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1964 1C SMS MS64 Red and Brown PCGS. These mysterious ...

2002 November Santa Clara Signature Sale #304

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Offers to date: $4,000 on June 3, 2015
$3,036 on May 12, 2015
Auction Ended On: Nov 21, 2002
Item Activity: 8 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Santa Clara, CA
Rare and Intriguing 1964 Lincoln Cent, A PCGS-Certified "SMS" Example
1964 1C SMS MS64 Red and Brown PCGS. These mysterious coins first surfaced in either 1993 or 1994. We do not know the exact circumstances under which they were produced, but they were most likely created during the Mint's search for an alternative to proofs, delivery of which was suspended from 1965 through 1967. Although PCGS uses the attribution of "Special Mint Set" to describe these enigmatic 1964 Cents, NGC classifies them as "Specimens," and, to further muddy the waters, ANACS uses the term "Satin Proof" on its inserts. The PCGS designation no doubt stems from the fact that Stack's, who handled some of the first examples to enter the numismatic market, speculated that these coins are prototypes for the Special Mint Set deliveries of 1965-1967. The fact that Stack's also dispersed 1964-dated Nickels, Dimes, Quarters, and Half Dollars with the same finish (all of which were reportedly consigned to the New York auction house by a dealer who obtained them from the estate of a former Mint employee) lends a certain measure of credibility to this theory. Whether or not these coins are direct predecessors to the Special Mint Set coinage of 1965-1967, they are certainly experimental pieces of one kind or another, and they undoubtedly played a part in helping the Mint settle on a suitable replacement for its traditional proof deliveries.
Writing in 1996, David W. Lange (The Complete Guide to Lincoln Cents) speculated that these coins were produced at the Philadelphia Mint in the fall or summer of 1965. This time frame seems reasonably, since the Mint was still using 1964-dated dies at that time, but the coins may also have been produced at the San Francisco Mint (none of the operational Mints used mintmarks from 1965 through 1967). We do not know exactly how many of these experimental 1964 Lincoln Cents were produced, but PCGS has seen just four coins in Red and Brown and 15 examples in Red (9/02). One of the former specimens, this mostly lustrous near-Gem reveals dappled cherry-red and orange-red coloration with some olive-gray tinting on the obverse. The definition is expectantly sharp for an experimental striking, and the squared off borders are diagnostic of the variety. A loupe reveals die polish lines in the fields, which are also characteristic of the variety, but the surfaces show little in the way of distracting carbon. Although this issue begs for further study, we feel confident in stating that the rarity of these experimental Cents has already gained widespread acceptance among collectors who specialize in this ever-popular 20th century series. (PCGS# 3283)

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