One of the Unicorns (extreme rarities) in the Lincoln Cent series (especially for toned Lincoln collectors) are those coins graded PCGS MS67BN. This is an extremely rare grade / color-class combination. Just to emphasize how rare — from the founding of PCGS in 1985 until 2012 (a time period spanning 27 years) — the highest graded Wheat Lincoln Cent in the Brown Color Class was MS66BN. In May 2012, the very first MS67BN was graded: a stunning 1956-D Lincoln Cent. Since May 2012 (about 6.5 years) nine more MS67BN Lincolns have been graded making the total population 10 (as of November 2018) in this rarefied grade / color-class combination.

Shown below is a side by side comparison of thumbnail images of all the 10 known PCGS MS67BN Lincolns as of 11/25/2018. All images are either TrueView (TV) or CoinFacts (CF) photos shot by Phil Arnold — the lone exception is the 1909-S VDB (coin #4), where no out-of-the-slab photo was taken. For this latter coin, I used the slab auction photos from the Great Collections website. I believe that if a TV or CF photo existed for this 1909-S VDB, it would have a bit more “pop”. The remaining “phantom” coin in the group is the 1936 that was graded in July 2017, where no known photo exists.

It’s interesting that after the first MS67BN was graded in May 2012, two more quickly followed in the next 10 months. Following those 3, there was a long gap of almost 4 years that lasted until December 2016. Since then however, we’ve gotten about 3 graded per year. Theories on this recent relative increase could be near-term “grade-flation” or perhaps more high-grade toned Lincoln submissions, in the past few years, prompted by the addition of PCGS “Toned” Lincoln Registry Sets (which give bonus points to BN’s) in 2016.

A breakdown of each coin follows:

First Example:  1956-D

Date Made:  May 2012
Current Owner:  PCGS Member Wondercoins
Provenance:  Raw Mint Set to Wondercoins
Cost: < $100 Estimated (Raw Mint Set)
Current PCGS Registry Set:  None

In May 2012 the first MS67BN Lincoln was graded by PCGS.  It was a stunning 1956-D Lincoln which was removed from a Cardboard Mint Set and submitted to PCGS by member Wondercoins and his daughter Lauren.  This coin achieved the unknown-til-then grade of PCGS MS67BN.  Amazingly, the PCGS Price Guide lists this singularly unique coin at $125 (which is insanely low) – the marketplace value of this is many, many multiples higher due to the grade rarity, it’s top pop status, it’s stunning color and eye appeal, and demand from toned Lincoln collectors.  What follows is the story of that coin:

Backstory (by WonderCoins): My 22 year old (at the time) daughter, Lauren, deserves all the credit for this coin. Lauren splits her time between being a third year Psychology major at the University of California, San Diego and a working numismatist/screener with me. She has been an active screener since 2006. In April 2012, I visited a safe deposit box I had not been to in a while in my hunt for top-end Washington silver quarter candidates (I currently have the top set of Major Variety (93 pc) Silver Mint State Washington quarters and I am putting the finishing touches on the set before the upcoming Registry deadline). I came across a “cache” of lovely toned Mint Set Lincoln cents I had picked up along the way over the past (30) years. I gave the pile of roughly 30-35 coins to Lauren and I asked her to pick me out (3) coins that I should submit. I was a little surprised that two of the coins she selected were dated 1956-D and the third coin was dated 1957-D. Lauren had so much date / mintmark selection, that, at first, I thought “why submit two of the same date / mintmark”. But, in any event, she picked them out, so I decided to submit them exactly as she picked them. The (3) coins graded MS67BN, MS66+RB and MS66+RB. -Wondercoins

Second Example: 1957-D

Date Made: July 2012
Current Owner: PCGS Member WingedLiberty
Provenance: DJDilliodon to GreatToning to A.Keena to WingedLiberty
Cost: $560 (NGC MS67RB #2553945-002) June 2011
Current PCGS Registry Set: WingedLiberty Fireball Rainbow Collection

This was the 2nd Lincoln Cent that PCGS has assigned an MS67BN grade, out of nearly 500,000 Wheatbacked Lincoln Cents graded since they starting grading coins in 1985.  This was owned early on by Aaron Keena when it was slabbed by NGC as MS67starRB. Aaron sold it to Winged Liberty in June 2011 for $560. I suppose there could be some question on whether this should have been classified a BN or a RB coin (NGC thought it was RB, when they graded it a number of years ago, however the coin could be slowly turning darker and more colorful as time passes) — but, in any case, who am I to argue with the grading experts at PCGS! The definition of a BN coin is it contains less than 5% original mint-fresh copper color (the color copper that cents have when first being minted). So the ultimate question is what percent of this coin shows original mint-fresh copper color? If it’s less than 5% then it’s classified a BN (Brown); if it’s between 5% and 95% then it’s classified a RB (Red-Brown); more than 95% and it’s classified a RD (Red). 

Backstory (by WingedLiberty): The funny story with this coin is it was a sort of an accidental buy.  When I first got back into coins in 2011 after a long 40 year hiatus, I was excited by my recent discovery of toned coins. In addition, I had also recently discovered Matte Proof Lincolns a few months earlier and was interested in adding one of those often colorful beasts to my collection. After hunting for a few months, with no luck, I was becoming frustrated. When I saw this pretty and colorful NGC MS67starRB 1957-D Lincoln for sale on eBay in June 2011 (albeit, at a high price of $999) — I wondered if buying that colorful Lincoln Cent might quench my thirst for a beautiful high-grade Matte Proof Lincoln. After some negotiating with the seller, he knocked the price down to $560 for me. After acquiring, I did try to cross this to PCGS with a minimum specified grade of MS67RB, however it came back DNC (Did Not Cross). I was starting to feel like this might have been a mistake — so this coin went on the back burner and was mostly forgotten for a year. Then in an email discussion I was having with a fellow collector, this coin came up in conversation. He suggested I crack it out and send it in raw. Since some time had passed since buying, it was less painful for me to crack. I was amazed when it came back from PCGS in an MS67BN slab — at the time it was the 2nd known MS67BN.  Afterwords I wondered if the reason it DNC’d the first time is PCGS wanted to “drop” the color class from RB to BN. To my delight that grading decision made this a grade / color-class rarity.  Just to add a bit more historical information on this coin — this coin was originally owned by Collectors Universe Member djdilliodon about a decade ago. When I posted a photo of this coin in the NGC slab on the Collectors Universe Forum board in 2011, djdilliodon posted this comment …  “Boy I miss that coin . IMO I feel the 67 grade is well deserved and was one of the reasons I sent it in to NGC for grading. It’s twin graded a 66 and while still nice, it wasn’t as colorful. ” djdilliodon then consigned this coin to eBay seller GreatToning, where it sold to a dealer named CaptivatingCoins (Aaron Keena) in located in Oregon. I then bought this coin from CaptivatingCoins (many months later) in June 2011 and I have owned it since that time.
So this coin has been in an NGC slab for a number of years. Also djdilliodon, the original owner of this coin and the person that originally had it slabbed by NGC, shared a photo with me that he took of the coin, just before he sent it into NGC and I can tell you the coin has not changed at all (the color has been and is completely stable). – WingedLiberty

Third Example: 1916-D

Date Made: March 2013
Current Owner: “Jeffrey”
Provenance: Heritage to Angel Dees to “Jeffrey”
Cost: $2,990 (PCGS MS66BN #21675451) January 2008
Current PCGS Registry Set: None

This coin is what I consider to be the first rock-solid Brown (BN) in this rarefied group of coins and might be my favorite amongst all of them. I know, how can anyone pick a favorite!  I love them all. The first two examples above (1956-D and 1957-D) could have graded Red-Brown (RB) on another day and/or by another grading group.   it’s interesting that this third coin was dated 1916 as 1915/1916 were the years the U.S.Mint retooled the dies allowing for exquisite detail.  I love the smoothness of the color and the dimpled fields, which reminds me a bit of a Matte Proof Lincoln.

Backstory (by WingedLiberty): This monster 1916-D was auctioned off on the Heritage Auction site in January 2008. At the time it resided in an MS66BN slab. It was still a rarity, even at that lower 66 grade — a quality most of the early mint-marked Lincolns in high grades enjoy. Andy Skrabalak of Angel Dees bought the coin in the auction and sold it to one of his customers. The new owner kept this coin in the MS66BN slab for some time. A few years later, Andy led the charge to upgrade the coin for him, sending it into PCGS for regrade in March 2013, where it popped to MS67BN. That single point bump in grade caused a radical shift in the PCGS Guide value from around $3,000 to $10,000.  Kudos to both Andy and the buyer of this monster for their good eye on the upgrade potential of this coin! – WingedLiberty  

Fourth Example:  1909-S VDB

Date Made: December 2016
Current Owner: Unknown
Provenance: Great Collections to Unknown
Cost: $20,350 (PCGS MS67BN #82900919) February 2017
Current PCGS Registry Set: None

There is no out-of-the-slab professional PCGS photo of this coin.  The only images available were the Great Collections Auction photos — so I attempted to mock up an image similar in appearance to the PCGS photos for usage here.  That being said, if PCGS had taken it upon themselves to image this super-rarity, I am sure their photo would have shown more “pop”.  As it is though, with this somewhat impaired through-the-slab photo, some might wonder if this coin actually deserved a 67BN grade.  It’s just hard to tell from this limited view.  There were 14 independent bidders on this coin, placing a total of 42 bids. Four of the bidders placed bids over $18,000 and two over $20,000.  Guide Price is $21,000 so this coin sold near PCGS Guide.

Backstory (from the Great Collections auction listing)The presently-offered specimen is one of the very finest 1909-S VDB Lincolns in existence. In terms of numerical grade, it is tied for finest known. This piece is certified MS-67 Brown by PCGS; it has a population of 1 with none graded finer in the Brown color class. While PCGS has certified other pieces as MS67 Red-Brown and MS67 Red, this coin is equal in terms of numerical grade but can be acquired at a more reasonable cost. In terms of technical quality, this specimen is certainly among the very finest pieces in existence. Its smooth surfaces are devoid of spots, defects, flaws, or any detracting characteristics. The luster is intense and fully intact. The color is even, natural, and extremely pleasing. When copper coins tone, they often acquire unsightly splotches or carbon spots. This example, on the other hand, shows the kind of uniform coloration that copper specialists covet.

Fifth Example:  1937-D

Date Made: May 2017
Current Owner:  PCGS Member ChloeBess
Provenance: Boston Coins to ChloeBess
Cost: $1,550 (PCGS MS67BN #84290741) May 2017
Current PCGS Registry Set: ChloeBess Abe’s Coloring Book

The fifth MS67BN was a 1937-D Lincoln that has striking bold obverse colors of green, pink, amber, and gold.  it was auctioned off on eBay by Boston Coins in 2017.

Backstory (by ChloeBess)This 1937-D is spectacular. It was my first 67BN, purchased in May 2017 when I was just beginning my set. Boston Coin discovered my desire to own this type of rarity and sent me a photo. I bought it with no hesitation. It is one of my favorites in my set, and I think it has a true personality. I don’t know how it acquired its look, but it shimmers when holding it — even with the deep colors.

Sixth Example:  1936-D

Date Made: June 2017
Current Owner:  PCGS Member ChloeBess
Provenance: GreatCollections to ChloeBess
Cost: $439 (PCGS MS67BN #84014737) June 2017
Current PCGS Registry Set: ChloeBess Abe’s Coloring Book

This 1936-D was bought off the Great Collections auction site.  This is a beautiful coin with smooth and even brown toning — with slight hints of pink and green.

Backstory (by ChloeBess):  A month after I bought the 1937-D above, this 1936-D showed up in a Great Collections auction. I think I bought it for a price that it deserved (a bit lower than most other 67BNs). That lower price was probably because it’s almost all brown and the lack of any other bright vivid color kept other bidders at bay. In my case, I consider true brown a color just as any other, and while the reds and greens, etc. are more popular, I like this in my set because of its perfect condition and almost total commitment to brown. Under inspection, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see it upgraded to 67+ someday, which is something I will attempt sometime when I have nothing else to do. -ChloeBess

Seventh Example:  1936

Date Made: July 2017
Current Owner:  Unknown
Provenance: Unknown
Current PCGS Registry Set: None

There is no known photo or ownership information on the seventh example:  1936 Lincoln.  In any case it was certified shortly after the 1936-D.  I did check PCGS Certification numbers around the 1936-D hoping I might stumble onto it, but no luck.   This coin is MIA (missing in action).

Eighth Example:  1916

Date Made: March 2018
Current Owner: PCGS Member Ronyahski
Provenance: Angel Dees to WingedLiberty to Ronyahski
Current PCGS Registry Set: None

This coin was upgraded by Andy Skrabalak of Angel Dees fame and sports razor sharp details and an explosion of blue, violet, pink, teal, and amber color on pristine lustrous surfaces. This is one of only three MS67BNs dated before 1936.   

Backstory (by WingedLiberty)I have been chasing this coin since 2012.  I fell in love with it the first time I saw it in CoinFacts (it was MS66BN at the time).  Over the years, I had, on occasion, pinged various dealers asking if they had ever seen it — with no luck.  In January 2018, someone approached Andy of Angel Dees at a coin show wanting to sell him this coin.  Andy bought it and immediately thought it was an upgrade candidate to MS67BN,  After some effort Andy received the upgrade from MS66BN to MS67BN.  At that point, it was actually out of my league in terms of price, but I had been hunting it for so long, I wanted to own it at least for a short while — so I bought it. While in ownership of this, I had 2 great photographers (Robec and Phil Arnold) shoot a lot more images, so it’s catalogued really well now. After a few months of fun, I asked Andy if he could attempt to sell it to the other interested party, which he was able to do at a very small profit to me.  Thanks Andy.

Ninth Example:  1957-D

Date Made: August 2018
Current Owner: PCGS Member ChloeBess
Provenance: Great Toning to ChloeBess
Cost: $600 (PCGS MS67BN #34118080) August 2018
Current PCGS Registry Set: ChloeBess Abe’s Coloring Book 

A very beautiful Mint Set toned 1957-D Lincoln with striking green on the obverse.

Backstory (by ChloeBess)I purchased this 1957-D from Dick Abrahams (Great Toning) who was handling it on consignment. I’ve known Dick for many years and he was aware of my interest in high grade Lincoln toners. He did not price it for me, but asked me what I thought it was worth and what I would be willing to pay for it. Based on the photo, I offered $600. I thought it was on the high side for this date but it fit well with my set and gave me a third 67BN. The owners plan before that was to go into a Great Toning eBay open auction — and my bet is, the owner felt the price I offered was about all that would fetch so he simply sold it directly to me. We will never know!  There are other 67BN’s of this date and I felt this one was different in that it was very green.  I have to say that I love this coin, and especially love the green which makes it a solid BN. -ChloeBess

Tenth Example:  1957-D

Date Made: November 2018
Current Owner: PCGS Member Robec
Provenance: PCoins to DimeFreak to WingedLiberty to Robec
Cost: $495 (PCGS MS67RB #27610790) November 2014
Current PCGS Registry Set: Robec Spectra Lincolns

Another really beautiful Mint Set Toned 1957-D.  It’s the third 1957-D in this select group. The strike on this coin is hammered (somewhat rare for Lincolns minted in the late 1950’s) — and the colors on both sides, fiery and exquisite.

Backstory (by Robec): This coin had been slabbed PCGS MS67RB for a number of years. I photographed it for DimeFreak (the owner at the time) in early 2013 while it was still PCGS MS67RB. The cert number at that time was 11031706, a very early cert number, so clearly it was initially graded quite a while ago. There was no Reconsideration Service back then, only Regrade, so it was more convoluted to upgrade coins. The general thought by many who saw it was it should have been given the BN designation early on. WingedLiberty bought this coin from DimeFreak in April 2013. Winged Liberty then sold it to me (still in the MS67RB slab) in November 2014 for $495. Over the next few years, I made several attempts at color class reconsideration (all unsuccessful). Finally in November 2018, with the help of Gary Ugrinovskiy, the coin was finally given the correct Brown (BN) color classification allowing it to join this rarefied group.

 

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