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Discover the Value of the 1916 Lincoln Wheat Penny

Discover the Value of the 1916 Lincoln Wheat Penny

The year 1916 was a momentous one in the United States. In November, President Woodrow Wilson defeated Charles Evans Hughes and won re-election on the slogan “He Kept Us Out Of War.” President Wilson would then lead the United States into World War I the following April. American troops were already engaged fending off, then pursuing, Pancho Villa after a raid on Columbus, New Mexico.

On a happier note, the Chicago Cubs played their first baseball game at what would eventually become known as Wrigley Field, defeating the Cincinnati Reds. The American Boy Scouts were also incorporated in 1916.

History and Production of the 1916 Lincoln Wheat Penny

The year 1916 was the eighth in which Lincoln wheat pennies were struck. The coin was introduced in 1909, for the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. The sculptor of the coin, Victor D. Brenner, was an artistic and medallion engraver, who had come to the attention of the sitting President, Theodore Roosevelt, when Roosevelt sat for Brenner during the creation of a sculpture. Roosevelt was very interested in artistic matters, and sought new talent to improve the appearance of America’s coins. Brenner received a commission to create a new design for the penny. He designed a portrait of Lincoln for the obverse, and a stylized pair of wheat stalks for the reverse, enclosing the value of “one cent.” The design was immediately popular, has remained more or less continually in use ever since and is the longest running U.S. coin design.

The Mint struck just under two hundred million Lincoln wheat pennies in 1916. This was the largest number of pennies coined in the Lincoln series to that date, by far, but still small compared to what would follow for the next few years. In addition to the coins struck for circulation, the Mint struck just over one thousand proof coins, which it sold to collectors.

As usual, the Philadelphia mint struck the largest number of coins, which have no mint mark, followed by the Denver mint, which used a mint mark “D” and the San Francisco mint, which used a mint mark “S.”

MintCoins Struck
Source: Red Book

Values for the 1916 Lincoln Wheat Penny

1916 Penny Value Chart
Business StrikeGrade
Uncirculated MS63Uncirculated MS65Uncirculated MS67
1916 1C BN$27.00$108.00
1916 1C RB$51.00$169.00$910.00
1916 1C RD$88.00$312.00$1,580.00
1916-D 1C BN$115.00$455.00
1916-D 1C RB$188.00$585.00
1916-D 1C RD$260.00$1,380.00$60,000.00
1916-S 1C BN$182.00$702.00
1916-S 1C RB$208.00$845.00
1916-S 1C RD$650.00$6,250.00
Proof StrikeGrade
1916 1C BN$3,440.00$4380.00$12,000.00
1916 1C RB$4,750.00$5,250.00$22,800.00
1916 1C RD$8,120.00$18,000.00$31,200.00
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

Values for the circulated grades of the 1916 Lincoln penny

Image credit: PCGS

For many of the years in which it was struck, the Lincoln wheat penny exists in sufficient numbers that very nice specimens from all three mints can be found for under a dollar, even in the highest circulated grades. Such coins are good for beginning collectors to work with, as one can have the joy of a search without too much expense. This general rule is not true for the 1916 wheat penny.

The 1916 Lincoln penny is sufficiently rare to command a good price in all except the very lowest grades. As can be seen from the mintage numbers, coins from San Francisco appear in much smaller numbers, and this is reflected in the value chart as well, with “S” mint marked coins commanding two or even three times the price of coins from Philadelphia or from Denver. “About Uncirculated” coins from all three mints can be quite expensive for beginning collectors, with specimens from San Francisco the least common and so the most valuable of all.

Values for uncirculated grades of the 1916 Lincoln penny

Image credit: PCGS

In assessing the value of uncirculated Lincoln wheat pennies, collectors must consider both the grade of the coin, and its color or tone. Uncirculated, or “Mint-State” coins are graded on a numerical scale between 60 and 70, with higher numbers being “better” and more valuable. Bronze or copper coins are also subject to oxidation over time, even if they aren’t circulated or handled, and this potential discoloration is reflected in a further description. A coin may be described as “brown” (BN), “red-brown,” (RB) or “red” (RD). A brown coin has oxidized over time, and the surface is no longer shiny. A red coin retains its bright, new copper luster, just as it came from the Mint. Between these two extremes, a red-brown coin has begun to lose its shine but retains some of its original appearance.  Red coins are the most valuable of the three colors, while brown coins are the least valuable.

Because 1916 pennies are over a century old, it is not surprising that many uncirculated coins have mellowed to red-brown or brown colors, while still retaining their original mint state.

1916 penny, MS-64 RB sold in November 2023, for $63,00. This price, while high, remains within reach of most collectors, and can be thought of as something of a “find.” A highly similar coin sold in May 2023 for $180.00. Other uncirculated pennies from 1916 command far higher prices.

Red uncirculated pennies tend to fetch higher prices than brown, or red-brown specimens. In April 2023, a 1916 Lincoln wheat penny, MS-65 RD sold for $234 at Heritage. A few days later, a 1916 penny graded MS-66 RD sold for $990 at the same auction house. In November 2023, a 1916 wheat penny graded MS-67+ RD sold for $6,300. The Heritage Auction site notes that this particularly high grade is very rare, and it isn’t likely that higher graded specimens can be found or exist.

Occasionally, a lower graded uncirculated coin may be mixed in with a set of other, similar coins. Such a grouping can be purchased as a set by a collector. Thus, in September 2023, Heritage Auction offered the following grouping of coins for sale: A 1910 wheat penny, MS-64 BN; a 1916 wheat penny, MS-64 BN; a 1917 wheat penny, MS-64 BN; a 1918 wheat penny, MS-64 BN, and a 1927 wheat penny, MS-65 BN. This group of five coins sold for $318. This isn’t necessarily a bargain, except in terms of saving time on the hunt.

The Denver mint provided far fewer coins than the Philadelphia mint in 1916, and values for 1916-D Lincoln pennies are accordingly higher.

In April 2023, for example, a 1916-D Lincoln wheat cent, graded at MS-64 RB sold for $240.00, at Heritage Auctions. In November 2023, a 1916-D penny, MS-66 RD, sold for $6,900. The auction notes described the coin as “elusive” at that grade and coloration, and indicated that higher graded coins were “virtually unobtainable.”

As befits the limited mintage numbers, uncirculated 1916-S pennies are rare and challenging to find on the market. In September, 2023, Heritage Auctions offered a 1916-S MS-65 RD, which sold for $3,120.00. The auction comment noted that it would be difficult to find any examples with a higher grade and a red coloration.

Were any 1916 Proof Lincoln Wheat Pennies Produced?

Image credit: PCGS

In 1916, the United States Mint produced 1,050 proof Lincoln wheat pennies. While this may seem a tiny number, compared to modern mintage numbers, coinage had been sporadic and limited for some years. Proof coins were available for sale as individual coins, and not made into sets as they are now. Mintage numbers thus varied by denomination, but had been uniformly low in the preceding years. Only 600 proof Buffalo nickels were struck in 1916, and no proof dimes, quarters, or half-dollars were struck in that year. Coinage of the Morgan dollar had been suspended in 1904, and no proof coins had been struck from that year on. No gold proof coins were struck in 1916 either.

The Mint, after 1916, discontinued offering proof coins, citing low public interest. Twenty years would pass, until the Mint tried offering proof coins again, in 1936.

Accordingly, because the 1916 Lincoln proof penny had the lowest mintage of any of the pennies between 1909 and 1916, it is very scarce. Many of the coins have also deteriorated over the years, and it is difficult to find quality specimens. Many that reach the market have developed a patina, lost their coloration, or developed spots. Collectors willingly offer high prices for the very best specimens, which retain their original matte finish, and have little patination or spotting. Those seeking to assemble type sets seek the very best examples available.

Unlike modern proof coins, which are usually struck in such a way as to give them a brilliant, almost mirror-like surface that gleams, the proof coins of 1916 both had a matte finish. They gained their proof designation because of the enhanced striking method, which was designed to bring out the details in sharper relief.

Even specimens which have turned brown from oxidation can command significant prices if they are otherwise in good condition. In May 2023, a Lincoln proof penny, graded PR-64 BN, sold for $2,648.40 at Heritage Auctions, as part of the sale of the Stephenville collection.

A 1916 proof “set,” of the Lincoln penny combined with that other lonely proof coin, a Buffalo nickel, can also command significant sums in the market. Ten years ago, in 2013, such a combination sold for $4,147.75, again at Heritage Auction. The penny was graded at PR-63 BN, while the nickel was described as PR-66.

Lincoln proof coins are sufficiently uncommon that even a defective example can fetch a good sum. In 2010, a proof wheat penny described as “improperly cleaned,” went for auction at Heritage Auctions. The cleaning effort, according to the catalogue, left the coin “over-bright.” The owner/cleaner were attempting, perhaps, to create a surface similar to modern proof coins, and, from the picture, they largely succeeded, destroying the finish in the process. Still, despite the mishandling, the coin sold for $920.

In November, 2023, a proof 1916 Lincoln penny, graded as PR-67 RB sold for $13,200.00 at Heritage Auctions. The catalog pointed out that a coin of such quality was a rarity, with the auction house last handling a similarly graded coin five years earlier.

Error Values for the 1916 Lincoln Wheat Penny

Are There Any Repunched Mint Marks and Double Die Errors in 1916?

Occasionally, the Mint created flaws in their dies during the manufacturing process. A coin die is created by striking it repeatedly with a mold to leave an impression. Ideally, each successive strike hits exactly the same spot each time, but occasionally, it does not. The result is a “doubled-die,” a second image where there should be only one. The matter is compounded because until comparatively recently, the U.S. Mint added the date and the mint mark in separate steps, using separate punches. These errors create doubled dates, and doubled, or “repunched,” mint marks.

Unlike other errors, these mistakes are inherent in the minting process, and any coins struck with these dies will reflect the original flaw. Collectors avidly seek repunched mint mark and double die coins, and a full catalog of them has been developed over the years.

There are no known repunched mint marks and double die errors for 1916.

Off-center strikes of 1916 Lincoln wheat pennies

An off-center strike occurs when a coin enters the die press, but doesn’t reach the exact center of the machine. Instead of producing a full image on a round coin, the dies place only part of the image on the planchet, which is stretched out into an oval shape.

The Mint exerts high quality control, but given the high volume of coins minted, some off-center coins still reach circulation. Collectors prefer specimens which show both the date and the mint mark, and values reflect this preference. Coins with higher grades tend to fetch higher prices, even among off-center errors.

Image credit: Heritage Auctions

A good example of these preferences can be seen in the sale of a 1916-S wheat penny, struck 20% off-center. Both the date and the mint mark are clearly visible, as is almost all the bust of President Lincoln. The motto “In God We Trust” is almost completely absent, as are the first two letters of the word “LIBERTY.” The coin was graded as MS-63 BN. It sold for $1,380 at Heritage Auctions in January 2020.

Technical Specifications of the 1916 Lincoln Penny

The 1916 Lincoln penny is a bronze coin, made of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc. It weighs 3.11 grams, and is 19 millimeters in diameter.


The 1916 Lincoln wheat penny is a more valuable coin than many of its kind. At the uncirculated levels, serious collectors may find it a challenge. Entry-level collectors looking to fill up a penny book may have to settle for circulated grades lower than they are accustomed to dealing with, or save for a nicer specimen. Still, enough examples exist that everyone should be able to satisfy their demand.