Key Date & Rare Coins

A key date is a coin that is usually the last to be placed in a collection, because the date or date and mint mark combination is especially rare or hard to find. It is the coin that most collectors need to complete a certain collection. 

Some dates are not quite as scarce as others, but still not as common as most dates, and these are often referred as semi-key dates

A complete collection will contain one example of each date and mint mark for an entire coin series. The key date coins can make this a monumental task. However, they also provide an opportunity to truly take your set to the next level. The perfect key date coin can enhance and enrich your entire collection.

Ardie's Coins carries an extensive inventory of key date and rair coins running from pennies through dollars and most grades. Ardie's has most available. If we don't have it we will do our best to locate it for you. Call for inventory availability. (406) 656-8777)

Lincoln Cents

The Lincoln Cent is perhaps the most popular and well recognized of all US coins. The obverse displays the bust of Abraham Lincoln. This design has been used since 1909, making it the longest used design for any circulating US coin. The coin was also the first to feature the likeness of a former president.

During its long history, Lincoln Cents were minted at the Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco mints. The mint mark is located below the date on the obverse of the coin. From 1909-1959, the reverse design of the coin featured a pair of wheat ears, and are often referred to as Lincoln Wheat Cents or Wheat Pennies. In 1959, the reverse design was changed to the Lincoln Memorial. These coins are referred to as Lincoln Memorial Cents.

Throughout their history, Lincoln Cents have gone through a number of changes and have included a number of important coins for collectors.

The 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Cent 

The obverse and original reverse of the coin were designed by Vincent D. Brenner. When the coins were first issued in 1909, his initials "V.D.B." were quite prominently featured on the reverse. This caused public protest by people who believed that the initials were too prominent and detracted from the beauty of the coin.

The initials were removed early during the first year of production, creating a rare version of the coin. Lincoln Cents from 1909 that include the initials are referred to as "V.D.B." The 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent had a mintage of only 484,000 and is the key date for the series. If not for the removal of the initials, the series would have a different key date!

Steel Lincoln Cents

In 1943 the composition of the Lincoln Cent was changed in response to wartime needs for copper. The composition was changed from 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc to steel coated with zinc. Lincoln Cents from this year came to be known as Steel Cents. These coins were minted at all three mints: Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. A small number of 1943 Lincoln Cents were minted in copper and are now valuable error coins.

1955 Double Die Lincoln Cent

One of the most well known mint error coins is the 1955 Double Die Lincoln Cent. While double dies exist for other years in the series, the 1955 features the most prominent and noticeable doubling. The doubling is apparent on the date and all of the inscriptions on the obverse of the coin. The error resulted from the misalignment of one of the dies used to strike the coin. This coin remains in constant collector demand.

Lincoln Memorial Reverse

In 1959 the reverse design of the Lincoln Penny was changed to commemorate President Lincoln's 150th birthday. The new reverse was designed by Frank Gasparro and features an image of the Lincoln Memorial. The image actually includes a visible rendering of the statue of Lincoln within the Memorial. As a result, Lincoln is currently featured on both the obverse and reverse of the Lincoln Memorial Cent.

Walking Liberty Half Dollars

The Walking Liberty Half series was introduced in 1916 and was minted until 1947. The design by Adolph A. Weinman is recognized as one of the most beautiful renditions of Liberty in the history of American coinage. The obverse design continues to be used on contemporary silver bullion coins issued by the United States Mint.

Walking Liberty Half

Walking Liberty Halves were minted at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints. The lowest mintage issues of the series were the 1921 and 1921-D. These two coins command premiums in all grades and are particularly difficult to find in mint state condition.

As one of the most appreciated designs, the series has been a long time favorite of collectors. Besides a few key dates, the series remains approachable for most collectors. Later issues can be found in high mint state grades, even up to PCGS or NGC MS67.

Proof Walking Liberty Half Dollars were minted from 1936 to 1942 inclusive. These issues, particularly the earlier dates have low mintages. This short run of proof coins is another way to approach the series.

This site features a full selection of PCGS and NGC certified Walking Liberty Half Dollars for sale. Find the perfect coins to start or build your collection.

Certified Peace Dollars

The Peace Dollar was issued between the years 1921 and 1935. The new series was introduced to commemorate the restoration of peace following the conclusion of the Great War. Despite the short duration of the series, a complete collection of all 24 different date and mint mark combinations can be a challenge to complete. There is one notable low mintage key date coin in addition to several conditional rarities that are exceedingly difficult to find in gem condition.

Peace Dollars

The design for the Peace Dollar was created by sculptor Anthony de Francisci. The obverse features an image of crowned Liberty that is said to have been based on his wife. The word "Liberty" appears above, the date below, and the motto "In God We Trust" in a line across Liberty's neck.

The reverse depicts an eagle in repose with the rays of the sun behind. The eagle holds an olive branch and is perched on a rock with the word "Peace". This represents the only time the word has appeared on a circulating U.S. coin. Above are the inscriptions "United States of America" and "E Pluribus Unum" with the denomination "One Dollar" in a line across the lower portion of the eagle.

For the first year of issue, the Peace Dollar was struck in high relief. Although it made for a striking and beautiful coin, it was found to be impractical for circulating coinage and switched to a lower relief design in 1922.

After several years of elevated mintages, the quantity of silver dollars produced fell to a low of 360,649 pieces for the 1928 Peace Dollar. This represents the key date coin of the series and commands a premium across all grade levels.

A number of conditional rarities exist for the series, particularly for San Francisco produced coins. Many dates are encountered weakly struck, heavily abraded or bag marked, making gem uncirculated pieces in the distinct minority. Some issues that are difficult and expensive to acquire in grades MS65 and above include the 1924-S, 1925-S, and 1938-S.

The Peace Dollar attempted to make a comeback in 1964 when Congress authorized the production of new Silver Dollar coins. The Denver mint produced 316,076 Peace Dollars dated 1964. All pieces were recalled and melted after authorization for the coins was rescinded by President Johnson.


Key Date Mintages

Key date coins are generally the rarest or most difficult coins of a series to obtain. One of the primary reasons for the rarity of the coins is a low mintage, often the lowest of the respective series.

The table below lists mintage figures for the most popular mintages. This includes classic key coins like the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent to modern rarities like the 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle. In some cases mintages are estimated. This is the case for error coins where the exact number of coins released into circulation is not known.

Key Date Coin Mintage

1877 Indian Head Cent

1909-S Indian Head Cent
1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Cent
1914-D Lincoln Cent
1955 Double Die Lincoln Cent
1885 Liberty Nickel
1937-D Three Legged Buffalo Nickel
1916-D Mercury Dime
1932-D Washington Quarter
1932-S Washington Quarter
1921 Plain Walking Liberty Half Dollar

1921-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar
1889-CC Morgan Dollar
1893-S Morgan Dollar
1928 Peace Dollar
1995-W Proof Silver Eagle










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