The Lincoln Mystery Cent

Mary T. Brooks - Director of the U.S. Mint Until July 1972

Wilkins had kept the Lincoln Mystery Cent in a safe deposit box in Cincinnati, Ohio ever since he had purchased it from Ken Mason. The Coin’s pending arrival at the SF Airport from Ohio (on its way to make its grand debut at the 1972 Fresno Coin & Stamp Show) coincided with the reopening celebrations of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco.

Wilkins was preparing to drive from Fresno to San Francisco to pick up the Coin. Paul Endler, (President of the Fresno Numismatic Society), mentioned that Everett Phillips (President of the California Numismatic Society, a Fresno Board Member and a local attorney) was going to San Francisco to attend the ceremonial dinner at the Mint that night. So Phillips offered to pick up the Coin for Wilkins to save him the seven-hour round trip drive.

So on July 14, 1972, Phillips picked up the Mystery Cent at the SF airport and took it with him to the Mint celebration dinner that evening. 

Phillips was seated at the head table next to Mary T. Brooks (Director of the U.S. Mint). He showed her the “Mystery” Cent that had been causing all the buzz. Both Brooks and Roy Cahoon (Assistant Director of the U.S. Mint) were so intrigued that they voluntarily autographed the cardboard holder that held the Coin.

When Philips returned to Fresno with the Mystery Cent and its newly signed coin holder, Endler explained to Wilkins how significant it was to have their autographs on the holder. Wilkins was pleased for his Coin to receive this honor!

Unfortunately, Brooks’ and Cahoon’s innocent acts created a firestorm within the Numismatic hobby. So much so, that Brooks actually called Wilkins and asked if he would return the coin holder to her. Wilkins initially declined her request. Brooks then told Wilkins that if he didn’t want her to make his life a living hell, he should seriously consider sending her the holder. He asked how in the world she could make his life a living hell. She replied, “Have you ever heard of the IRS?”

Wilkins instantly understood her meaning and said he would comply with her request on one condition--that she send him a picture of herself with her and Cahoon’s autographs on it. Upon receipt of such, he promised to mail the holder to her. She complied and so did Wilkins.