How close are the letters A and M in the word America on the reverse of the Lincoln memorial cent? A difference of less than a millimeter can be the difference between a coin worth hundreds of dollars and coin worth one cent. In close AM coins, the letters A and M are practically touching. In wide AM coins, the letters have more space. Because the difference is subtle, few have been pulled from circulation. In my view, this represents one of the best opportunities for discovering a rare coin from pocket change.
Prior to 1993, Lincoln cents were struck as wide AM. In 1993, the design was modified slightly to give the Close AM. However, some 1992 and 1992 D cents jumped the gun and were struck with the close AM, creating a rare variety (extremely rare for the 1992).
The top picture shows a wide AM coin. The bottom picture shows a close AM coin (note how the letters A and M practically touch.
In 1994, the mint went back to the wide AM variety for the proof coins. Why did they do this? Sorry, even Dr. Planchet does not have all the answers. Inevitably, things got bollixed up as proof hubs were accidentally exchanged for the regular issue hubs. As a result, some proof coins in 1998 and 1999 were struck with the close AM while some 1998, 1999 and 2000 cents were struck with the Wide AM. These wide AM cents are scarce and valuable (Go to a site such as ebay for current values). Cents from 1998 to 2000 are still common to find in our daily pocket change. Take some time to look carefully at the reverses. It may be your best chance of finding a rarity.
To summarize, the following are the rare varieties:
- 1992 Close AM
- 1992D Close AM
- 1998S proof close AM
- 1999S proof close AM
- 1998 Wide AM
- 1999 Wide AM
- 2000 Wide AM
As always, Dr. Planchet wishes you luck in finding them.
Values of close AM and wide AM centsThe 1992 and 1992D close AM cents are the rarest with only a small handful discovered. A 1992 close AM cent sold for $24,000 and a 1992D close AM cent sold for $20,000. Of the wide AM cents, 1999 is the rarest, generally selling for several hundred dollars for a nice red uncirulated example (i.e. MS65 red) and over a hundred dollars in slightly lower grades. The 1998 and 2000 wide AMs are more common and can sell in the $30 to $50 dollar range in MS65 red, but only several dollars for slightly lower grades.