1974 aluminum cent

1974 aluminum cent

Infobox Coin
Country = United States
Denomination = Cent
Value = 0.01
Unit = U.S. dollars
Mass_troy_oz = 0.030
Mass = 0.937
Diameter_inch = 0.750
Diameter = 19.05
Thickness_inch = 0.061
Thickness = 1.55
Edge = Plain/Smooth
Composition = 96% Aluminum with trace metals mixed in.
Years of Minting = 1974–1975
Catalog Number = Judd J2151/Pollock P2084 "(1974 Aluminum)"
Judd J2152 "(1974 Bronze-Plated Steel)"
Judd J2155 "(1975 Aluminum)"
Obverse = 1974Aluminumfront.jpg
Obverse Design = Abraham Lincoln
Obverse Designer = Victor D. Brenner
Obverse Design Date = 1909
Reverse = 1974Aluminumback.jpg
Reverse Design = Lincoln Memorial
Reverse Designer = Frank Gasparro
Reverse Design Date = 1959

The 1974 aluminum cent was a one-cent coin proposed by the United States Mint in 1973. It was composed of an alloy of aluminum and trace metals, and intended to replace the predominantly copperzinc cent due to the rising costs of coin production in the traditional bronze alloy. 1,570,000 were struck in anticipation of release, but none were released into circulation. Examples were passed out to US Congressmen in a bid to win favor in switching to the new alloy. When the proposed aluminum cent was rejected, the Mint recalled and destroyed the examples. A few aluminum cents not returned to the Mint are believed to remain in existence. One example was donated to the Smithsonian Institution, while another was alleged to have been found by a US Capitol Police Officer. Since the United States Secret Service is tasked with the seizure of any specimens, the legality of the coins is in doubt.


During the early 1970s, the price of copper on world markets rose to a point where the metallic value of the cent was almost equal to its face value.Judd pg 319.] cite news |first=Tom |last=DeLorey |author= |title=Certified: '74 Aluminum Cent |publisher=COINage |page=34 |date=November 2005] The U.S. Mint, which produces billions of cents annually, was faced with a potentially catastrophic operating deficit, due to issues of seigniorage. As a result, the Mint tested alternate metals, including aluminum and bronze-clad steel.cite web|url=http://uspatterns.com/p2084.html|title=J2151/P2084|accessdate=2007-01-24|author=uspatterns.com |publisher=uspatterns.com |date= ] A composition of 96% aluminum (with trace elements for stability) was chosen.Judd pg 285.] The composition was chosen due to its longevity on coin die use, and aluminum's high resistance to tarnishing.cite web|url=http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/printable/coin3_01B.shtml|title=NMAH Legendary Coins & Currency: United States, 1 Cent, 1974 (Aluminum)|accessdate=2007-01-24|author= Smithsonian National Museum of American History|publisher=Smithsonian National Museum of American History |date= ] 1,570,000 examples of the new cents were struck.Judd pg 285.] Although they were produced in 1973, they were given a 1974 date in anticipation of release into circulation in that year.cite web|url=http://uspatterns.com/p2084.html|title=J2151/P2084|accessdate=2007-01-24|author=uspatterns.com |publisher=uspatterns.com |date= ] In an effort to gain acceptance for the new composition, the Mint distributed approximately three dozen examples to various members of the House Banking and Currency Committee and the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Additional specimens were given out by then Mint Director Mary Brooks.Judd pg 285.] Ultimately, the proposal was rejected in Congress, due mainly to the efforts of the copper-mining and vending machine industriescite news |first=Tom |last=DeLorey |author= |title=Certified: '74 Aluminum Cent |publisher=COINage |page=35 |date=November 2005 ] , who felt the coins would cause mechanical problemsJohn P. Dorst MD, Thomas E. Reichelderfer MD, and Roger C. Sanders MA, BM, BCh, MRCP, FRCRP. [http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/69/2/224?ijkey=f7e7c79819e1b677d00096fed7116b46cc569845 Radiodensity of the Proposed New Penny] , PEDIATRICS Vol. 69 No. 2 February 1982, pp. 224-225. Accessed 2008-04-17.] . Opposition also came from pediatricians and pediatric radiologists who pointed out the radiodensity of the metal inside the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts was close to that of soft tissue, and therefore would be difficult to detect in a roentgenogram. In addition, the price of copper declined enough that making copper cents would again be profitable. The idea of changing the composition of the cent would not be explored again until the 1980s, in 1982 the composition of the coin was changed to the current 99.2% zinc and 0.8% copper core alloy with a plating of pure copper and a 20% weight reduction.Yeoman, Pg 119]

It is believed that about a dozen aluminum cents were never returned to the mint.cite web |url=http://www.coinfacts.com/small_cents/lincoln_cents/memorial_cents/1974_cent.htm |title="1974 One Cent" |accessdate=2006-12-23] They are now considered government property, and are subject to seizure by the Secret Service, [ [http://financialservices.house.gov/media/pdf/071906bd.pdf Exhibits of "Coin World" Articles] , Testimony of Beth Deisher, Editor, "Coin World", to U.S. Congressional Subcommittee. URL accessed 2007-01-01. ( [ Google cache] )] though the legality of the cent is questioned by numismatists.Judd pg 285.] One aluminum cent was donated to the Smithsonian Institution.cite web|url=http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/printable/coin3_01B.shtml|title=NMAH Legendary Coins & Currency: United States, 1 Cent, 1974 (Aluminum)|accessdate=2007-01-24|author= Smithsonian National Museum of American History|publisher=Smithsonian National Museum of American History |date= ] Since no examples have been put up for public or known private sale, [cite web|author=Gibbs, William T. |url=http://www.coinworld.com/news/032006/BW_0320.asp|title="Cents copper no more"|publisher=Coin World |date=March 20, 2006 | accessdate=2007-04-13] it is difficult to estimate their value.

One example is attributed to a story of a US Capitol Police Officer who found the coin dropped by an unnamed US Congressman. When the officer attempted to return the coin to the congressman, thinking it was a dime, the congressman told him to keep it.cite web|url=http://coincollector.org/archives/002708.html|title=1974 Aluminum Cent Discovered|accessdate=2007-01-24|author=coincollector.org |publisher=coincollector.org |date= July 20, 2005] This example was graded and certified by the Independent Coin Grading Company as “About Uncirculated-58” (later certified Mint State 62 by Professional Coin Grading Service).cite web|url=http://uspatterns.com/p2084.html|title=J2151/P2084|accessdate=2007-01-24|author=uspatterns.com |publisher=uspatterns.com |date= ] Judd pg 285.] cite web|url=http://coincollector.org/archives/002708.html|title=1974 Aluminum Cent Discovered|accessdate=2007-01-24|author=coincollector.org |publisher=coincollector.org |date= July 20, 2005] cite web|url=http://web.archive.org/web/20061024101307/http://www.collect.com/interest/article.asp?id=14406|title=Aluminum cent slabbed|accessdate=2007-02-17|author=Herbert, Alan |publisher=collect.com |date= July 12, 2005 ] and is thought to be the Toven specimen.

The coin is considered by a few numismatists not as a "pattern coin" but rather a "rejected or cancelled regular issue" despite being listed in pattern books.cite web|url=http://uspatterns.com/p2084.html|title=J2151/P2084|accessdate=2007-01-24|author=uspatterns.com |publisher=uspatterns.com |date= ]

Other examples

Several other related examples are alleged to have existed at some point or another, including:

* 10 examples of a 1974-D aluminum cent, produced at the Denver Mint.cite web|url=http://www.coinfacts.com/small_cents/lincoln_cents/memorial_cents/1974d_cent.htm |title=1974-D ONE CENT|publisher=coinfacts.com |accessdate=2007-01-24]
* Examples produced in bronze-clad steel.cite web|url=http://uspatterns.com/p2084.html|title=J2151/P2084|accessdate=2007-01-24|author=uspatterns.com |publisher=uspatterns.com |date= ] Judd pg 285.]
* 66 Aluminum cents made in 1975 as trial strikings.cite web|url=http://uspatterns.com/j2155.html|title=J2155|accessdate=2007-01-24|author=uspatterns.com |publisher=uspatterns.com |date= ] [Judd pg 286]

Notes and references

Further reading

* Judd M.D., J. Hewitt, Bowers, Q. David (editor), & Teichman, Saul (research associate). "Official Red Book United States Pattern Coins: Complete Source for History, Rarity, and Values." Whitman Publishing; 9th edition (October 31, 2005). ISBN 0794818234
* Pollock III, Andrew. "United States Patterns and Related Issues". Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc (1994). ISBN 0943161584
* Yeoman, R.S. "Official Red Book A Guide of United States Coins" Whitman Publishing: 60th edition (2007) ISBN 0794820395

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