1974 Aluminum Cent Discovered
A 1974 aluminum cent pattern has recently been certified by Independent Coin Grading Company, a third party authentication and grading service. ICG has encapsulated it in a slab with a grade of AU58.
As the price of copper rose during the 1970s to the point where the metal in a penny cost nearly as much as its face value, the U.S. Mint explored alternative metallic compositions. Legislation was introduced in late 1973 that would have given the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to strike one cent coins from an aluminum alloy. The Mint struck more than 1.5 million aluminum and bronze clad one cent patterns dated 1974 and distributed a small number to members of Congress and Treasury Department officials. When it became clear that legislation authorizing a change in composition would not be enacted, the Mint requested that the patterns be returned and destroyed those in its possession. However, it’s believed that some of the distributed pieces were never returned.
Production of bronze Lincoln cents continued until 1982, when the composition was changed to zinc with an outer copper layer.
A U.S. Capitol police officer claimed to have retrieved the recently certified specimen after it was dropped by a Congressman. Thinking the Congressman had dropped a dime, the officer attempted to return the coin but was told to keep it. An unidentified coin dealer submitted the coin to ICG on behalf of the late officer’s family.
The U.S. Mint considers the 1974 aluminum cents to be unreleased and therefore government property. Because the Mint has no enforcement powers, it has referred the matter to the Secret Service, which has handled similar cases in the past. The Secret Service is investigating and could demand forfeiture of the certified piece and any others that surface.