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1946 Wheat Penny Value: Varieties & Errors

The 1946 penny is among the most common pennies in the Lincoln wheat series minted from 1909 to 1958. This penny records the 3rd highest mintage in the series, exceeding the 1.5 billion mark.

Deductively, that makes the 1946 penny a regular coin. But does the ready availability of the 1946 penny affect its value?

In the coin market, the 1946 penny value ranges between $2 and $3,000 in typical mint states (MS60-MS67). However, in higher grades (MS67+) or if well-struck and with an intense luster, the 1946 penny can sell for over $16,000.

Mintage significantly defines coin rarity and, consequently, its value. As such, the ready availability of the 1946 penny could explain why it is not a particularly valuable coin. But that doesn’t imply that this penny is not valued among collectors.

Read the rest of the article to see which 1946 pennies are worth money and how much your post-war cent could fetch.

The Post World War II 1946 Penny

1946 Penny

When the US Mint struck the 1946 penny, America had just come out of World War II, like the rest of the world. The end of the war marked a historical milestone, but it was probably not an opportune moment to make changes in coin designs. Luckily, the Lincoln series pennies were well-accepted among Americans, and they are to date.

So, the post-war 1946 cent kept the Lincoln wheat theme designed by Victor David Brenner in 1909 to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birth date 100 years earlier.

On the obverse, the coin bears Lincoln’s bust in a right-facing position. The motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, is inscribed in an arc above the President’s head, while the word LIBERTY appears on the left, to the back of Lincoln’s image. The mint year, 1946, and the mint mark, “D” or “S”, appear on the lower right.

1946 Penny Obverse

On the reverse, the 1946 penny presents two stems of wheat, one on each side of the coin. The wheat stems appear to embrace the other details at the core of the coin, including the coin denomination, ONE CENT, and the country name, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The motto, E PLURIBUS UNUM, completes the curve of the two wheat stems on the upper edge of the coin.

1946 Penny Reverse

You’ll find out in the following sections how these design details impact the 1946 penny value. So, keep reading!

1946 Lincoln Wheat Penny Varieties

Usually, pennies in the Lincoln wheat series fall under three varieties depending on the mint location: Philadelphia (no mint mark), Denver (D), and San Francisco (S). In 1946, these varieties made a high mintage of 1,505,445,000, distributed among the three mints as shown below.

1946 Lincoln Wheat Penny Variety Mint Location Mintage
No mint mark Philadelphia 991,655,000
“D” Denver 315,690,000
“S” San Francisco 198,100,000

In addition to the three varieties, coin experts often present a fourth variety of the 1946 wheat penny known as the “S over D” (S/D) variety. We will discuss this rare variety of the 1946 penny in detail later.

For now, it is important to note that all four varieties of the 1946 wheat penny have the same specs:

  • Coin series: Lincoln wheat series.
  • Engraver: Victor David Brenner.
  • Mintage: 1,505,445,000
  • Metal composition: 95% copper and 5% zinc.
  • Diameter: 19mm
  • Weight: 3.11g

Important note:

Although you will see the 1946 penny metal composition indicated as 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc, the 1946 penny is a brass coin, or an alloy of 95% copper and 5% zinc. This composition characterized the wheat penny from 1944 to 1946 after the trial 1943 zinc-coated steel penny turned out to be low quality. The bronze coin (95% copper and 5% tin and zinc), was reintroduced after that.

That said, both brass and bronze coins have the same melt value of $0.024. However, the market value of these coins can vary significantly based on several factors as I show you in the next sections.

1946 Wheat Penny Value

After alluding earlier that the 1946 penny is not a particularly valuable coin, it is normal for anyone to wonder, how much is a 1946 penny worth today?

Compared to other Lincoln wheat series coins like the 1943 bronze cent and the 1944 steel cent, the 1946 wheat penny is on the lower side in value. However, the coin has made significant sales in the coin market, with the 1946 penny value auction record standing at $16,800.

According to the PCGS price guide, regular 1946 wheat penny sale prices vary between $2 for coins in the lower uncirculated coin grades and $3,000 for those in higher grades. Instead, circulated 1946 pennies are worth less than a dollar unless they have rare errors.

Here’s what to expect in coin market prices for the 1946 Lincoln wheat cent.

  1946 Penny Variety
Grading Philadelphia

(No Mint Mark)

Denver

(D)

San Francisco

(S)

San Francisco

(S/D)

MS60 $3 $2 $5 $262
MS63 $7 $11 $11 $465
MS64 $18 $20 $16
MS65 $40 $30 $20
MS66 $140 $75 $70
MS67 $1000 $3,000 $1,400
Highest Sale $14,950 (MS67) $2,585 (MS67+) $16,800 (MS67+) $3,181 (MS67)

Although the 1946 S penny variety has the highest record sale, the 1946 wheat penny no mint mark has better sales overall. The variety has five other sales above the $5,000 mark, while the S variety has only two.

Also, the 1946 wheat penny no mint mark has many more >$1,000 sales compared to the other two varieties.

So, what makes a 1946 wheat penny more valuable? Let’s delve into that in the section below.

What Makes the 1946 Penny Valuable

Every coin in the Lincoln wheat penny commands value for just belonging to a series that’s dear to coin collectors. But some wheat pennies command better prices in the coin market than others.

While the 1946 penny isn’t among the highest-valued Lincoln wheat pennies, its value increases if assigned a higher grade or has valuable mint errors.

High Grading

The 1946 penny value appreciates with the increase in grading numbers. That’s because coin grading represents the condition of a coin in relation to the extent of design wear for circulated coins. For uncirculated coins, grade describes the precision of the strike and the luster of coin color and appearance.

Uncirculated 1946 pennies with the lowest grade (MS60) have no wear, but they may have damage marks or present a strike that is not as sharp as expected.

Uncirculated 1946 pennies with the highest grades MS67-MS69 are very well-struck and have minor to minuscule imperfections. Those in the perfect grade (MS70) have a full strike and rare luster.

For the three main varieties, the most valuable 1946 pennies have an MS67 or MS67+ grade. In the 1946 S over D variety, a lower grade of MS66 has the highest value. Look out for price examples for each variety later in the article.

Mint Errors

As you will discover later when we focus on the 1946 penny value for each variety, mint errors can increase the cent value by ten, hundreds, or thousands of dollars. I just mentioned the highest-valued 1946 penny with an S/D error that sold for $3,173 in 2023 on eBay.

Although the eBay records for this coin are inaccessible, the PCGS auction records show this sale as the highest realized for a 1946 S/D penny variety.

Other 1946 wheat penny errors that raise its value include:

  • The off-center strike error.
  • The obverse cud die break error.
  • The broad struck error.

Read the full account of the S over D error penny and other valuable 1946 wheat penny errors below. But let’s start with the 1946 penny value for the 3 main varieties.

Mint Mark

Often, coins minted at one of the three main US Mints command higher prices than those from the other two mints. For the 1946 wheat penny, the Philadelphia no mint mark penny has proven its worth by commanding better prices overall in the coin market than the D, S, and S/D varieties. The next section focuses on the variety vs. value aspect of the 1946 penny.

1946 Wheat Penny Value by Variety

As mentioned above, the 1946 penny no mint mark would take the top position if we ranked the penny varieties for this year. The S variety would come second, followed by the D and the S/D varieties respectively.

1946 Penny No Mint Mark Value

1946 No Mint Mark Penny

The Philadelphia Mint struck the 1946 penny with no mint mark. This is the most common of the cent varieties struck that year with a mintage of 991,655,000 coins, just a little over 8 million cents shy of hitting the one-billion mark.

Despite the obvious consequence that it is more readily available than the D and S varieties, the 1946 no mint mark penny records higher prices in the coin market than its counterpart varieties.

Record coin market prices show that the 1946 penny no mint mark will sell for a price between $3 and $1000 in MS grades 60-67. However, the 1946 penny no mint mark value can increase significantly if the cent has a higher grade and presents a high-quality strike and luster.

To date, the highest-valued 1946 Philadelphia penny with no mint mark is worth $14,950. The cent, with an MS67 grading sold at the Heritage Auctions in 2006. The selling firm describes the coin as well-struck with an intense luster. They also specify that the coin would have a higher grade if not for a small mark on Lincoln’s cheek.

While the 1946 penny no mint mark has numerous sales above $1,000, past auctions have valued the top 5 coins for this variety with prices between $8,000 and a little below $15,000, as indicated in the table.

Sale Year Grade Price Firm
2006 MS67 $14,950 Heritage Auctions
2005 MS67 $10,350 Heritage Auctions
2010 MS67 $10,063 Stack’s and Bowers
2005 MS67 $9,775 Bowers & Merena
2008 MS67 $8,625 Heritage Auctions

Auction sales of the 1946 no mint mark penny in 2022 and 2023 range between a low of $13 for an MS64 cent that sold at David Lawrence RC in December 2022 and a high of $1,001 for an MS67 cent that sold at the same firm in April 2022.

1946 D Wheat Penny Value

1946 D Penny

The 1946 D penny struck at the Denver mint is the least valued of the three main varieties produced that year.

The PCGS records show that, in the regular uncirculated condition of MS60-MS67 grades, the 1946 D penny value ranges between $2 and $3,000. However, the most valued 1946 wheat penny so far sold for $2,585 only at the Heritage Auctions in 2014. The coin has an MS67+ grading.

What’s more, only a dozen 1946 D wheat pennies have sold for over $1,000 to date. The 5 highest sales for this coin are in the table below.

Sale Year Grade Price Firm
2014 MS67+ $2,585 Heritage Auctions
2022 MS67+ $2,115 Legend Rare Coin Auctions
2014 MS67+ $2,115 Heritage Auctions
2017 MS67+ $1,998 Heritage Auctions
2021 MS67+ $1,920 Stack’s Bowers

1946 D wheat pennies sold in 2022 and 2023 record sales between $30 for an MS66 cent sold in July 2022 at David Lawrence RC and $2,115 for the MS67+ cents included in the top 5 list above that sold in December 2022 at the Legend Rare Coin Auctions.

1946 S Wheat Penny Value

1946 S Penny

The 1946 S wheat penny has the highest sale record among the other varieties. Overall, however, the variety ranks second in sale values after the 1946 no mint mark penny.

Going by the PCGS price guide, the 1946 S penny value for regular uncirculated coin grades, MS60-MS67, ranges between $5 and $1,400. This rate can go up if the coin has a better mint state condition to hit the current auction record of $16,800 for an MS67+ cent sold in 2022 at the Heritage Auctions.

The top 5 sales of the 1946 S wheat penny have sold for prices between $3,000 and a little over $16,000, as shown here.

Sale Year Grade Price Firm
2022 MS67+ $16,800 Heritage Auctions
2016 MS67+ $6,169 Heritage Auctions
2017 MS67+ $5,405 Heritage Auctions
2017 MS67+ $3,995 Heritage Auctions
2018 MS67+ $3,410 Legend Rare Coin Auctions

The 1946 S variety has a good number of sales in 2023, ranging from a low of $17 for an MS66 cent sold in March at David Lawrence RC and a high of $810 for an MS67+ cent sold in April at the Heritage Auctions.

1946 S over D (S/D) Penny Value

1946 S Over D Penny

The 1946 S over D penny is a coin in the S variety with an Overpunched Mint Mark (OMM) error. This error shows the S stamped over the D. By 2023, PCGS recorded 38 lots of the 1946 S over D error pennies.

On the 1946 S penny, the OMM error is identified with the subtly appearing parts of the D that show below or under the upper and lower loops of the S.

Going by the US Coin Book prices, the 1946 S/D penny value ranges between $11 and $144 for cents in circulated condition and $262-$465 for coins in regular uncirculated grades (MS60-MS63).

In higher uncirculated grades, the 1946 S/D penny value can go up by hundreds or thousands of dollars. So far, the highest-valued 1946 S/D penny with an MS66+ grade sold for $3,173 in 2019 at the Legend Rare Coins Auctions. The MS66+ is the highest grade for 1946 S/D cents collected until now.

1946 S over D pennies on the top 5 list have sold for a little below $2000 and a little above $3,000. See the top 5 highest sales for the 1946 S/D penny in the table below.

Sale Year Grade Price Firm
2019 MS66+ $3,173 Legend Rare Coin Auctions
2012 MS66+ $3,055 Heritage Auctions
2020 MS66+ $2,938 Legend Rare Coin Auctions
2021 MS66+ $2,400 Heritage Auctions
2014 MS66 $1,998 Heritage Auctions

Between 2021 and 2023, sales of the 1946 S/D penny recorded a low of $81 for an XF40 cent sold at David Lawrence RC in May 2021 and a high of $2,400 for the MS66+ cent in the top five list above that sold in 2021 at the Heritage Auctions.

Other Valuable 1946 Wheat Penny Errors

The S/D error is just one of the 1946 wheat penny errors that appreciated its value. Other valuable mint errors on the 1946 Lincoln wheat penny are discussed below.

1946 Penny Off-center Strike Error Value

1946 Penny Off Center Strike Error

The off-center strike is one of the common errors you’ll find on coins. This error happens when the planchet is not well aligned, so a part of the coin comes out without the design details.

Off-center strike errors are presented as a percentage, describing how far the strike is from hitting the coin center.

On the 1946 penny, an off-center strike error can appreciate its value by tens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars. Surprisingly, the coin grading does not seem to matter when a 1946 cent has an off-center strike error.

In the examples below, a penny in a lower grade (MS62) and a 25% off-center strike sells for over $1,000. A different penny in a higher grade (MS63) and the same 25% off-center strike sells for only $198. As a difference, the first is in the D variety, while the second is in the S variety.

See the 3 examples of 1946 wheat pennies with an off-center strike, their grades, and auction prices.

Sale Year Grade Off-center Strike % Price Firm
2019 MS62 25% $1,800 Heritage Auctions
2019 MS65 30% $780 Heritage Auctions
2019 MS64 50% $630 Heritage Auctions
2021 MS63 25% $198 Heritage Auctions
2021 MS64 10% $74 Heritage Auctions

1946 Penny Obverse Cud Die Break Error Value

1946 Penny Cud Die Break Error

The obverse cud die break error is recorded on a coin when a piece of the die does not stick to the coin and presents as a splash on the obverse side. An overused die or a coin that remains stuck to the die are the common causes of a cud die break.

The cud die break error is fairly common in coin mintage. On the 1946 penny, the error can increase the cent’s value by tens or hundreds of dollars, even for circulated cents.

For example, a 1946 penny no mint mark with an obverse cud die break error sold for $132 in 2021 at the Heritage Auctions. The cent has an XF45 grading.

1946 Penny Broad struck Error Value

1946 Penny Broad struck Error

Mint workers strike coins on a retaining collar that defines the coin’s diameter and edge circumference. A broad-struck error describes a situation where a coin is struck out of the retaining collar, extending its diameter.

A 1946 wheat penny value can increase from a few dollars to tens of dollars if it bears the broad struck error. In 2021, a 1946 S penny with a broad struck error sold for $69 at the Heritage Auctions. The coin has an MS62 grading.

Final Thoughts

Not every cent in the Lincoln wheat series commands 6 or 7-figure sales like the 1943 bronze penny. However, a 5-figure sale of $16,800 suggests the 1946 wheat penny is well-valued among coin collectors.

You’ll need a 1946 wheat penny with an MS67 grading or higher to hit that price. And for precision, experts suggest hiring the services of a certified grading agency to grade coins minted years ago.

If you seek to know your 1946 penny value, professional grading is the way to go.

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