1974 - USA - Aluminum - One Cent - Pattern

In 1973 in view of the increasing cost of Copper the US Mint experimented again with alternative materials for Coinage very much like the TRIAL coins struck in Lanka in 1971 for both Five cents and Ten cents denominations in Nickel-Brass clad steel, Chromized steel, and Aluminum, and the 1975 Aluminum Off-Metal-Strikes (OMS) for both Five cents and Ten cents denominations.

A 3.11 grams copper-zinc Lincoln Memorial Cent had been minted since 1959. The 1974 0.93 gram Aluminum pattern cent was rejected and after 1982 it has been minted as a copper plated zinc coin of 2.5 grams.

See discussion of Aluminum patterns made in the US in 1973 (P2084) when the price of copper was rising and the mint tested alternative metals see Mint may switch to Aluminum Cents (The Numismatist 1974 February, p. 270-271).

Alternative Materials for One Cent Coinage Treasury Report. December 1973, 69 page, states Copper-Zinc Alloys, Aluminum Alloys, Chromized Steel, Bronze Clad Steel were considered for more extensive evaluation. Nonsense dies were designed to simulate the actual penny dies with regard to relief and location of images of lettering. In this way, coining characteristics of the alloys could be compared relative to one another without creating a large number of potentially valuable numismatic oddities. Finally 1974-dated dies were used to strike a carefully controlled number (1.57 million) of aluminum alloy coins. All but few of which were destroyed after testing.

The 1974 Aluminum cent although it was a buseness strike which the US-mint hoped to put into circulation. Since they got destroyed after it did not get congressional approval for released is in fact a Pattern. Interestingly it is not listed in Krause.

The 0.45 million 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle $20 Gold coin, the release of which was stopped when President Roosevelt took US off the Gold Standard and prevented the private ownership of Gold Bullion. It was listed in Krause with note none placed in circulation. The single remaining coin which sold for $7.6 Million on Auction was made legal tender by the US Mint on 2002 July 30th. It is anyway not a Pattern since it had been minted since 1908
The reasons given in this report for recommending Aluminum and rejecting the alternative materials were

One Cent Coinage Treasury Report. October 1974, 82 page, summarizes the Federal Reserve Committee Studies on the economics of the penny.
The case of the Missing 1973 Aluminum Cents by Ted Schwarz (The Numismatist 1976 August p. 1721-1725) reports that fourteen examples were brought to Congress for examination by the House(9) and Senate(5) congressional committees for banking. A copper clad zinc Lincoln cent was adopted in 1982.

A genuine Aluminum pattern will weigh about 0.94 grams or 30% of a 1974 copper Penny. Replica 1974 patterns have been made by electro-plating the copper cents to look like Aluminum. To deposit Aluminum on a surface requires a more expensive process of using a plasma.

Several of the examples of the 1974 Aluminum patterns are said to have disappeared and few were recovered by Secret Service for the Mint and destroyed. One was deposited in the Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection by a staff director of a subcommittee. The article Gift, Theft or Find: The 1974 Aluminum Cent by David Ganz (Numismatist 2001 April p. 390-392,425-427) extract from 1990 letter the current attitude of the Mint on the 11 of the cents which were still outstanding. The Mint cannot pay a reward for their return: we regard them as our property, illegally issued into circulation.

For details see articles in The Numismatist and the Catalog United States Patterns and Related Issues by Andrew W. Pollock III 1994 Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc. P 392-393.
I thank Andrew Pollock for a copy of the Treasury reports which make very interesting reading on the U.S. mint selection process.

The existence of this specimen was first reported on the front page of Numismatic News in the Feb. 20, 2001, issue. The coin was reportedly in the hands of the family of a deceased Capitol Hill police officer who found the piece in 1973 "on the pavement while on duty in the basement of the House Office Building" where the officer believed it had been dropped by a Congressman.

ICG-Independent Coin Grading of Englewood, Colorado announced on 2005 July 1st that it had certified the first and only 1974 aluminum Lincoln aluminum cent. Submitted on behalf of the Toven family, ICG has graded the coin AU-58 and pedigreed it the Toven Specimen.

It has been reported the Secret Service is investigating and could demand forfeiture of the certified piece and any others that surface.

Anyone know if NGC or PCGS refused to grade it, since they would have been obliged to report to Secret Service when they were in possession of it. It will be interesting to watch developments.

I wonder if this will lead to a deal like the 1933 double eagle. There are some similarities.

King Farouk of Egypt got the 1933 double eagle by a 1944 Treasury Department oversight, which just gave permission to export it from USA, when it had been stolen from the US Mint.

The US Mint expected to get authority to issue the 1974 Aluminum cents and therefore by oversight did not give them much protection when distributed to congress. They only become valuable numismatic items when the pattern was rejected. If accepted the rest of the 1.57 million Aluminum cents that had been minted, would have been issued and these early specimens worth not more than a cent.

The Sri Lankan Aluminium 5 cents and 10 cents Pattern of 1975 which are as rare, but are unfortunately not as valuable in the numismatic market as the US equivalent ...

This webpage on Americana hosted by Lakdiva : a website for Coins and rare Patterns of SriLanka (Ceylon).