In July 2012 a very special Lincoln Penny minted in 1992 sold for over $20,000 at a Heritage Auction Galleries sale. As common as 1992 pennies are, this was no ordinary 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 2000's, 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 feet 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.
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 left to be found.
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 are 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 are still waiting to be found. 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.