The "Little Brother" of the Rarest Lincoln Cent
Lincoln Cents have been minted continuously since 1909, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. The coins were designed by Victor David Brenner, a sculptor whose design of a Lincoln Plaque caught the eye of President Teddy Roosevelt. Lincoln Cents are the longest-running series of United States coins in our history.
The series is widely collected because there are only a limited number of dates that are very expensive. But there are also several dates that will be impossible to find in circulation and must be purchased. When any numismatist is asked, “Which Lincoln Cent is the rarest?” most will respond that the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent - with a mintage of only 484,000 is undoubtedly the rarest. That is a true statement.
Many Lincoln Cents, starting with the 1910 date, have mintages of over 100 million coins struck of that date and mintmark. Later coins, starting in 1945, have mintages of over 1 billion coins struck! So, when we ask, in terms of mintages, “What is the second rarest Lincoln cent,” the answer is surprising to some.
The 1931-S Lincoln Cent
The 1931-S Lincoln Cent only had 866,000 coins originally struck, and it was struck at a wonderful time in our history as coin collecting was experiencing quite a boom in the early 1930s. The numismatic trade publications of the day carried the news of this new, rare date, as did local newspapers. Thousands of collectors sought this coin – to complete their collections and to generate huge profits.
Like many coins from the 1930s, this particular coin was hoarded in large quantities. There were hoards of these coins reportedly of up to 200,000 examples, but none of those large hoards ever materialized for the numismatic community. So, if they did exist at one time, they were widely dispersed. The largest known hoard was several thousand uncirculated examples.
With a low original mintage of only 866,000 coins, this coin brings upwards of $75 in low grade. In high grade and retaining its natural red color, this coin can exceed $3,000! It is generally found well struck with good luster, on uncirculated coins.
While the 1931-S Lincoln Cent doesn’t have the history, rarity or cache of the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent, it is affordable and available and costs significantly less than its rare Big Brother.