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Close AM Cent Found by Reader
By Ken Potter, Numismatic News
March 24, 2011

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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A fourth specimen of the elusive 1992 Philadelphia Lincoln cent struck with a “Close AM” (of AMERICA) design style reverse has been reported to this author.  (Right photos show the variety, with normal spacing shown in the two left photos.) Numismatic News reader Robert Menke found it while he was recently searching circulated rolls of Lincoln cents obtained from a local bank. The coin has the potential to be worth $5,000.

The variety, which had become almost mythological due to its apparent rarity and the time span between the first and a second specimen being reported, was first listed in Brian Allen and my book, Strike It Rich With Pocket Change 2nd edition (published by Krause Publications in 2006) with a possible value of $5,000 for an About Uncirculated specimen and $10,000 or higher for an uncirculated specimen.

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Until the later part of 2009, I had been the only hobby specialist/examiner who has seen a physical example of the variety. In September of that year a second specimen finally surfaced from NN reader Kie Brown, which I reported upon in NN in late September of that year. That one was sent to Professional Coin Grading Service of Newport Beach, Calif., shortly after I examined it and was graded Mint State-62 Red (MS62RD).

Another specimen was reported to me shortly afterwards by NN reader Bruce Jaeger, who had his graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of Sarasota, Fla, as About Uncirculated-55 Red and Brown (AU-55 RB). Jaeger sold it a few months later in the Bowers and Merena Orlando Auction on Jan. 5, 2010, for $4,830, which is the only specimen I’m aware of changing hands in an auction.

The third edition of Strike It Rich With Pocket Change (just released earlier this month) states that there are four known examples but I personally have only seen three (including the one featured here) and am aware of the fourth that was auctioned off by B&M that I never personally saw. Nonetheless, seven are listed as having been certified between PCGS and NGC in a variety of grades. The total number that exists could be smaller if some of the coins were crossed over from one service to the other and are being counted twice (as is very often the case).

Parker Ogilvie of Massachusetts found the first example of the variety back in March of 2006, which he, like Brown and Menke, located while searching circulation change.

The most apparent diagnostics of the variety are the close spacing of the AM of AMERICA (which virtually touch each other at their lower serifs) and Frank Gasparro’s designer’s initials, FG, spaced significantly further from the Lincoln Memorial building than found on the reverse of the Wide AM variety.

As I have done with all examples I have seen to date, to be 100 percent sure Menke’s coin was actually what it appeared to be, I examined it microscopically to make sure it was not created in a like manner to the often encountered double-headed or double-tailed novelty coins that are created by altering two genuine coins to make one. Precision lathing can make such alterations almost undetectable to the average observer, but a close examination revealed that none of the characteristics diagnostic to these secondary-market “magician’s coins” was present on this cent.

Its weight and diameter were also checked and found to be within normal tolerances. Based on the results of my tests, it is my opinion that the coin is genuine and I have entered it into the Variety Coin Register as the third example seen by me of VCR#1/DVR#1 (the listing number I assigned to the coin in 2006). This latest find probably grades around AU-55 or better.

One of the more interesting aspects of Menke’s find that he revealed is that he was not even aware of the existence of such a variety from the Philadelphia Mint. While he is an NN reader, he missed my articles on the first two Philadelphia specimens that I wrote about, but was aware of the Denver Mint version of the same variety due to its being included in Numismatic News’ Coin Market pricing section found in the first issue of every month. He said that even though the Philadelphia version was not listed there, he decided to flip the coin over anyway to see if it might have a rotated reverse or some other sort of error and just instinctively looked at the AM of AMERICA to see if it was a struck from a Close AM style die, that he was aware of existing on a small number of Denver emissions. He said he was extremely excited to find a variety that he did not even know existed.

Menke is 56 years old and has collected coins since he was 10. The Morgan dollar was the first coin to captivate his interest. By the 1980s he ran into fellow coin enthusiast, Dave Stutzman, who was very well known and very active in the error-variety hobby in those days and eventually got interested in that aspect of the hobby, enjoying the thrill of finding treasures in common pocket change.



Why So Rare? Is it a Test Strike?

Some might ask why this coin is so rare. I speculate that the issue was possibly struck at the end of 1992 to test the new style Close AM dies before they were actually scheduled for use the next year, which the evidence suggests were intended to be introduced in 1993. Often times small changes in design can result in major striking problems such as recurring areas of premature die breakage or poor die fill, so testing such dies at one or more of the minting facilities prior to their actual date of introduction is advantageous to the Mint.



Denver’s Close AM’s

A very small number of examples of the “Close AM” reverse are also known on the 1992 Denver issue. At the time of this writing only 16 examples in all grades have been certified between Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (which, again, may actually represent a smaller number of total certified coins due to crossovers).

All years of circulation and proof Lincoln Memorial cents dated prior to 1993 carry a reverse design style that exhibits the AM of AMERICA spaced wider apart to a greater or lesser degree. To date 1993 is the only year apparent that the Close AM style was intended for use on both circulation and proof cents. From that point forward, the new Close AM style dies were reserved to strike circulation coins and the older Wide AM style was maintained for the production of proof cents, though as we can see here, a few mix-ups occur on the proofs too.



Philadelphia Wide AM

John A. Wexler first described these design style variations and the fact that the Wide AM style was then apparently being considered by the Mint as a “proof style reverse” in a January 2001 report where he announced that a 2000-dated business strike cent had been discovered mated with one of the Wide AM proof-style reverse dies. Presumably, it had inadvertently been processed as a business strike die and got used as such. Soon afterward 1998 and 1999 specimens were found with the Wide AM proof-style reverses.



Proof Variations

Conversely, much later in 2005 varieties were discovered on a small number of 1998-S and 1999-S proof Lincoln cents. These coins contained a Close AM reverse from dies intended for business strike (circulation) coinage apparently mistakenly processed and used as proof dies.



Values

Mint State grades of the varieties range in price from about $35 to $75 for the 1998, $25 to $50 for the more common 2000 and about and $500 to $1,000 for the rare 1999 Wide AMs.

The most recent 1992-D Close AM cent to be sold was auctioned off as Lot 1203 in Teletrade Auction 2690 on May 10, 2009, for $2,900. It was graded by PCGS as Almost Uncirculated-53 Brown.

The 1998-S and 1999-S Close AM proof cents have been trading from between $1,000 to $1,500 and $200 to $850, respectively, spanning grades from Proof-63 through Proof-69.

I should note that the 2000-S Close AM proof cent listed in the Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties Fifth Edition Volume 1 by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton is a typographical error. The listing was supposed to be for the 1998-S Close AM. I can state this with some authority since I was the one who supplied the information and images for the entire Close and Wide AM varieties listed in that edition. While I certainly would not rule out the possibility of a 2000-S proof

“Close AM” cent existing, to date, none has been found.

If you’d like to search for the scarce to rare Wide AM and Close AM varieties, check all dates from 1992 through 2008. There may still be some new discoveries to be found. Look for a Close AM on 1992 cents including proofs, (a proof is yet to be found), the Wide AM on the 1993-P-D-S issues, (I have an unconfirmed report of one Wide AM found on a proof cent), a Wide AM on 1994 through 2008 business strikes and a Close AM on 1994 through 2008 proof cents. Images of both the Close and Wide AM varieties are shown here. Let me know what you find.

Ken Potter is the official attributer of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and for the National Collectors Association of Die Doubling. He also privately lists other collectible variety types on both U.S. and world coins in the Variety Coin Register. More information on either of the clubs or how to get a coin listed in the Variety Coin Register may be obtained by sending a long, self-addressed envelope with 61 cents postage to P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076, or by contacting him via e-mail at KPotter256@aol.com. An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at www.koinpro.com.


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Comments
On January 24, 2015 said
I have a 2000s lincoln penny close AM  with ddo in god we trust, 2000d close AM and have 1992d and 1992 no mintmark close AM., and 1999d and 1999 on dime planchet Brown on top dime under it cion color,
On March 22, 2016 Rose Bazzanella said
I am fairly certain I just found a 1999D close "AM". The bottom of the letters actually touch. Can I send you a photo somewhere before I get too excited? thank you!
On March 25, 2016 Christine said
I have around hundreds of 1998,1999,2000 CClose AM Lincoln cents,I would like to sale.


On March 31, 2016 Ryan Lynch said
I currently have 2 1992p CAM lincoln penny errors.  I am looking to cash in on one of them and hold onto one for it high priced sought after coin error!  Look forward to seeing it in upcoming auctions..
On April 10, 2016 terry ball said
iv got a 2000D penny&the am is touching could you tell me what its worth thanks TB.
On June 4, 2016 terry ball said
iv got a 1992penny  with a small 2 &no
mint&wide am could you tell me what its worth please email me thanks T BALL.
On July 16, 2016 said
I have a 1969S that appears off centered on face side. Is this a error or something common
On September 10, 2016 Ashley said
I'm pretty sure I have a 1999-D close AM penny. Can I email you a picture to you so you can look at it?
On September 25, 2016 Gemma said
Hello. I am confused about the wide AM. I went online and check 1994 reverse it is close AM I have a coin that is wide AM. Is this a find?
On October 23, 2016 Yesenia said
I have totol of 15 1993 close wide am pennys.
On December 8, 2016 william smith said
I have 2 1993d penny close am
On January 18, 2017 Christina Griffiths said
My daughter has been counting up her penny collection (we are in the UK) and she has a 1999 Lincoln cent and the AM are practically touching, any chance I could send a pic to get it verified.
Thanks
On January 30, 2017 terry said
it all looks great but can you tell me what a 2008Dpenny with a close am worth?
On February 4, 2017 Sandy said
I have a close AM 1998 no mint mark.
It has  Frank Gasparro?s designer?s initials, FG, spaced significantly further from the Lincoln Memorial building. It so has some other errors on it as well.
On February 13, 2017 Robert said
I found it I really did the one and only very elusive 1993 wide an penny! It's the real deal were headed to Santa Anna right now! If your skeptical come on a send me a email I'll send pics! it is as all things are for SALE! Rjrnlr9611@gmail.com
On February 13, 2017 E. G said
I think I found a 1992 close AM. Also looks like the one cent letters have some doubling. No mint mark by the way.
On February 24, 2017 terry said
whats a 1999penny no mint&touching am worth? thanks
On March 1, 2017 Joshua frank said
So i just found a 1997D penny with the AM very close .infact there touching at the bottom...I have done alot of seaching the web and it appears this is not a known year to have the close AM.Did i just find a jem??? Any info would be great thanks..
On July 27, 2017 Robert Grah said
I have a 1992 no mint mark Lincoln Memorial penny I also have 4 1993 d With the  close am on all of them even the 92 what are they worth and I also have a whole bunch of 70s Lincoln pennies with the mint marks messed up these over asses these that look like lumps and I also have one where they it shows they buffed it and moved it over to where it was supposed to be can you give me any idea what they'd be worth please thank you
On July 27, 2017 Robert Grah said
I'm using voice text it's DS over s I have quite a few mint errors in from the 70s even wheat back pennies and I mean a lot and some of them are pretty weird the mint marks anyone interested in them please let me know I collect Morgan dollars and be willing to trade the wheat back penny is a 1956 and they moved the D under the 9 and 5 when it was under the five and six you can actually see the Mark what are they removed and moved it over
On July 31, 2017 Shawn said
I have a 1992 Close "AM" in Absolutely Beautiful Condition , It's not a Red but it's a Gd Copper color, full stairs.. looks recently minted.  I haven't cone across many 1992s in general at all., However I have a bunch of the different dates.. all in real nice condition "I understand them being graded is a different ballgame altogether "  With that said though, the ones I have both D./P. Mints, and  belive 1 Sanfransico "98, or 99".    
On August 11, 2017 Susan said
Wow is all I can honestly say I've been collecting for some time now and there's been times when I thought I had the one but this is the first I've ever left any comment. Please somebody Gide into the Wright hands

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