Small cents, first coined for circulation with the 1857 Flying Eagle, have been produced continuously ever since. Today there are hundreds of different dates and mintmarks over that span. If you are a fan of certified coins, even having one of every date and mintmark since the introduction of the Memorial Reverse Lincoln cent in 1959 would require a wheelbarrow to move them around! While building a set of dates and mintmarks is interesting to do, a pleasing and quite affordable alternative is to build a type set. This would consist of the following issues:
1857-1858 Flying Eagle: Flying Eagle cents were minted for circulation in these two years only. Some difficulty arose with striking the detail sharply, particularly the head and tail of the eagle on the obverse.
1859 Indian Head with Laurel Wreath Reverse: This new style had a very brief existence, just one year. However, enough were made that examples are readily obtainable today.
1860-1864 Indian Head, copper nickel with Wreath Reverse: This was the next style, also made in large quantities. Recently in Coin World, I discussed the 1859 cent with 1860 reverse, cataloged as a pattern as Judd-228, but with credentials as a regular circulating issue. Apparently at least 1,000 were made with lustrous (not Proof) surfaces. This article attracted quite a bit of attention. Perhaps more attention will be given to the variety in the future.
1864 Indian Head, bronze without L: In the spring of 1864 a new thin bronze standard was adopted. Most of the issues of this year do not have the initial L for Longacre on the ribbon. These are plentiful today.
1864-1886 Indian Head, L on ribbon, last feather pointing between I and C (AMERICA): Easily available, although some dates are scarce.
1886-1909 Indian Head, last feather pointing between C and A (AMERICA): Again easily available.
1909 Lincoln, with V.D.B. on the reverse: Made in quantity, popular at the time, saved by the public and easily available today. Production ceased early in August when the Treasury Department felt that the initials V.D.B. were too obvious on the reverse.
1909-1958 Lincoln, no V.D.B. on the reverse: Common enough. Or, you can break this into two sections, 1909 to 1917 without any V.D.B. initials at all and 1918 to 1958 with VDB in tiny initials on the shoulder.
1943 Lincoln, zinc-coated steel planchet.
1959-1982 Lincoln, Memorial Reverse, struck in bronze.
1982-2008 Lincoln, Memorial Reverse, copper-plated zinc.
2009 Lincoln, four different reverse types, “Birth and early childhood,” “Formative years,” “Professional life,” and “Presidency”: easily available. In addition satin finish pieces made of bronze, not copper-plated zinc, were issued in Mint sets and are desirable, listing for $10 each in MS-65 grade in the current Guide Book.
2010-date Lincoln, Shield Reverse: The current design.
It is impressive to think how many different types have been made since 1857. Today, with many individual dates and mintmarks being very expensive, especially in high grades, a type set is an affordable and interesting alternative not only for Lincoln cents but also for many other series.