The 1974 Lincoln Memorial Penny is quite a popular collection piece. And this is mainly due to its affordable price. However, as you will soon find from this comprehensive guideline, most 1974 pennies are not as valuable as other coins. Yet, they can sell for a satisfying amount if they are in good shape.
Some 1974 pennies are worth around 20 cents, while others might be more than $200,000. Anyway, as you can probably already imagine, the pennies from the last category are the hardest ones to find. And if you are already wondering about the famous 1974 silver pennies? Well, it’s not as easy as it meets the eye. But this is another story which I will tell you all about in this article.
Without further ado, here is everything you need to know about 1974 pennies, from their history to the beautiful flaws, values, types, and controversies.
The History Of 1974 Pennies
The Lincoln penny is a common coin. Hence, you may even find many in your pocket change. As history goes, Lincoln Memorial pennies were produced starting in 1959 up until 2008. And until 1982, these unique coins were made from 95% copper composition.
While 1974 pennies are not as valuable as silver coins, well, you should save them for the same reason – the metal might be more worthy than the coin’s face value. So what is the catch here? Let me explain:
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 aluminum was chosen by government officials as the ideal solution. Therefore, the mint struck more than 1 million 1974 pennies as a first test in making this new coin.
However, some pediatricians were genuinely concerned about the chance of kids swallowing pennies. Why? Because in such a case, doctors couldn’t use the x-rays if needed.
On top of that, people from the vending machine industry protested against the cost of receiving aluminum pennies, as they needed to update their whole equipment.
The controversy regarding the 1974 pennies was solved slowly and surely as the copper prices fell. The National Mint had to restructure the situation. And when the copper prices fell, the government replaced the copper-based alloy with pennies. More than 1 million pieces of 1974 pennies were immediately recalled for melting and destroyed, including hundreds of them in Congress. Nevertheless, not all coins were returned, so there is a slight chance that some 1974 aluminum pennies are still out there.
While presently it is entirely illegal to melt pennies due to their intrinsic copper value, experts in collecting coins believe that laws will change in this direction immediately after the United States stops issuing once-cent coins.
In the meantime, many coin collectors are hunting the 1974 aluminum pennies, while others are happy with owning the copper ones due to their more affordable selling point.
Read more about the other factors that influence the 1974 Lincoln pennies, as well as essential details about their design, grading system, and possible errors.
The 1974 Penny Series
Many factors influence the final value of an old collection coin. Here is everything you need to know about the different types of 1974 pennies so you can distinguish their selling price from now on.
1974 Pennies With No Mint Mark
This type of penny has a face value of $0.01, weighs 3.11 grams, is 0.750 in diameter, and has a plain edge. All the 1974 pennies with no mint mark were struck in Philadelphia. Up until now, there have been over 4 billion Philadelphia Lincoln coins on the market.
1974 S Penny
The 1974 S Penny has the same face value, $0.01. When it comes to its composition, these coins are made of 95% copper and 5% zinc. These penny coins were struck in San Francisco, and the total amount of minted S Pennies was over 4 billion pieces.
1974 D Penny
With a face value of $0.01, the 1974 D Penny has 3.11 grams and has the same material composition as the previous Lincoln coins. The “D” mark comes from the Denver mint, where more than 4 billion coins have been struck.
1974 Aluminum Penny
Speaking of particular and truly special Lincoln pennies, the 1974 aluminum ones are a treasure in a collector’s portfolio. The 1974 aluminum pennies were minted in Philadelphia but in a smaller quantity, approximately 1.5 million pieces.
1974 Double Headed Penny
While some of you might think that this coin has an ultra-rare error, well, things are pretty different. 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 collectors. Regarding its value, don’t expect to get too much. Believe it or not, this type of coin has only a numismatic value, which, of course, makes it interesting to collect.
1974 Double Die Obverse D-Penny
The Double Die Obverse D-Penny is an error coin, and the quantity of minted coins is still unknown.
The 1974 Penny Value Chart
I bet you are genuinely excited about checking your collection coins’ value. Nevertheless, before moving to numbers, a professional collector should know more about the factors influencing the final profit. Therefore, let’s talk about the grading system first.
How Are Coins Graded?
Numismatists use the Sheldon Scale to provide an accurate numerical value to precious coins. This Sheldon Scale starts from poor condition (P-1) coins and goes to excellent condition (MS-70).
Unfortunately, coin collectors and dealers have different opinions regarding this scale and what each term represents. Nevertheless, the following coin grades are the most common ones and most regularly used to assign the quality for each coin:
- P-1 (Poor Condition): these coins are most probably damaged but must contain a date or at least a mintmark.
- FR-2 (Fair): coins have no 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: this mark stands for strictly uncirculated coins, with no indication of wear, especially for the highest pints.
- MS-65: this is the Mint State Choice, representing the excellent mint shine and an exceptional eye-appealing state of the coin.
- MS-70: there are no or little imperfections in these coins. However, they are scarce due to their authentic sheen and outstanding eye appeal.
- PR-65: this grade applies for coins in uncirculated condition and with premium looks.
I have not mentioned all the grading systems for collection coins but only the most relevant for today’s topic. If you want to learn more about all the grading standards, look here.
1974 Penny Value Chart
I’ve listed below the expected mintage numbers and values for different types of 1974 Lincoln pennies. As you might expect, different factors affect that final price. Among these factors, the ones that are worth mentioning are the official grading, circulation numbers, and overall condition and wear.
Remember! Expect the most used coins to value little.
|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 will value only 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 breaking points, and many other flaws.
Other errors have been caused by mintage mistakes. 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: that penny has been minted with a double die right on the surface. Look closer to see the minted mark; you should notice the double punch. The value of the double die Lincoln penny can increase from around $45 to $55.
1974 Lincoln Penny With No Mint Mark
This error appears when the coin has no mint mark, even though it should have. This flaw is pretty rare, though, as the mintages rarely make this mistake. Regarding the final value, the Penny with no mint mark is around $25.
1974 Lincoln Penny With Breaking Die
Also known as the broken die, this kind of error appears on the coin’s surface, and it was 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 pice with this type of mistake is somewhere around $20.
There is so much to discuss about these fascinating collection pieces. Keep reading, as I have answered most of your dilemmas:
Q: Where is it safe to buy and sell 1974 pennies?
A: Unlike scarcer coins, the Lincoln pennies are still in regular circulation; hence, you will most probably find them in daily life. Nevertheless, considering most examples of 1974 pennies have a low value, it would be a waste of time and energy to follow online auctions.
On the other hand, I recommend you to attend the usual vintage fairs or use a currency converter. If you still prefer the online medium, eBay is by far the most trustworthy channel for buying and selling 1974 pennies.
For more information about rare examples of this type of Penny, error types, and so on, you can visit specialist dealers or attend online forums. By any chance, if you notice an aluminum Lincoln penny, you must submit it to the government.
Q: Where can you notice the mint mark on the Lincoln pennies?
A: Look just below the date on the coin, and you can notice the mint mark on the right of Lincoln’s chest.
Q: Why is it illegal to possess a 1974 Lincoln Penny?
A: 1974 aluminum pennies are classified as government property. Therefore, possessing them is illegal. Therefore, all collectors that are selling or owning 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 have been kept in circulation or not returned to the government. The number is still unknown and quite small.
Q: Is it worth hunting for error pennies?
A: Error pennies are quite rare specimens. This means that you won’t find them everywhere on the market. Therefore, finding them is quite a challenge, and the time and energy spent to reach these error pennies might not be worth the while. The best chance to spot error pennies is by reaching the coin collectors.
Q: How do you recognize an aluminum 1974 Penny?
A: The easiest way to tell a 1974 penny is aluminum is by weighing the coin. Aluminum should be far lighter than regular copper coins. Hence, although it is quite challenging to find an aluminum penny, and it’s also illegal, expect it to have around 0.93 grams.
The standard copper cent that has silvery metal plating, on the other hand, will have 3.11 grams.
Q: How is a Lincoln penny graded?
A: The grading of Lincoln pennies is based on metal composition, how visible the discoloration on these specimens is, as well lusters of the coin. The grade is split right between that reddish-brown Lincoln penny and the full-red one. However, the red types of coins are rare and have a high grade.
In a nutshell
1974 pennies can serve as a beautiful piece of the collection, a memento for a person born in that period, or just as a record of the historical events back in time.
In terms of rarity, the 1974 pennies have little value, so don’t expect to get rich by collecting them. Instead, the particularity of this coin comes from its errors and the controversy around 1974 aluminum pennies.
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