What do Saint Gaudens Double Eagles, Peace Dollars, and Lincoln Cents have in common? The answer: they all have examples in high relief! Now, before you start going crazy checking your piggy banks and pocket change, let me explain.
As we all know, the late 1930s and early 40s was a tumultuous. As the Second World War loomed, many areas of the government required adjustments to prepare for the coming conflict. The U.S. Mint was no exception.
By 1941, it had become apparent that stockpiles of strategic war materials like copper and tin were at an all-time low. U.S. Mint Director, Nellie Tayloe Ross was asked to take a hard look at the production of cents and nickels and come up with possible alternative alloys. As we know, the "War Nickel" had silver added to the alloy, but what about the cent?
Early on, the mint tested cents made of low carbon steel, and copper/zinc alloy. Later, the mint produced dies with a different design than the Lincoln Cent, sending them to several companies and manufacturers to test the possibility of plastics or glass replacing metal in the cent. However, a key resin needed to produce plastic was placed on the necessary war materials list, ending the project. Eventually, the mint returned to its earliest experiments, adopting the now-familiar steel cent in 1943.
Perhaps the most fascinating coin associated with these experiments is the newly-identified High Relief Lincoln Cent. First seen in the collection of King Farouk of Egypt in 1954, the coin was misattributed as a metallurgical trial, a designation that stuck with the piece for the next 65 years.
In late 2018, researchers noticed that the coin’s rim was about twice as wide as that found on an ordinary Lincoln Cent, coming into contact with the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" and cutting into the "L" off "LIBERTY." Further examination using cutting-edge three-dimensional scans revealed that the obverse die had been produced from a specially made high-relief hub!
This incredible rarity is graded PCGS SP65 High Relief and will be exhibited publicly for the first time at the Museum Showcase at The American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Illinois, from August 13 – 17, 2019. It will also be displayed at the Long Beach Expo from September 5-7, 2019 at the PCGS Set Registry Booth. That this coin has been so well preserved – and was so completely misunderstood – only makes me wonder what other treasures and discoveries are being hidden in plain sight.