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1939 Wheat Penny Value Guide: Varieties & Errors

Did you know that in 2009, a 1939 Wheat Penny sold for a record price of $11,500 in 2008? That’s right, 1939 wheat pennies can be worth much more than their face value of one cent.

As with most coins, the price of the 1939 Lincoln Penny depends on its condition. It is worth between $0.05 and $2.25 in average condition, while more pristine, uncirculated grades go for as high as $37.50.

Let’s reveal all there is to know about this coin so that at the end of this read, you will have zero issues spotting a valuable 1939 Lincoln Penny the next time you head to the coin market.

Background of the 1939 Wheat Penny

1939 Penny

The 1939 Lincoln Penny is no ordinary coin, and although it might appear dull, brown, and uninteresting to a coin novice, because of the rich history surrounding the time it was produced, this coin holds a significant place in the hearts of numismatists in America.

Also known as the Lincoln Wheat Pennies, the 1939 Lincoln Pennies succeeded the Indian Head Pennies. These pennies, which were minted to honor the birthday anniversary of Abraham Lincoln, feature an engraved image of the ex-president.

They were released into circulation a little while after the worst pangs of the Great Depression had passed. When they were produced, the demand for one-cent coins was very high; hence, the U.S. Mint produced the 1939 Lincoln Penny in high numbers.

Let’s now consider the specifications of this coin below.

1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny Features

  • Category: Lincoln Wheat Penny (1909 – 1959)
  • Year of Make: 1939
  • Mint Branch: Philadelphia (No mint mark), San Francisco, Denver
  • Total Mintage: 316,479,520
  • Face Value: $0.01
  • Composition: 95% Copper, 5% Tin & Zinc (Bronze Composite)
  • Weight: 3.11 grams
  • Diameter: 19.05 millimeters
  • Thickness: 1.55 millimeters
  • Edge: Plain

Obverse & Reverse of the 1939 Lincoln Head Penny

Victor David Brenner, a sculptor and engraver, designed both sides of the 1939 Lincoln Head Penny. The coin’s obverse features a bust of the ex-president in the right profile. In it, he is dressed in a coat and bow tie, and the following inscriptions are seen on the obverse:

1939 Penny Obverse

  • IN GOD WE TRUST: Arced at the top center of the coin, just above the bust of Abraham Lincoln’s head.
  • LIBERTY: At the left side of the coin, behind Abraham Lincoln’s neck.
  • 1939: At the right side of the coin, closer to the bottom.
  • MINT MARK: Not all varieties of this coin have mint marks. However, the mint mark can be found just below the date “1939”. (More on varieties shortly)

The reverse of the 1939 Lincoln Head Penny is designed with two wheat branches on either side of the coin and the following inscriptions:

1939 Penny Reverse

  • PLURIBUS.UNUM: Arced at the top of the coin.
  • ONE CENT: At the center of the coin.
  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Close to the bottom of the coin.

N.B: Earlier Lincoln Pennies bear Victor David Brenner’s initials, VDB, on their obverse. However, the initials garnered much criticism due to their prominence in the coin’s design. The initials were removed from the design and re-introduced in 1918 in much smaller fonts on the coin’s reverse.

What are the 1939 Wheat Penny Varieties?

You can quickly tell coin varieties apart by the mint mark they bear, which indicates the particular mint they were produced in.

Wheat Lincoln Pennies from 1939 were minted across three mint locations: The Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mint. While Lincoln Pennies from Philadelphia bear no mint mark, those from Denver carry “D” while the San Francisco variety bears an “S” mint mark.”

The table below shows each coin variety and its corresponding mintage:

1939 (Lincoln Penny Varieties) Mint Location Mintage
1939 No Mint Mark (Regular Strike) Philadelphia 316,466,000
1939-D (Regular Strike) Denver 15,160,000
1939-S (Regular Strike) San Francisco 52,070,000
1939 No Mint Mark (Proof Strike) Philadelphia 13,520

What is the Current Value of the 1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny?

Due to its high mintage, the 1939 Lincoln Penny is one of the most widely circulated coins in American history. For this reason, stumbling upon one shouldn’t be too difficult.

Following recent values of the NGC Price Guide, the 1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny is valued between $0.05 in Average condition and $50 in Mint State Brown condition.

Although quite unlikely, if you find a 1939 Lincoln Penny that still appears red, new, and shiny, it could sell for up to $7,500 or more.

You can use the summary chart to gain a clearer understanding of this coin’s value today:

Grade (MSRD) 1939 Lincoln Penny – Regular Strike (No Mint Mark) 1939 Lincoln Penny – Proof Strike (No Mint Mark) 1939-D Lincoln Penny – Regular Strike 1939-S Lincoln Penny – Regular Strike
60 $5 – $5.50 N/A N/A N/A
61 $6 – $6.50 $43 $4.25 $4.50
62 $7.50 – $8.50 $55 $5.75 $5.50
63 $10 – $11 $75 $9 $7
64 $12.50 – $15 $130 $12 $9
65 $20 – $30 $190 $20 $17
66 $45 – $55 $450 $40 – $50 $50 – $52
67 $175 – $400 $1,850 – $2,800 $165 – $650 $200 – $1300
68 $7,500 N/A $8,000 N/A

1939 Regular Strike Lincoln Penny Value (No Mint Mark)

1939 No Mint Mark Penny

When you find a 1939 Lincoln Penny, the chances that it will belong to the No mint mark variety is exceptionally high. This is because over 316 million of these pennies were minted at the Philadelphia Mint, much higher than the Denver and San Francisco Mints.

This variety is not considered rare due to its high mintage, so it has a face value of $0.01 and a melt value of $0.0243.

A BN 1939 Lincoln Penny (No Mint Mark) in Mint State condition can be worth as low as $0.05 or as high as $50, while an RD-colored one in Mint State condition can sell between $5 and $7,500.

The most recent sale of this penny was at $124 in July 2023, but the highest price ever paid for it was $9,775 in 2006.

Take a look at some of the highest auction prices recorded for the 1939 Lincoln Penny (No Mint Mark).

Grade Highest Price & Sale Date Firm
MS68 $9,775 (2006) Heritage Auctions
MS68 $7,188 (2009) Heritage Auctions
MS68 $6,900 (2008) Heritage Auctions
MS68 $6,038 (2002) Heritage Auctions
MS68 $5,750 (2004) Heritage Auctions

1939-D Wheat Penny Value

1939 D Penny

The Denver Mint produced about 15 million 1939 Lincoln Pennies, only a fraction of what was produced at the Philadelphia Mint. This variety has the lowest mintage and, thus, is the most difficult to find among the three varieties.

If you’re lucky enough to find a 1930-D Lincoln Penny in Mint State condition, it will sell between $0.20 and $8,000.

The most recent sale of a 1939-D Lincoln Penny was in May 2023 at $90, while the highest auction price recorded was $11,500 in 2009.

Here are some of the highest prices ever paid for the 1939-D Lincoln Penny:

Grade Highest Price & Sale Date Firm
MS68 $11,500 (2009) Heritage Auctions
MS68 $8,050 (2008) Heritage Auctions
MS68 $7,475 (2007) Heritage Auctions
MS68 $6,900 (2005) Bowers & Merena
MS68 $6,613 (2006) Bowers & Merena
MS68 $6,325 (2006) Heritage Auctions

1939-S Wheat Penny

1939 S Penny

Out of the hundreds of millions of Lincoln Pennies produced in 1939, about 52 million were minted at the San Francisco Mint.

A 1939-S Lincoln Penny could sell for $0.10 at a low grade but could also be worth as high as $1,300 in Mint State RD condition.

In July 2023, a 1939-S Lincoln Penny sold for $216, while the highest auction price recorded was a sale for $3,966 in 2013. Look at some of the highest prices ever paid for this variety.

Grade Highest Price & Sale Date Firm
MS67+ $3,966 (2013) Heritage Auctions
MS67+ $1,763 (2014) Heritage Auctions
MS67+RD $1,293 (2014) Heritage Auctions
MS67 $1,175 (2014) Heritage Auctions
MS67 $1,116 (2014) Heritage Auctions

1939 Proof Strike Wheat Penny Value (No Mint Mark)

1939 Proof Penny

Specially made for coin collectors, over 13,000 1939 Lincoln Wheat Cents were struck on highly polished planchets to create proof strikes. These proof strikes are often a big hit with numismatists because they are more attractive than regular strikes but harder to come by.

If you lay your hands on a 1939 Proof Lincoln Penny in PF BN condition, you can sell it for between $25 and $105, but high grades like PF RD can trade for up to $2,800.

In April 2023, a 1939 Proof Strike Lincon Penny sold for $192, but the highest recorded auction price was $6,900 in 2001.

Let’s consider some of the highest auction prices ever paid for this proof variety.

Grade Highest Price & Sale Date Firm
PR66 $4,025 (2010) Heritage Auctions
PR67 $3,276 (2004) Superior Galleries
PR67 $3,220 (2003) Heritage Auctions
PR67 $3,105 (2005) Superior Galleries
PR67 $3,048 (2002) Kingswood Galleries

1939 Wheat Penny Errors

Errors make numismatic coins more desirable as they increase rarity. The 1939 Lincoln Penny has some errors that make it a valuable coin. These errors include off-center, curved clip, broadstruck, and more.

Off-center Error

1939 Penny Off-center Error

This error is one of the most common errors you can find among numismatic coins. It happens as a result of planchet misalignment in the striking chamber. The design of an off-center coin doesn’t sit in the middle as intended but tilts towards the edge of the coin.

  • 1939 Lincoln Cent – Struck 10% Off Center: Sold for $126.50 in 2008 at grade MS62.
  • 1939 Lincoln Cent – Struck 15% Off Center: Graded MS64 Brown, this error coin sold for $207 in 2003.
  • 1939 Lincoln Cent – Struck 25% Off Center: Sold for $105 at grade AU55 in 2023.
  • 1939 Lincoln Cent – Struck 15% Off Center, Struck Through Fragment: Sold for $95 in 2022.

Broadstruck Error

1939 Penny Broadstruck Error

In the minting process, a retaining collar establishes the coin’s diameter to be struck. However, this retaining collar may sometimes shift during striking.

This leads to a coin with a larger diameter than usual, also known as the broadstruck error coin.

  • 1939 Error Lincoln Cent – Uncentered Broadstrike: Sold for $46 in 2004 at grade MS62 Red and Brown.
  • 1939 Lincoln Cent – Broadstruck with 15% Straight Clip: This coin, which possesses two errors, sold for $89 in 2023.
  • 1939 Lincoln Cent – Broadstruck: Sold for $37 in 2023 at a grade of MS64 Red.

Obverse Brockage Error

1939 Penny Obverse Brockage Error

An obverse brokerage error coin is produced when a newly struck coin is not properly ejected from the striking chamber but instead gets stuck to the lower die intended for a new coin.

  • 1939 Lincoln Cent – Obverse Brockage: Sold for $189.75 in 2020 at grade MS65 Brown.
  • 1939 Lincoln Cent – 30% Brockage Obverse and Broadstruck: Graded MS64 Brown, this penny exhibits two errors which increased its value. It sold for $373.75 in 2006.

Doubled Die Error

1939 Penny Doubled Die Error

This error is also called “Hub Doubling”. It occurs when a coin’s design is replicated more than once, leading to a double-layered effect or a design that appears in multiples. For instance, this 1939 Double Die Lincoln penny:

  • 1939 1C Cent – Doubled Die: This error coin shows doubling near the top of the “T” in “LIBERTY.” It sold for $1,121.25 in 2003.

Double Struck Error

1939 Penny Double Struck Error

If your coin appears to have some or all parts of its design appear in doubles, it is most likely due to a double-struck error, which occurs when a coin is struck twice using the same die.

  • 1939 1C Lincoln Cent – Double Struck, Second Strike 40% Off Center: Sold for $1,265 in 2006.

Clipped Error

1939 Penny Clipped Error

Clipped Error coins typically have straight or curved edges due to being struck on incomplete planchets. During this striking process, the die slices through the planchet at an off angle, creating an irregular edge.

  • 1939 1C Lincoln Cent – 15% Curved Clip: Sold for $62 at MS64 Red in 2023.
  • 1939 1C Lincoln Cent – Clip: Sold for $180 in January 2023.
  • 1939 1C Lincoln Cent – Clip: Sold for $114 in January 2023.

Strikethrough Error

1939 Penny Strikethrough Error

These errors occur when a coin is struck through foreign materials, such as grease, coin fragments, twine, plastic, cloth, die, and clad layers.

  • 1939 1C Cent – Struck Through Fragment: Sold for $36 in 2003.
  • 1939 1C Error Cent – Struck through Fragment: Graded MS65 Red, this error coin sold for $25 in 2004.

Tilted Partial Collar Error

1939 Penny Tilted Partial Collar Error

If a coin is only partially confined by its collar during the striking process, it results in uneven or imbalanced steps at the rim of the coin, also known as a tilted partial collar error.

  • 1939-S 1C Lincoln Cent – Tilted Partial Collar: Sold for $31 in 2022 at grade AU58.

Final Thoughts

The 1939 Lincoln Penny, or the 1939 Lincoln Wheat Cent, is not considered a rare coin because it was produced in mass numbers. However, it once sold for as much as $11,500 in 2009.

Generally, Lincoln Pennies that still appear red and shiny are worth more than brown and dull ones, but they are hard to come by.

To determine if your 1939 Lincoln Penny is worth thousands, ensure you get it professionally graded by experienced numismatists.

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