Lee Gast, Paul Gilkes, Bob Shippee, David Sundman, Frank Van Valen, and other numismatists shared photographs, discussed die varieties, and advised on questions and ideas. This kind of collaboration is fundamental to Dave Bowers’s success as a researcher and author.

In the midst of all this activity, in June 2007, Fred L. Reed pitched his manuscript for a new book on Abraham Lincoln in numismatics. It would develop into two volumes—Abraham Lincoln: The Image of His Greatness,and, later, a sequel, Abraham Lincoln: Beyond the American Icon. Interest was building toward the 2009 bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth.

Dave’s manuscript was done and submitted for final editing before the end of July 2007. Layout and proofing came next, and we sent the book to press in September. (By that time the Sage of Wolfeboro, never one to rest for long, was well into his work on the Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins.) In early November I alerted the numismatic press that the book was on its way, and in December 2007 it was in readers’ hands.

Collectors bought tens of thousands of copies of the first edition. When it debuted I wrote: “One of the goals of Whitman’s Bowers Series is to offer the human touch that connects coins to people and to history. A Guide Book of Lincoln Cents lives up to that goal. I believe it will greatly please the numismatists who already collect these coins, and encourage others to start a new collection.”

Lincoln cents are a numismatic evergreen—perennially popular—and we’re happy to bring the third edition of Dave Bowers’s Guide Book of Lincoln Centsto the hobby community. It joins a robust list of Lincoln-centric numismatic books that have been published over the past 20-plus years. Collectors will find much new information in this third edition . . . and they can rest assured it won’t be the last.

A Guide Book of Lincoln Cents, 3rd edition is available for $19.95 from booksellers nationwide or from the publisher at

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