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Lincoln Penny Key Dates & Varieties 

The Lincoln Cent was designed by Victor David Brenner and was struck to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Abraham Lincoln. Brenner’s Lincoln cent replaced the Indian Head Cent series that was struck from 1859 through 1909.  

The obverse of the original Lincoln Penny depicts a bust of Lincoln, facing right, with the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST,” above. The word “LIBERTY” is behind the bust, with the date and mintmark in front. 

The original reverse design depicts two wheat stalks, one on each side with the words “ONE CENT” on two lines in the center. The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” is above and below the denomination is “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”  

The inaugural year (1909) of the Lincoln Penny provided collectors with lots of better varieties of Lincoln Cents to collect. Between the Indian Head cents and the Lincoln cents, many scarce and valuable coins and varieties are important collectibles.

These coins are commonly divided into two subsections, the Lincoln Wheat Pennies (1909-1958), and the more modern Lincoln Memorial & Shield Pennies (1959-Date).

To learn more about the backstory behind this coin series, read our article on the Lincoln Penny’s history.

Key Dates and Varieties

1909-VDB Lincoln Cent

The 1909-VDB is notable because of the prominence of designer’s initials on the reverse of the coin. Although 27,995,000 coins were struck, the novelty and reverence of the design meant that these coins would be hoarded by the public.  Although this variety isn’t rare, it can be worth a bit more than other common dates. 

1909-VDB Doubled Die Obverse (DDO)

A variety of the 1909-VDB cent is one with a Doubled Die Obverse. The Doubling is most prominent in the date and lettering on the obverse. It is worth Five or more times a regular 1909-VDB cent.

1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent

This is widely regarded as the premier key date in the Lincoln Penny series. In 1909, after striking 309,000 Indian Head Cents, the San Francisco Mint struck only 484,000 of the new Lincoln coins. This coin was in very high demand right from the start. 

Since its inception, this date was recognized as a scarce coin. As the mintage figures from the Mint’s records were released, coin dealers and collectors realized that this coin would have significant value.  

This is probably the most popular and important of all Lincoln cents and, certainly, the most well-known and searched for coin in this series.  

1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent, MS64 RD, the “KEY” date

1909-S Lincoln Cent (No VDB)

The 1909-S Lincoln Cent was the second Lincoln Cent struck at the San Francisco Mint. The version without the VDB initials saw 1,825,000 coins struck. 

1909-S S Over Horizontal S Variety

This is a scarce variety of the scarce 1909-S Lincoln Cent. The “S” mintmark is struck over an “S” that was inadvertently placed in a horizontal position rather than vertical. The “under” mintmark should be visible under magnification.

1911-S Lincoln Cent

The 1911-S is another scarce coin from the San Francisco Mint. There were only 4,026,000 coins struck, This date typically is weakly struck so look carefully for the “S” mintmark on well-worn specimens.

1914-D Lincoln Cent

This is a scarce coin with only 1,193,000 coins minted. It is fairly difficult to find a well-struck 1914-D, making this a true rarity in the Lincoln series.

1917 Lincoln DDO

This variety of 1917 Lincoln Cent has a recognizable doubling most prominently visible in the numerals of the date. It is one of the most valuable and scarce varieties of the early Lincoln series. 

1922-D Lincoln Cent & Varieties

The 1922-D with a prominent “D” mintmark is not a particularly scarce coin but varieties of this same date can be and are very expensive. The normal dies produced a total mintage of 7,160,000 coins including: 

1922 Weak D – A Scarce Variety

A scarce coin. It is more scarce than the normal D variety.

1922 No “D” with a Weak Reverse

A much scarcer coin that is highly sought-after by collectors.

1922 No “D” with a Strong Reverse

This is the scarcest of all 4 different types. There is no “D” visible and the “ONE CENT” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” are both highly visible. This is the most valuable of all varieties.

1922 No D, Strong Reverse Lincoln Cent Variety

1924-D Lincoln Cent

With a mintage of 2,520,000 coins, this date is often weakly struck. The value tends to increase significantly in Uncirculated condition.  

1931-S Lincoln Cent

This is another Key Date of the early Lincoln Penny series. A scant mintage of only 866,000 coins, which makes it valuable in all grades, including well-worn specimens. It is less valuable, percentage-wise, in Uncirculated grades. 

1936 Lincoln Cent – Doubled Die Obverse

While the normal die 1936 Lincoln Cent is anything but scarce with over 309 million coins struck, the doubled die obverse is fairly scarce. Doubling is prominent on the date and lettering.

1943-D Lincoln Cent – Doubled Mintmark

In 1943, due to a need for copper by the war effort, the US Mint struck all coinage (except for a tiny handful of error coins) out of zinc-coated steel.

In 1943, at the Denver Mint, a variety of D over D mintmark was struck. The mintmark appears to be repunched over the original mintmark. This is the only variety of ‘Steel Cent’ that is unknown, but it is popular and desirable.  

1943-D Lincoln “Steel” Cent

1944-D D Over S Mintmark

This Lincoln Cent has a “D” Mintmark added over the original “S” Mintmark that was on the die. It is plainly visible.

1946-D Over D Mintmark

This Lincoln Cent has an “S” Mintmark added over the original “D” Mintmark that was on the die. Like the coin above, both the added mintmark and the under mintmark are both visible. 

1955 Lincoln Cent – Doubled Die Obverse

The 1955 Lincoln Cent has a Doubled Die Obverse variety. This Doubled Die Obverse affects the full date as well as the legend “IN GOD WE TRUST.” When purchasing this coin, ensure that all of these elements are visibly doubled. There is a “Poor Man’s Doubled Die” that only affects most or all of the date but does not affect legend. There are counterfeits of this variety. 

This Doubled Die coin was discovered during a high point in the popularity of coin collecting by the American public. Newspaper reports about the existence of this rare variety fueled the people’s enthusiasm for this coin.  

The early quantity of 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Cents were distributed in Massachusetts as change in vending machines, especially in cigarette machines. The cost of a pack of cigarettes at that time was $0.23 so as the machines accepted quarters, two Lincoln Cents were distributed in the outer packaging and many of these Doubled Die Lincolns were found in that manner. 

1955 Lincoln Cent Doubled Die
1955 Lincoln Cent Doubled Die Obverse

1960-D Over D, Small Date Over Large Date

This Lincoln Cent is very scarce and valuable. Not only is there a “D” mintmark over an underlying “D” mintmark, but also there was a Small 1960 Date imprinted over a Large 1960 Date.

The total mintage for the date was 1,580,884,000 but very few of this specific variety have surfaced. 

1970-S Lincoln Cent, Doubled Die Obverse

The 1970-S Lincoln Cent has a rare variety with doubling of the die on the obverse. Nearly 700 million were struck but few exist with the obverse doubling.  

1971-S Lincoln Cent, Doubled Die Obverse, Proof

Although more than 3 million of these proof coins were struck, no one knows how many examples have doubling on the obverse. Proof coins, due to the much lower mintage numbers, rarely have errors. 

1972 Lincoln Cent, Doubled Die Obverse

The 1972 Lincoln has a variety where there is doubling on the obverse die. Of over 2.9 billion coins struck, a tiny fraction possesses the doubling on the obverse. Certification is highly recommended. 

1983 Lincoln Cent, Doubled Die Rev

The doubling is most prominent on the lettering on the mottoes.  

1984 Lincoln Cent, Doubled Die Ear

On this particular variety, the doubling is on the obverse of the coin and is readily apparent by inspecting the area around Lincoln’s ear. That is where the doubling is most prominent and more easily detected. 

1990 Lincoln Cent, Proof No ‘S’

This coin is easily identified as there is no visible trace of the “S” mintmark that was on all proof issues of this date. The coin, when found, is generally in Proof-66 or higher condition. Bright Red specimens are not unusual. 

1992 Lincoln Cent, Close AM

This coin is identified by the proximity of the serifs of the letters “A” and “M” in the word “AMERICA” in the phrase “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” on the upper periphery on the reverse. It is a valuable variety of error.

1992-D Lincoln Cent, Close AM

Just like the Philadelphia Mint example listed above, this coin is quite scarce. Again, the error is the proximity of the letters “A” and “M” on the reverse.

1995 Lincoln Cent, Doubled Die Obv

The 1995 Lincoln Cent has a Doubled Die Obverse variety. It is considerably more common than many of the other errors and varieties. The doubling is pronounced on the date and on letters in the mottoes and phrases. 

1998-S Lincoln Cent, Close AM, Proof

A scarce variety but not exceptionally valuable. Again, its proof status makes the error scarce, but enough examples have been found to make this variety affordable. 

1999 Lincoln Cent, Wide AM, Unc

This variety occurred when the close “AM” dies were discovered and, in theory, corrected. But in this case the die engravers over-corrected the spacing on the “A” and “M” letters. 

1999-S Lincoln Cent, Close AM, Proof

The closeness of the letters “A” and “M” were an over-correction by the die engraver. More examples of the 1999-S have been confirmed and located than of the 1998-S date and year.

Major Recent Die Changes

In 1959, the reverse of the Lincoln Cent was changed from the Wheat Ears variety to a depiction of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The Lincoln Memorial series continued until 2008.  

In 2009, four different Abraham Lincoln reverse were created in order to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. These 4 reverses depicted the various stages of Lincoln’s life – birth and early childhood, formative years, professional life, and the Presidency. None of these special coins are especially valuable. 

From 2010 through the present day, the reverse of the Lincoln Cent now depicts a patriotic shield, which looks similar to many motifs on Civil War Tokens.  

Lincoln Cents Values

Date/MM/Var Mintage Very Fine Abt Unc Ch Unc 
1909-VDB 27,995,000 $12 $18 $35 
1909-VDB DDO Included $100 $140 $200 
1909-S VDB 484,000 $1,500 $2,200 $2,650 
1909-S (No VDB) 1,825,000 $150 $275 $400 
1909-S S Over S Included $200 $300 $450 
1911-S 4,026,000 $75 $150 $350 
1914-D 1,193,000 $600 $2,500 $4,000 
1917 DDO Included $700 $3,500 $8,000 
1922-D 7,160,000 $40 $100 $240 
1922-D Weak Included $200 $400 $650 
1922 No D Weak Included $400 $1,250 $3,750 
1922 No D Strong Included $1,250 $9,000 $22,500 
1924-D 2,520,000 $90 $225 $600 
1931-S 866,000 $125 $150 $200 
Date/MM/Var Mintage Very Fine Abt Unc Ch Unc 
1936 DDO Included $160 $600 $1,700 
1943-D Dbl MM Included $100 $150 $450 
1944-D Over S Included $150 $325 $425 
1946-S Over D Included $50 $150 $225 
1955 Dbl Die Obv Included $1,500 $2,750 $4,500 
1960-D/D Sm/Lg Date Included $35 $75 $150 
1970-S Dbl Die Obv Included $500 $1,200 $2,250 
1971-S Dbl Die Obv, Proof Included — — PR $3,000 
1972 Dbl Die Obv Included $250 $325 $400 
1983 Dbl Die Rev Included $75 $150 $200 
1984 Dbl Die Ear Included $50 $130 $175 
1990 No ‘S’ Proof Included — — PR $4,500 
1992 Close AM Included — $2,500 $4,500 
1992-D Close AM Included — $2,500 $4,500 
1995 Dbl Die Obv Included $10 $20 $50 
1998-S Close AM Proof Included $100 $150 $200 
1999 Wide AM Included $75 $150 $250 
1999-S Close AM Proof Included $50 $65 $125 

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