1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny: Debate Over The 1959-D Mule Cent Rages On

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Lincoln Memorial Penny Overview

The 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny was created after the Wheat Penny underwent a reverse design change. The new design consisted of removing the original wheat ears and replacing them with the Lincoln Memorial. This new design can be found on any penny dated from 1959 until 2008 when the Memorial reverse was finally retired.

The original Lincoln Penny, designed by Victor D. Brenner and put into production in 1909, featured the bust of a US President for the first time. Brenner’s bust of President Lincoln was unchanged in 1959 when his original reverse design was redesigned. Frank Gasparro was the designer of the new reverse that featured the Lincoln Memorial.

Gasparro’s reverse has the Lincoln Memorial centered, and the denomination “ONE CENT” directly below. The mottos “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” can be found centered directly above.

Victor D. Brenner’s original obverse remained unchanged, and still featured a bust of President Lincoln facing right. “IN GOD WE TRUST” can still be seen above the bust. The motto “LIBERTY” can be found to the left of Lincoln’s bust and the date to the right.

A change in composition did occur in 1982 after prices for copper had hit record highs years before. A change from a prominent copper composition to a zinc composition was made to help save the Mint money.

If you want to learn more about the Lincoln Cent or other rare and collectible cents, be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Pennies.

History of the 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny

An important date for the Lincoln Cent series, the 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny was the first time the series had a design change.

The change was only meant to update the reverse for modern times, as well as pay tribute to the Lincoln Memorial.

Figures released by the US Mint at Philadelphia state that 609,715,000 examples of the new Lincoln Memorial Penny were produced in 1959. Combine that with the almost 1.3 billion Lincoln Memorial cents minted in Denver, nearly 2 billion new Memorial Pennies were minted that year.

The change in the reverse design did not affect the weight or the diameter of the Lincoln Memorial Penny compared to the Wheat Penny. Each penny still had a weight of 3.11 grams and a diameter of 19mm. No reeding can be found on the edge of the coin.

1959 penny

Image Source Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

1959-D Lincoln Mule Penny Error

There are many types of different mint errors that can occur during the minting process. Some are very subtle and worth a very small premium. Other errors can be very large and noticeable. It is these large errors that are very rare as they are normally found before leaving the Mint.

In the case of the 1959-D Lincoln Mule Memorial Penny, the coin bears the 1959 date, but the reverse has the original Wheat Ear reverse. This error suggests that the coin was struck with a die that had the 1959 date, but a reverse that wasn’t updated.

For this type of error to occur, huge oversight or foul play must be involved. The 1959-D Mule Penny has been examined by the Mint and has been determined that nothing about the coin says that it is a fake.

A convicted forger claimed to have made the 1959-D Mule Penny, but the Secret Service refuted that claim. The coin has yet to be certified by any major third party grader.

Some numismatics argue that the coin can’t be real as there should be more than just one example that has been found due to the high-speed minting process. This issue has divided the coin-collecting community, and the coin will continue to be shrouded in mystery.

Value of the 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny

Even though the 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny is a very unique and important coin in the Lincoln Cent series, its value is very low, even at really high grades.

Any 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny that is not in Uncirculated condition has no premium and is only worth face value.

Value only comes to grades that are in MS-65 or higher. MS-65 brings a value of $1 and those in MS-66 see a fast spike to $32. Very few examples have been graded in MS-67 condition, which has led to its value being $800. No 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny has been graded in a higher condition.

Even though the 1959 Mule Penny has not yet been determined to be real or fake, the coin has brought huge prices. It was sold in 2010 for $31,050 at a coin auction that offered no returns or guarantee on the authenticity of the particular coin. Could there be more of these 1959 Mule cents out there? Maybe, but we are going to have to wait and see.

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