Background and History
The so-called 1922 “No D” or 1922 Plain Lincoln Cent is an intriguing variety that has remained very much in demand with collectors. The variety is only identifiable due to a unique set of circumstances that occurred during the year of production. It is now considered to be among the scarcest of the Lincoln cent varieties, especially in high grade, and one of the key dates to an uncirculated set of Lincoln Cents including major varieties.
In 1922, the production of Lincoln Cents only took place at the Denver Mint facility. The Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints, which would have usually produced the denomination, were focused on striking silver dollars which had been reintroduced in the previous year. This resulted in the Denver Mint carrying the sole responsibility for maintaining the supply of freshly minted cents.
When the 1922-D Lincoln cents were being produced one of the die pairs severely clashed, the result of a strike with no planchet between the two dies. Clashed dies, as they are called in numismatics are relatively common, although only a small number are severe and worth premiums. The Mint, as we now know, did consider the clash marks to be severe enough to have the obverse die repolished, while the reverse die was replaced since it was considered unsuitable for further coinage. During the repolishing of the obverse, the Mint Mark was erroneously removed and the last two digits of the date were weakened.
During any other year, these cents struck at the Denver Mint without the “D” mint mark would have escaped identification since it would have been assumed that the coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint which did not place a mint mark on the coins. However, since the Denver Mint was the only facility producing cents during the year, identification of the variety was possible.
The variety that is described above is the so-called “No D, strong reverse”, struck from die pair #2, the most valuable of the 1922 No D Lincoln Cents. Die pairs # 1, # 3 & # 4 are less valuable, and struck from a different dies. These are called 1922 “Weak D” cents, and were not created by overpolished dies, but by dies filled with grease. As such, traces of the Mintmark are sometimes visible, although this does not always have to be the case. Certain die markers are thus very important when identifying the different die pairs. These die markers mostly include the strength of the lettering and devices.
Key Date Coin Mintage
The 1922-D Lincoln Cent had a total production of 7,160,000 pieces, the lowest number since 1915, but not making it an extremely rare coin. The No D, Strong Reverse cents, however, are a completely different story. Estimates of the total number produced vary; perhaps as much as 25,000 pieces, although numbers are rarely mentioned in literature. The total number of survivors is as much guess work, although a sub 10,000 number seems likely, although not by a large margin.
This variety went somewhat unnoticed during the early decades after its mintage, which has resulted that the majority of surviving coins are in well circulated grades, with uncirculated specimens with original Mint red remaining being extremely rare. This shows that the survival of coins like these in uncirculated condition, purposely struck for circulation, often was the matter of pure chance.
Interesting to note is that the No D, Strong Reverse (die pair # 2) cents appear to be more available than the Weak D cents. This, of course, could easily be due to the much higher value of the die pair #2, meaning more examples have been certified, and more appear on the market.
Finest Known and Values
As previously mentioned high-grade examples of the 1922 No D, Strong Reverse Lincoln Cent are very rare. This is especially the case with examples graded as original Mint red. The finest known by PCGS is a single MS-64RD, while the only other RD is graded MS-63RD. The finest graded at NGC with the red designation is a single MS-65RD example. These all appear to be locked up in specialized collections, making Red-Brown examples often the highest available on the market. The finest with that designation at PCGS are two MS-65RB examples, while NGC has only graded a single MS-64RB example as the finest known. Examples in uncirculated condition with the Brown designation are slightly more available, but remain rare, with the finest at PCGS being five MS-65BN pieces, with NGC having graded only a single piece in MS-64BN.
It should not come as a surprise that offerings at public auctions of uncirculated examples of the 1922, No D, strong reverse are rare, and prices are high. The absolute record at public auction was for an NGC MS-64RB, sold in January 2008, for an amazing $92,000. Other pieces in similar grades have been sold for slightly lower amounts, and uncirculated examples of this rare variety usually cannot be found for less than $20,000. Circulated examples are much, much more available and affordable, although they remain rare and highly popular, with average prices for specimens certified in Extremely-Fine condition is approximately $2,500, with the amount gradually being lower for lower grades.
The so-called “Weak D”, or “Weak Reverse” specimens carry lower values, often trading for similar amounts as regular 1922-D Lincoln Cents, or only slightly higher. They are also slightly more available in high-grade, although less examples have been certified by the major grading services in all grades. It must be noted that both PCGS and NGC recognize the different die pairs, although priced similar, and also note whether it has a weak D or weak reverse. In reality, however, these are two die markers that are often both discernible on surviving specimens.