Have you found a 1921 Penny in your piggy bank? If you have, hold on to it! This Lincoln Penny of yours could be worth a fortune, just like the breathtaking red 1921 Penny in MS68 condition sold for $55,200 in 2005. According to PCGS data, there are two impeccable 1921 Pennies in existence.
Now that we’ve got your hopes up, it’s time to learn everything there is to know about the factors affecting the 1921 Penny value. We will start with the minimum value and work our way up! The bare minimum of the 1921 Penny is its melt value of $0.0255. USA Coin Book estimations for the 1921 Penny value in circulated condition (very good VG-8) is $0,87 and between $64 and $94 or more in uncirculated MS+ condition.
The 1921 Penny is incredibly valuable to collectors. To understand why, we will take you through the value identification process step by step (starting with the coin’s history, mintage, and valuable varieties and ending with the most valuable pieces). So, before you cash in your 1921 Penny at the nearest coin dealer, make sure it’s worth the big bucks!
History of 1921 Penny
The history of the 1921 Penny begins with the decision to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.
Presidents were not portrayed on US coinage for over a century, and President Theodore Roosevelt was determined to change that. He was up against traditionalists in his quest to honor an actual person on a U.S. coin, and the beloved President Abraham Lincoln (his fellow Republican) was the perfect choice.
By 1908, Roosevelt and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens completed the redesign of four gold denominations. In February 1909, the centennial of the birth of assassinated president Abraham Lincoln, Roosevelt turned his attention to the cent (penny) and his fellow citizens’ wishes for a Lincoln coin. In late 1908, when he posed for sculptor Victor David Brenner (who admired Abraham Lincoln) for a Panama Canal Service medal, he asked him to submit proposed designs for a Lincoln Penny after seeing his Lincoln plaque. Finally, the US Mint Director contacted Brenner in January 1909 for his design fee. This year represented the birth of the Lincoln Penny Wheat Reverse (1909-1958) series.
The 1921 Penny was struck as part of this series after the first decade of wheat penny circulation. Over the years, the wheat penny became one of the most recognizable US coins depicting Abraham Lincoln, and the 1921 Penny was no exception.
This coin’s historical significance is closely related to the reinstatement of recognizable individuals on US coinage. It represents a time of defiance towards a tradition dating back to George Washington’s presidency. This historical moment and the low mintage are the initial factors shaping the 1921 Penny’s modern value.
Mintage of 1921 Penny
The mintage of the 1921 Penny dropped rapidly with the lack of production from the Denver Mint. Another factor affecting the mintage decline was the large number of coins produced before 1921, meeting the demands during this year of recession.
For the first time in more than a decade, the 1921 Penny was minted only in two Mints, the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mint, in the following quantity:
- Philadelphia Mint produced 39,157,000 samples of the 1921 Penny with no mint mark;
- San Francisco Mint produced 15,274,000 pieces of the 1921-S Penny with the “S” mint mark.
The restricted budgets during the 1920s resulted in many poorly struck 1921 Pennies due to the expiration period of dies. Also, the date is a bit scarce in the fully red mint condition samples. Interestingly, Brenner’s initials were sharper (hand reinforced on 1921’s master die) than any other Lincoln Penny from the 1909-1958 series.
Firstly, the 1921 Penny has a lower mintage in comparison to the rest of the Lincoln Pennies. Secondly, there are only a few surviving pieces in above-average condition. Thirdly, there are plenty of worn 1921 Pennies and only a few with an extremely fine grade. These arguments make the 1921 Penny an uncommon and valuable find in the world of coin collectors. As they focus on the coin’s surface quality and eye appeal (among other things) it seems that the 1921 Penny’s elusive nature makes their search for a premium example even more challenging.
Now that we have established the effect of history, mintage, and mintage quality on the coin’s value, it’s time to get to know the 1921 Penny up close!
1921 Penny Features
- Series: Lincoln Cents, Wheat Reverse (1909-1958)
- Mint: Philadelphia and San Francisco
- Mintage: Total of 54,431,000
- Designer: Victor D. Brenner (obverse side of the coin)
- Designer: Victor D. Brenner (reverse side of the coin)
- Composition: 95% Copper – 5% Tin and Zinc
- Weight: 3,11 grams
- Diameter: 19 mm
- Face value: One cent (0,01 USD)
- Melt value: $0,0255 (9/7/2023)
- Edge: Plain
The 1921 Penny has the following distinctive features:
- Designer Victor D. Brenner depicted a detailed Abraham Lincoln profile on the obverse (front) side of the coin. Some suggest that he based Lincoln’s right profile on an 1864 photograph taken at Mathew Brady’s studio. You can see the word “Liberty” to Lincoln’s left and the year of mintage “1921” on the opposite side close to his chest. The inscription “In God We Trust” is written throughout the top of the coin. Unlike other coins, Lincoln Penny has completely smooth outer edges.
- The reverse is less detailed but equally beautifully designed by the same sculptor. There are two single durum wheat sheaves on the left and right-hand sides of the coin (hence the name “Wheat Penny”). You can read two inscriptions positioned in the central region: “One Cent” and “United States of America.” The famous Latin phrase and country motto “E Pluribus Unum” is inscribed across the top rim.
These are the basic features of the 1921 Penny that will help you make a positive ID. However, there are two different varieties with specific characteristics and values. Read on to find out their worth.
1921 Penny Varieties and Value
As we’ve mentioned, there are two varieties of the 1921 Penny, the one with no mint mark minted in Philadelphia and the one with an “S” mint mark struck in San Francisco. 1921 was the year when the Denver Mint stopped the production of coins other than silver dollars. No wonder this year marks the 6th lowest total mintage of 54,431,000 samples during the fifty years the wheat penny was struck.
Now, let’s dive into the current PCGS prices on these two 1921 Penny variants and find out their worth:
1. 1921 Penny No Mint Mark Value
39,157,000 pieces of the 1921 Pennies with no mint mark were struck in Philadelphia. Because the majority of 1921 Pennies were produced in Philadelphia there’s a good chance you will come across these unmarked coins today.
However, most pieces are deeply worn, and it’s difficult to find a 1921 Penny with detailed Lincoln features (well-defined hair and beard). These standout pieces are sought by collectors, especially in extremely fine grades.
If you take a good look at the price table, you can see how the value of the 1921 Penny rises with the higher grades. So, if you are after a 1921 Penny with no mint mark in MS67 condition and a red luster (RD+) you ought to have a budget between $7,000 and $12,000. If you have a smaller budget, you can purchase a no-mint mark sample in MS64 condition (BN+, RB+, RD+) for a price between $100 and $300.
|Type and design||MS64||MS65||MS66||MS67|
|1921 Penny (no mint mark)
|between $135 and $150
|1921 Penny (no mint mark)
|between $150 and $185
|between $275 and $350
|1921 Penny (no mint mark)
|between $200 and $260
|between $675 and $800
|between $1,450 and $1,650
|Between $7,850 and $11,500
According to PCGS data, the most valuable 1921 Penny with no mint mark is a 1921 Penny graded MS68 (RD+) with a price of 47,500. Auction-wise, such a sample was sold for an amazing sum of $55,000 in 2005.
2. 1921-S Penny Value
15,264,000 samples of the 1921-S Penny were produced in the San Francisco mint, which is less than half of the quantity minted in Philadelphia. These low production numbers raise the value of the penny with the “S” mint mark. If we add the scarcity of the “S” marked pennies in fine or extremely fine condition, we have a valuable coin in our collection.
Rare, eye-pleasing pieces of the 1921-S Penny are high on the rarity scale, especially the ones in higher grades. For example, a 1921-S Penny with red luster and MS65 condition can reach $12,000. Unlike the higher graded “S” min mark pennies the ones with lower grades like MS63 can be bought for a couple of hundred dollars in brown or red-brown color, and for around a thousand dollars in red color.
|Type and design||MS63||MS64||MS65||MS66|
|1921-S Penny (“S” mint mark)
|between $275 and $325
|between $525 and $775
|between $2,150 and $2,700
|1921-S Penny (“S” mint mark)
|between $325 and $440
|between $700 and $975
|between $2,200 and $3,750
|1921-S Penny (“S” mint mark)
|between $700 and $1,050
|between $2,700 and $3,000
As you can see there are no samples graded MS67 or higher. The highest grade is MS66 with an estimated value of $9,000. Even the most valuable red 1921-S Penny sold at one of Heritage Auctions on January 8, 2004, was graded MS65.
Errors Affecting the Value of 1921 Penny
There are no specific errors affecting the value of the 1921 Penny. This year errors occur mostly due to post-mint damage. However, that doesn’t mean that all 1921 Pennies are error-free. Before your 1921 Penny is properly graded, take the magnifying glass and look for the following common errors from this time:
- Off-center Error
If your 1921 Penny is struck off center it means that it has an off-center error. These errors are easily spotted. The value of the coin rises depending on the off-center percentage. If the strike is on the edge, the penny might even lose its circular shape. You can also notice blank planchet space along the coin’s rim.
- Broad Strikes Error
The broad strike error changes the shape of the coin (coins come out thinner and abnormally wide) because the coin is struck without its retaining collar fitting in place. For numismatic classification, the entire coin’s design needs to be visible.
- Clipped Planchet Error
If the metal is misfed into the blanking press when the coin is struck the clipped planchet error occurs. As a result, there will be flat or crescent-shaped pieces taken out of the coin’s site, depending on how the planchet was misfed.
Besides the most common errors from the 1920s, you should look for double die, die break, and re-punched mint mark varieties of the 1921 Penny. You should be meticulous when it comes to errors or varieties because they affect the final price of that special penny in your piggy bank.
1921 Penny Auction Record Value
Knowing the 1921 Penny auction record value is crucial to determine whether or not you have a gem in your possession. This table contains PCGS Auction Prices of the 1921 Lincoln Penny (Wheat Reverse) (1909-1958).
Besides the auction record held by the 1921 Penny with no mint mark, you can find many valuable pieces sold on different auctions. To get you closer to the 1921 market value, we have prepared a table of the most valuable pennies minted in 1921. Check them out!
Most Valuable 1921 Pennies
You can’t determine the 1921 Penny value without researching open market prices. Therefore, for a better perspective, you can see and compare the auction prices of the most valuable 1921 Pennies in the last fifteen years.
|MS68RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2019 January 9-14 FUN U.S. Coins Signature Auction Orlando, FL||$36,000|
|MS68RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2020 April 23-26 Central States (CSNS) U.S. Coins Signature Auction Dallas, TX||$31,200|
|MS68RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2019 April 25-28 Central States (CSNS) U.S. Coins Signature Auction Chicago, IL||$26,400|
|MS65RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2022 August 22-28 U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1348||$12,600|
|MS67RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2022 August 22-28 U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1348||$10,500|
|MS65RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2022 May 9 The #10 Ranked PCGS Registry Set of Lincoln Cents 1909-58 Showcase Auction #63185||$10,200|
|MS65RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2020 April 23-26 Central States (CSNS) U.S. Coins Signature Auction Dallas, TX||$9,600|
|MS65RD||PCGS||David Lawrence RC||Internet Auction #1199||$9,500|
|MS67+RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2020 January 8-13 FUN U.S. Coins Signature Auction Orlando, FL||$9,181|
|MS66RB||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2022 December 15-18 U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1351||$9,000|
|MS66RB||PCGS||Stack’s Bowers||August 2021 ANA U.S. Coins Auction||$7,800|
|MS65RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2021 June 17-20 U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1331||$7,500|
|MS67RD||PCGS||Legend Rare Coin Auctions||The Regency Auction 28||$7,344|
|MS65RD||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2020 January 8-13 FUN U.S. Coins Signature Auction Orlando, FL||$6,300|
|MS67RD||PCGS||David Lawrence RC||Internet Auction #1121||$6,000|
Number one on our table is a red 1921 Penny with no mint mark graded MS68 sold on one of Heritage Auctions for an incredible sum of $36,000 in January 2019. If you compare the most valuable samples of the 1921 Penny sold in the last fifteen years, you will see that their value is between $6,000 and $36,000. Not bad, not bad at all!
We always emphasize the importance of considering every factor affecting the coin’s value. Why? Because that is the only way to determine the actual worth of the 1921 Penny in your possession. You can always consult professionals, but you should know the value basics to be competitive in the world of numismatists.
Leave nothing to chance! Use our research and price data to see how valuable is your 1921 Penny. There are just a few samples in perfect condition, hence the highly collectible value. Who knows, maybe the penny in your possession turns out to be a valuable sample worthy of the list of most valuable 1921 Pennies.