CentSearcher's Blog

10 Oct 2021

A Look into the Toned Lincoln Cent Set (and a Huge Update to My Set)

Coins-United States | CentSearcher

Hello everyone! I know, it's been several weeks since my last blog post. I really did mean to post, but the photos wasn't working, so I decided to wait until the problem was fixed. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words (but don't worry, I'll still give you a thousand words for you to read). The main discussion of this blog will be the toned Lincoln Cent set, and a huge update to my personal collection of toned Lincolns.

An Update to My Collection

Those of you who know me, I started a collection of toned Lincoln cents a few months ago. It has been going great, though my limited budget can make finding the next addition to the set difficult. A week ago I reached out to the owner of a very large collection of toned Lincolns, asking if he had any duplicates for sale. A few messages later, and he's sending me 7 cents for free! (Just want to put it out there that I did offer to pay for them several times) I don't care what other people say, numismatists are the best hobbyists! He sent me 4 PCGS graded cents and 3 raw ones.

The first PCGS cent was one that was on the top of my bucket list, and it was in way better shape than what I could of afforded. It was a 1942 Proof Lincoln cent, PR-65 RB and in a rattler! I was shocked to get a pre-1950 proof in a rattler, and with such great toning. Next was a 1950 that also graded PR-65 RB. The next two both have Trueview imaging, so be sure to check the photos. Third was a 1961 PR-64 BN with very similar toning to the 1962 that I recently sent in for grading. And, finally, a 1969 S graded PR-67 RB.

Next, the raw toners. First was a 1957 D Lincoln cent, the only circulation strike cent in the lot. Second was a 1963 proof still in the mint cello, with some very nice toning along the rim. I'll probably send this one to PCGS sometime, but it might be a little while. And, lastly, a 1987 S proof with monster toning on the obverse. This one I might be sending to PCGS sooner, though it might come back as QC. Again, enlarge the pictures below to see them. You can also go to my "PCGS Lincoln Cent Set Registry" collection to see my full set.

The Toned Lincoln Cent Set

Though accumulating a complete date and mintmark set of toned Lincolns can be very challenging, it is nevertheless popular, and quite a few of people have succeeded. Such a set can be done several different ways, whether it includes all mintmarks for a given year, a more narrow date range, or only choosing proofs or circulation strikes. Some people even include varieties, though most don't (I'm pretty much doing the entire series, 1909 - date, PDS, circulation strike and proofs). There are some very impressive set registries and even personal websites that I have found with a complete or near-complete set. The owners have come up with some pretty creative names for their sets, here are links to a few of them:

The Railsplitter Collection

The Prism of Color Collection

The Phoenix Collection

Abe's Coloring Book

The Kaleidoscopic Collection

Color of Money

Toned Lincoln Proofs

There is not really a color that you consistently see for a certain date of a circulation strike cent, though proofs are quite different. A common type of toning on a proof is usually because of the packaging the coin was in. The firsts proofs were the extremely scarce matte proofs minted from 1909 - 1916, with mintages from 600 to 4100 each year. It is important to remember that the survival rate is going to be less than the original mintage. These matte proofs were put in packaging that contains sulfur, which would tone the coins if given enough time. The US mint ceased the production of proof Lincoln cents all the way until 1936, which were mirror-finish proofs. These new proofs are a lot more common than the matte proofs, but can still be rather expensive. They are often rather dark when looked at head-on, but can show some very attractive toning when moved around in hand. The US mint continued to make these proofs up until 1942, and did not resume until 1950.

You probably already know why the years 1961 and 62 are so significant for toned Lincoln cent collections. Again, because of the packaging, proofs from these two dates in particular (as well as several dates around it) commonly have a several solid colors covering the entire coin, usually purple and/or blue (like the 1961 that I have in the photos, the 1962 that I sent in to PCGS, and a 1961 that I might be buying soon). They are very numerous and relatively inexpensive, and are usually graded PR65 - PR67 BN. I've seen examples with orange, yellow, blue, purple, and even white toning, and I am sure that there are others that would fill in the rest of the rainbow.

The next important date to note is 1970 S, known for it's target toners. You've probably seen one of these, a 1970 S with a near-full rainbow that circles all the way around the rim. While target toners can be found on pretty much every date, they are very common in this year. To skip ahead a bit, there is one other year that is also very well known for it's target toners. The Lincoln Bicentennial, 2009. I have one of these in my collection, you can see the picture down below. The US mint made the 2009 proofs out of copper, which contributes to why target toners are common for this date. It really is pretty surprising how naturally toned they are, considering that they are only 12 years old.

I think that I've held you down long enough. Maybe in a future blog I can talk about the science of toning. Thank you all for reading! Stay safe, and keep on collecting.

Your fellow numismatist, CentSearcher



Level 5

Man, that guy is awesome. You should find out his address and send him a really nice letter. People love getting letters because they take more time than emails, so that shows that you really care. Love the toners, especially the 2009-S.


Level 6

Beautiful coins! You have an amazing collection going on! Enjoyed your blog! ; )


Level 4

Thanks for sharing and like you I was a little frustrated when I could not use pictures to post. Glad you came back though as I would not have seen that spectacular wood chopper cent. I agree that is some wonderful toning for such a recent coin.


Level 6

Fantastic looking coins. That person is being very nice to you. You choose a great type of collecting. Thanks.


Level 4

Nice pickups! I really like that toning!


Level 7

Great toning on the cents. I usually don't like toning but these are very nice. Nice pick up!!

It's Mokie

Level 6

A beautiful grouping and proof once again that Numismatists are truly generous people.


Level 6

Stunning coin!!!


Level 5

Great toned coins. Love the topic. Nice blog.

Long Beard

Level 5

I may have mentioned it on a previous post of the subject, toned full reds are absolutely gorgeous and what I'm looking for myself for a third set (the previous two ordinary cents) being assembled. Tough to find naturally toned and one must know the difference. I like what you have thus far, well done.

AC coin$

Level 6

Great information . Weird tones for pennies.


Level 5

Absolutely beautiful toners! Great blog.

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