In July 2012 a very special Lincoln Penny minted in 1992 sold for over $20,000 at a Heritage Auction Galleries sale. Another specimen sold for over $25,000 in January 2017 at another Heritage Auction Galleries sale. As common as 1992 pennies are, this was no ordinary 1992 penny, to say the least. This specimen was the rare "Close AM" variety in uncirculated condition and was graded as MS-64 by Professional Coin Grading Service.
What Makes This Penny so Special?
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the United States Mint used different dies for producing coins for circulation and Proof coins for collectors. Due to a mix-up at the mint back in 1992, a proof die was used for the reverse of the coin before it was supposed to be used starting in 1993. The distance between the bottom of the AM in AMERICA is a distinguishing factor, as is the distance between the FG initials and the base of the Lincoln Memorial. This variety was produced at both the Philadelphia and Denver mints.
Although you don't need a magnifying glass to see this die variety, it is not very obvious to everyday people. Many coin collectors and numismatists don't recognize this coin all the time. Remember, it is not just any 1992 Lincoln cent, it is the special die variety where the A and the M in America are almost touching.
The coin that sold in January 2017 is also the finest coin graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service. This coin graded at MS-67 Red. As heritage describes a coin, "This coin showcases virtually flawless, gleaming surfaces with rich gold, fire-orange, and rose-red hues. The strike is sharp, and there are no carbon spots. Adding to the appeal is a nearly 90-degree clockwise rotation of the reverse." Coin collectors looking to improve the quality of their collection are willing to pay dearly to add this almost perfect specimen to their collection.
In August 2018 an MS-62 Red specimen also graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service Sold for Only $2,600. Although this is a substantial amount of money, it is nowhere near the $26,000 that it almost perfect coin sold for. Therefore, it is obvious that collectors are willing to shell out huge sums of money to have the best in their collection.
Why Aren't There More?
There are probably many more still circulating with other Lincoln cents today. But unlike other mint errors that are quite obvious even to the non-coin collector, this one is very subtle. The average life of a one-cent die in one of the coining presses at the US Mint can produce hundreds of thousands of coins. Therefore, it is almost certain that there are many more left to be found. Some collectors even purchase uncirculated roles of 1992 pennies in the hope that a "Closed AM Variety" will be inside.
Since this variety is difficult to spot in your pocket change not many have been found. Currently, PCGS has only certified 22 1992 Close AM out of the total mintage of almost 4.6 billion coins from the Philadelphia mint and certified only five coins out of the entire population of almost 4.5 billion 1992-D Lincoln cents from the Denver mint. if you were to find one in circulation today it is most likely to be classified as a circulated coin. But even in circulated condition, it is still worth several thousand dollars!
How Can I Tell If Mine Is a Valuable 1992-D Lincoln Penny?
The obverse of all 1992 and 1992-D Lincoln pennies are the same. The difference is on the reverse. Look closely on the back of the coin at the AM in AMERICA. If the AM is touching at the bottom this is the rare variety. If there is a little space between the letters, then it is a common coin that is worth only face value.
Although it is impossible to know the exact quantity of coins that escaped into circulation, we are certain that a limited quantity of these coins is still waiting to be found. The average die life of a die used to strike one-cent coins can last up to 50,000 strikes. It is not known if the United States Mint destroyed any of these coins before they were released into circulation. Therefore, it is possible that up to 50,000 of these coins may be in circulation today. Be sure to check your pocket change and see if you have this or any other Lincoln cent key dates, rarities, and varieties in your possession.