The 1974 Lincoln Memorial Penny is quite a popular collection piece. This is mainly due to its affordable price. Yet, they can sell for a satisfying amount if they are in perfect shape or contain a rare error.
Some 1974 pennies are only worth around 20 cents, while others might reach more than $15,000! Pennies in mint condition and the famous 1974 silver pennies are the hardest ones to find and hence the most valuable.
Without further ado, here is everything you need to know about 1974 Lincoln cents, from their history to the notable errors, values, varieties, and controversies.
The History Of 1974 Pennies
The Lincoln cent is a common coin – you may even find some in your pocket change right now. Lincoln Memorial pennies were produced starting in 1959 up until 2008. And until 1982, these unique coins were made from 95% copper composition.
Back in the day, the U.S. Mint started experimenting with different materials, aiming to reduce the cost of making pennies. Their effort paid off and aluminium was chosen by government officials as the ideal solution. The mint struck more than 1 million 1974 pennies as a first test in minting this new coin.
However, some pediatricians were concerned about the chance of kids swallowing pennies. Why? Because in such a case, doctors couldn’t use x-rays if needed!
On top of that, people from the vending machine industry protested against aluminium pennies, as the change meant they needed to update all their equipment.
The controversy regarding the 1974 pennies was solved slowly and surely as copper prices fell. The National Mint had to change tactics as the government resolved to replace the aluminium with the copper-based alloy pennies. More than 1 million 1974 pennies were immediately recalled for melting and destroyed. Nevertheless, not all coins were returned, so there is a chance that some 1974 aluminium pennies are still out there.
Presently, it is entirely illegal to melt pennies due to their intrinsic copper value. Experts in collecting coins believe that laws will change immediately after the United States stops issuing once-cent coins.
In the meantime, many coin collectors are hunting the 1974 aluminium pennies, while others are happy with owning the copper ones due to their more affordable price.
The 1974 Penny Series
Many factors influence the final value of an old collection coin. All copper-based 1974 pennies weigh 3.11 grams, are 19 mm in diameter, and have a plain edge. They are composed of 95% copper and 5% tin and/or zinc. Here is everything you need to know about the different types of 1974 pennies so you can distinguish their value.
1974 Pennies With No Mint Mark
All the 1974 pennies with no mint mark were struck in Philadelphia. Up until now, there have been over 4 billion Philadelphia Lincoln cents on the market. These are composed of 95% copper and 5% zinc. The auction record for a no mintmark 1974 Lincoln cent was $15,390 in 2019!
1974 S Penny
The 1974-S penny is made of 95% copper and 5% zinc. These coins were struck in San Francisco, and the total mintage was over 4 billion pieces. 1974 Proof cents were minted in San Francisco – look out for “1974-S Proof cents”. The auction record for a 1974-S Lincoln cent was $2,702.50 in 2008, while the auction record for a 1974-S Proof Lincoln cent was $150 in 2023.
1974 D Penny
The 1974-D penny has the same material composition as the previous Lincoln coins. The “D” mark comes from the Denver mint, where more than 4 billion coins were struck. The auction record for a 1974-D Lincoln cent was $299 in 2007.
1974 Aluminium Penny
The 1974 aluminium pennies are a treasure in a collector’s portfolio. The 1974 aluminium pennies were minted in Philadelphia and Denver but in a smaller quantity, approximately 1.5 million pieces. The auction record for these pieces is not available at PCGS because they are so incredibly rare! Anyone who finds or is in possession of a 1974 aluminium penny is obliged to report it to the government as these rare coins are considered to be government property. Therefore, you are incredibly unlikely to find one on the market!
1974 Double Headed Penny
While you might think that this coin has an ultra-rare error, well, that’s not quite the case. What actually happened with the 1974 double-headed penny is that it was counter-stamped by a third party right after minting, then given as a novelty to passionate coin collectors. Regarding its value, don’t expect to get too much. This type of coin has only a numismatic value, which, of course, makes it interesting to collect.
1974 Penny Value
How Are Coins Graded?
Numismatists use the Sheldon Scale to provide an accurate numerical value for precious coins. This Sheldon Scale starts from poor condition (P-1) coins and goes to excellent condition (MS-70).
Coin collectors and dealers often have different opinions regarding this scale and what each term represents so coin grading can be quite subjective. The following coin grades are the most regularly used to assign a grade for each coin:
- P-1 (Poor Condition): these coins are badly damaged but must contain a visible date or at least a mintmark.
- FR-2 (Fair): coins have no real damage but are in poor condition. Keep in mind that details must be visible and easy to identify.
- G-4: most essential elements have been almost erased.
- VG-8 or Very Good: all the primary details are still visible.
- Uncirculated pennies: these coins have little evidence of wear and might present slight contact marks.
- MS-60: the MS mark stands for strictly uncirculated coins, with very little indication of wear.
- MS-65: this is the Mint State Choice, representing the excellent shine and an exceptional appealing state of the coin.
- MS-70: there are no or very little imperfections in these coins. However, they are extremely scarce.
- PR-65: this grade applies to proof coins in uncirculated condition.
We have not mentioned all the grades for coins but only the most relevant for today’s topic. If you want to learn more about grading standards, see here.
1974 Penny Value Chart
We have listed below the expected current values for different varieties of “average” 1974 Lincoln pennies. As you might expect, different factors affect the final price. Among these factors, the ones that are worth mentioning are the official grading, circulation numbers, and rarity. These values are correct at the time of writing according to USA Coin Book.
|COIN TYPE⬇\QUALITY➜||Current Copper Value||MS-65||PR-65|
|1974 Penny No Mint Mark||$0.02||$0.33||–|
You should know that most 1974 Lincoln pennies in circulated condition are only worth their copper quantity. Simply put, the coins can sell for premium prices only if they are in uncirculated condition. Here is a beautiful specimen of an uncirculated 1974 penny.
1974 Penny Errors
Most of the time, the 1974 penny errors refer to discolorations, clipping, chipping, different breakage points, and die errors.
Here are several 1974 penny errors; some of them can be truly valuable, so check them out:
1974 Lincoln Penny With Double Die
The error is simple here: the penny has been minted with a double die right on the surface. Look closely – you should notice the double punch effect. The value of the double die Lincoln penny is usually around $45 to $55.
1974 Lincoln Penny With Breaking Die
Also known as the broken die, this kind of error appears on the coin’s surface, and is usually caused by continuous exposure to external damage. However, some coins have a broken die due to a mintage error. The final value of a coin with this type of striking mistake is somewhere around $20.
Q: Where is it safe to buy and sell 1974 pennies?
A: Unlike older coins, Lincoln pennies are still in regular circulation; you will most probably find them in daily life. Nevertheless, considering most examples of 1974 pennies have a low value, it may be a waste of time and energy to follow online auctions.
On the other hand, we recommend eBay when searching for specific, rare vareities of this penny. The online market is by far the easiest and often trustworthy channel for buying and selling 1974 pennies (as long as you check the listings thoroughly and go for those with plenty of details and reputable sellers).
For more information about rare examples of this penny, error types, and so on, you can visit specialist dealers or attend online forums. If you find an aluminium Lincoln penny, you must report it to the government.
Q: Where can you find the mint mark on Lincoln pennies?
A: Look just below the date on the coin, and you can find the mint mark to the right of Lincoln’s chest.
Q: Why is it illegal to possess a 1974 aluminium Lincoln Penny?
A: 1974 aluminium pennies are classified as government property. Therefore, possessing them is illegal. All people in possession these types of pennies must surrender them to the appropriate parties.
As previously stated, more than 1 million pieces of 1974 aluminum cents were destroyed. However, some of them still exist and have not been returned to the government. The number is still unknown.
Q: Is it worth hunting for error pennies?
A: Error pennies are rare specimens. This means that you won’t find them everywhere on the market. Therefore, finding them is quite a challenge. The best chance to find error pennies is by reaching out to coin dealers.
Q: How do you recognize an aluminium 1974 Penny?
A: The easiest way to tell a 1974 penny is aluminium is by weighing the coin. Aluminium should be far lighter than regular copper coins. Although it is quite challenging to find an aluminium penny, and it’s also illegal to possess one, expect it to weigh around 0.93 grams.
The standard copper cent on the other hand will weigh 3.11 grams.
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