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Discovering the Value of the 1936 Lincoln Penny: Small Details Make Big Price Swings

Discovering the Value of the 1936 Lincoln Penny: Small Details Make Big Price Swings

The 1936 Lincoln wheat penny presents something of a paradox to collectors. Specimens of the ordinary run of circulated coins are common enough, and collectors can find any number of nice examples to add to their holdings for less than a dollar. On the other hand, a number of varieties exist which are highly sought after by experienced collectors. The differences between the types of 1936 Lincoln wheat pennies are quite subtle, and often cannot even be detected without careful scrutiny and a magnifying glass. Despite the seeming similarity, small distinctions mark big differences in value, and buyers have to be on the alert when evaluating 1936 Lincoln wheat pennies.

Production of the 1936 Lincoln Wheat Penny

The three U.S. Mints produced almost 400,000,000 Lincoln wheat pennies in 1936. This number of coins is large enough to ensure an adequate supply remains for collectors at a reasonable price, at all but the highest grades.

DatePhiladelphiaDenverSan Francisco
1936 Proof5,56900
Source: Red Book

Values for 1936 Wheat Pennies

The Lincoln wheat penny was coined in sufficient numbers to ensure that plenty remain available at all grades to satisfy collectors. The die varieties discussed below are somewhat rare, and quality uncirculated specimens, especially shiny red “gem” types are sufficiently scarce as to command good prices.

While circulated 1936 pennies are cheap enough to pose no challenge for beginners, uncirculated coins are a different matter. Very nice, high grade uncirculated coins are uncommon, and the market responds accordingly when they appear for sale. The oddity of the 1936 Lincoln wheat penny lies, not in the ordinary coins, but in three “defects,” ordinarily the province of collectors specializing in error.  These three “doubled die obverse” varieties are highly sought after by collectors hoping to build complete sets of Lincoln pennies, and prices, while they may not have risen significantly since 2019, are high for any of these coins which come upon the market.

1936 Penny Value Chart
Good G4Extra Fine XF40About Uncirculated AU55Uncirculated MS63Uncirculated MS64Uncirculated MS65
1936 1C BN$0.25$0.55$0.60$2.40$2.65$4.05
1936 1C RB$2.65$3.38$5.40
1936 1C RD$4.05$5.40$10.80
1936-D 1C BN$0.25$0.55$0.60$2.40$2.65$5.40
1936-D 1C RB$3.38$5.40$9.45
1936-D 1C RD$5.40$8.10$13.50
1936-S 1C BN$0.25$0.55$0.90$2.65$4.05$6.75
1936-S 1C RB$4.05$6.75$10.80
1936-S 1C RD$5.40$8.10$17.55
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

Values for 1936 Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

The Philadelphia Mint, the oldest in America, required no mint mark when it was established, and traditionally has used none. Coins minted in Philadelphia, including pennies, are typically referred to simply by the year.

Philadelphia struck far and away the most wheat pennies in 1936. Values for the 1936 Lincoln penny are low in the circulated grades, and collectors should have no problem finding several examples of the penny they want in any circulated grade.

Prices for circulated 1936 wheat pennies range from $0.25 for coins graded “Good” to $0.60 for “About-Uncirculated” specimens.

At the lower grades of uncirculated, or “mint-state’ examples, prices for 1936 wheat pennies also are affordable for collectors, especially for “brown” (BN) or “red-brown” (RB) specimens which have lost all or some of their luster. Prices for more desirable “red” (RD) specimens that retain the “shiny new penny” look are higher, but not outrageous or unaffordable at the lower grades. Prices for 1936 Lincoln wheat pennies graded “MS-63” range from $2.40 for brown specimens, to $4.05 for red specimens.  For uncirculated 1936 wheat pennies graded at “MS-65,” prices begin at $4.05 for brown coins, and run up to $10.80 for shiny red pennies.

Higher grades of uncirculated 1936 pennies can sell for considerable sums of money as they are in high demand from collectors. In November 2023, a 1936 penny, graded MS-67+ RD, sold for $990 at auction.

Values for 1936-D Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

Although the Denver Mint issued fewer pennies using the mint mark “D,” enough examples remain to satisfy collector demand.

Prices for circulated specimens of 1936-D pennies are highly similar to coins from Philadelphia. A 1936-D wheat penny, graded “Good,” ought to cost around $0.25, while a specimen graded “About-Uncirculated” ought to cost about $0.60.

Only at the uncirculated grades do 1936-D Lincoln pennies become slightly more costly than Philadelphia pennies. A 1936-D MS-63 BN penny should still cost $2.40, exactly the same price as a 1936 MS-63 BN penny. But a 1936-D MS-63 RB penny, which still has some of its tone, will cost about $3.38, and a 1936-D MS-63 RD penny will cost $5.40, rather than $4.05.

Uncirculated 1936-D wheat pennies, like 1936 uncirculated coins from Philadelphia, are much sought by collectors in the higher grades, and fetch good prices. A 1936-D wheat penny, graded MS-67+ RD sold for $408 at Heritage Auctions in November 2023. At the same auction, another 1936-D penny, graded MS-67 RD, sold for $336.

Values for 1936-S Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

Values for circulated 1936-S wheat pennies fall exactly in line with 1936 or 1936-D pennies. A “Good” example will cost $0.25, while a 1936-S “About-Uncirculated” example will cost slightly more than either, at $0.90.

Uncirculated 1936-S pennies track the price of 1936-D pennies in the grade MS-63, ranging from $2.65 to $5.40. At the grade of MS-65, prices begin to diverge slightly, and range from $6.75 to $17.55, depending upon the tone.

Just as uncirculated 1936 and 1936-D pennies at the higher grades are in high demand, and command high prices, uncirculated 1936-S wheat pennies at grades of MS-67 or better find good reception when they appear at auction. In the November 2023 auction, a 1936-S penny, graded MS-67 RD sold for $2,280 at Heritage Auctions.

Values for 1936 Proof Lincoln Wheat Pennies

Image credit: PCGS
1936 Proof Penny Value Chart
1936 1C Satin Finish BN$442.00$748.00$1,090.00
1936 1C Satin Finish RB$546.00$910.00$1,310.00
1936 1C Satin Finish RD$780.00$1,220.00$3,750.00
1936 1C Brilliant Finish RB$468.00$676.00$936.00
1936 1C Brilliant Finish RD$562.00$811.00$1,750.00
1936 1C Brilliant Finish CAM$1,250.00$2,500.00$6,250.00
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

The year 1936 saw the resumption of proof coinage by the U.S. Mint. The Mint suspended offering proof coins in 1916, stating that collectors and the general public simply weren’t interested. In 1936, the Mint coined fewer than 6,000 proof Lincoln pennies at Philadelphia.

Bowers’ Guide Book of Lincoln Pennies states that the Mint struck two different kinds of proof wheat penny in 1936. Type I “Satin Finish” proof pennies have a partial mirror finish, and some satin surfaces. Approximately 3,700 specimens were struck. Type II “Brilliant Finish” proof pennies had a full mirror finish, of the sort we expect proof coins to have today. Approximately 1,800 Type II proof pennies were struck. Paradoxically, type II proofs are more commonly met with in the market today.

Many of these coins originally went into “proof sets,” containing, besides the Lincoln penny, the other U.S. coins then commonly in use: a Buffalo nickel; Mercury dime; Washington quarter, and a Walking Liberty half-dollar. Finding complete original sets is comparatively uncommon, although collectors might reassemble one from individual coins.

The reason for this has to do with the method the Mint used to ship the coins, explained in a Heritage Auction catalog entry. When a customer ordered proof coins in 1936, they were not shipped, as now, encased in a special presentation box, or plastic slab, designed to show them to best effect. Instead, each coin was stapled into a cellophane envelope. The envelopes were then bundled and stapled together with any other coins requested by the customer. The whole thing was shipped in whatever box or mailing package fit the order. The catalog concludes, ironically, “Original packaging for 1936 Proof Sets is extremely rare.” A polite way of saying buyers probably wanted something a bit more sturdy to protect their investments.

Proof sets from 1936 in decent condition are also correspondingly rare. The set described above, with coins graded at PR-65 and PR-66 sold for $6,300 at auction in May 2022. One source suggests that higher grades of the Lincoln proof penny, at PR-67, exist, but are not common; PR-68 coins are rare and very expensive.

1936 Type I proof Lincoln penny, graded PR-66, sold for $3,120 in March 2019, while a 1936 Type II proof penny, graded PR-66+, sold for $4,921.20 in May 2022.

Even damaged or cleaned examples, referred to as “impaired proofs,” can fetch decent sums in the marketplace. So few proof coins were minted in 1936 that anything might attract interest at sale. In October 2023, a type I proof, not graded because it was “improperly cleaned,” sold for $252 at auction. Most recently, in December 2023, a Type II 1936 proof, graded PR but with a spot removed, sold for $204 at Heritage Auctions.

Error Values for the 1936 Lincoln Wheat Penny

Values for Three Different 1936 Wheat Penny Doubled Die Obverse Varieties

A doubled die variety arises from a mistake in engraving, or “striking” the die used for stamping coins. To make a die, a large punch, containing a”negative” relief image of the coin, is used to strike the metal that will become the die. Several strikes are necessary to create the sharp image required to make good-looking coins. Ideally, these strikes will fall upon the same points each time. If they do not, two or more images will emerge on the finished coin die, and in any coin made using the die. Such defective dies are called “doubled dies.”

In 1936, the Philadelphia Mint used three different doubled dies to make coins, referred to as “Type 1,” “Type 2,” and “Type 3.” Of the three, Type 1 is the most expensive and sought after. Type 3 is the least expensive, though collectors will bid prices up for nice examples. Type 2 is intermediate, but seems to have fewer price points for comparison.

1936 Penny DDO Value Chart
Uncirculated MS63Uncirculated MS64Uncirculated MS65
1936 1C DDO, Type 1, BN$1,560.00$2,500.00
1936 1C DDO, Type 1, RB$2,500.00$3,500.00$5,000.00
1936 1C DDO, Type 1, RD$5,000.00$6,880.00
1936 1C DDO, Type 2, BN$650.00$910.00
1936 1C DDO, Type 2, RB$715.00$960.00$1,250.00
1936 1C DDO, Type 2, RD$1,090.00$1,440.00
1936 1C DDO, Type 3, BN$182.00$214.00$364.00
1936 1C DDO, Type 3, RB$208.00$260.00$488.00
1936 1C DDO, Type 3, RD$390.00$910.00
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

Value of 1936 Wheat Penny Doubled Die Obverse Type 1

Image credit: Cherrypickers’ Guide

This die variety is referred to in The Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins as 1936-FS-101. If the three varieties, it is the most apparent. Although collectors like to gather all three of the doubled die varieties of 1936, and assemble sets, this is the most sought after, and the rarest of all quality grades. To identify the doubling, look especially at the motto “In God We Trust,” the date, and the word “Liberty.” A second image of those words shows quite clearly.

Brown circulated varieties of Type 1 1936 wheat pennies can be found at prices ranging from $40.50 for a heavily worn “Good” specimen to $455 for an “About-Uncirculated” coin. When looking, a collector of slender means must be patient and ready to settle. More modest specimens of this type can be found at more affordable prices. In October 2023, a 1936 penny, doubled die type 1, graded VF-35, sold for $169. Had it been an ordinary 1936 wheat penny of approximately the same grade, it would have sold for less than $0.50.

Because bronze tends to oxidize, even if not handled, some lower grade uncirculated examples can also be found. An uncirculated 1936 Type 1 penny graded MS-63 BN can cost as much as $1560.

Uncirculated red-brown Type 1 varieties graded between MS-63 and MS-65 can cost between $2,500 and $5,000. Nicer, shiny red uncirculated 1936 can be found at grades of MS-65 for almost $7,000, and prices rise from there.

As an example of the values which the 1936 doubled die varieties of wheat penny can reach, in November 2023, a 1936 wheat penny doubled die type one graded MS-67 RD sold for $34,800 at Heritage Auctions. The auction entry described this particular coin as the finest example seen by either of the major grading certification services in this mint state. The catalog also noted that uncirculated high grade varieties of this variety were “extremely rare.”

Value of 1936 Wheat Penny Doubled Die Obverse Type 2

Image credit: Cherrypickers’ Guide

The Cherrypickers’ Guide refers to this die variety as 1936-FS-102. Superficially, specimens of this variety look similar to Type 1 above. The distinction appears by examining the word “Liberty.” The die used for type 2 variety coins was initially created using a damaged punch left over from 1935, in which the left, or straight leg of the “R” in the word “LIBERTY” was damaged. The die was then retouched using a better punch, which still left a defect, not only in the “R” but in the “T” as well. When examining 1936 wheat pennies, look at both letters.

While the type 2 variety of doubled die is intermediate in price between the more expensive type 1 and the less expensive type 3, fewer examples seem to come to market to determine price points.

Circulated type 2 doubled die 1936 pennies can usually be found for prices around $100, for Extremely Fine specimens. This is only slightly higher than the price obtained for a Type 3 penny of the same grade.

Uncirculated type 2 coins can be more expensive. A 1936 type 2 doubled die penny, graded MS-64 BN, sold for $750 in August 2019. Prices for red-brown and red varieties rise from that basis, and can easily top $1,000.

In November 2023, a 1936 wheat penny doubled die type 2 graded MS-66 RD sold for $2,400 at Heritage Auctions. The catalog for the sale described type 2 pennies graded at this level as “decidedly rare.” The catalog entry indicated that no better or higher graded coins were known for this variety.

Value of 1936 Wheat Penny Doubled Die Obverse Type 3

Image credit: Cherrypickers’ Guide

This variety is listed in The Cherrypickers’ Guide as 1936-FS-103. The doubling is more obvious in the motto “In God We Trust,” and in the word “Liberty.” The second image trails, or is set counter-clockwise, from the main image. In other words, each letter has a distinctive “line” to the left.

Type 3 pennies from 1936 are the least expensive of the doubled die obverse varieties. Collectors seeking full collections still seek them out, and prices can sometimes be brisk. An Extremely Fine-40 circulated type 3 penny could cost as much as $100. About-Uncirculated specimens of the type 3 cent might be found for $130.

Uncirculated coins can be found at prices which are less expensive than the other two varieties. A brown 1936 type 3 coin, graded MS-63, might be found for less than $200, while a red-brown specimen might cost slightly more than that. At the MS-65 grade, brown examples might start at $365, and run up to nearly $500 for a red-brown coin, or even over $900 for a red example. Although higher prices are reported, most coins seem to sell for around this level.

At the same November 2023 auction in which type 1 and type 2 doubled die varieties were sold, described above, a 1936 doubled die type 3 penny sold for $900. The coin, graded MS-66 RD, was not extensively described in the auction notes. However, a population estimate indicated that there were probably only 7 or 8 similar coins of the type in this grade, and none better. In December 2023, a 1936 doubled die obverse type 3, graded MS-66 RD sold for $750 at Heritage Auctions.

Off-Center Strikes and Broadstrikes of 1936 Lincoln Wheat Pennies

Image credit: Heritage Auctions

The U.S. Mint has always sought to exert quality control, and prevent defective coins from reaching commercial circulation, but when mintages of tens or hundreds of millions of coins are involved, a miniscule fraction of quality control failure translates into a large number of defective coins.

Many specialized coin collectors avidly seek out defective coins, and prices for such “errors” are higher than for ordinary coins of the same denomination and grade.

Two of the most commonly found errors are “off-center” strikes and “broadstrikes.” Off-center struck coins occur when a coin blank or planchet does not sit properly within the coin die, and only part of the image is struck on the coin. A broadstruck coin occurs when the rim collar that should sit around the coin blank fails to engage properly, and the die strikes the coin into an unusually large shape. Both types of coins can circulate for some time before being detected by a collector and removed, and so can be of any grade.

With the attention given to the doubled die varieties, the off-strikes and broadstrikes may be lost in the shuffle, but they do exist and do have significant value.

1936 penny, graded F-12 and struck 20% off-center, sold for $43 at Heritage Auctions on March 20, 2023. The same coin, had it been correctly struck, would have sold for about $0.30. Another off center 1936 penny, described only as “uncirculated, damaged,” with no further explanation, sold for $87 in January 2023. A very nice uncirculated 1936 penny, graded at MS-60, BN, struck 15% off-center, sold for $63. The same coin, correctly struck, should have realized between $0.60 and $2.40.

Technical Specifications of the 1936 Lincoln Penny

The Lincoln wheat penny design was first introduced in 1909. The obverse had a bust of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, while the reverse had the denomination of the coin, “One Cent” surrounded by a wreath of wheat stalks, giving rise to the name Lincoln Wheat Penny. The coin was created as part of a general upgrade of American coinage advocated by the then-sitting President, Theodore Roosevelt.

The designer of the Lincoln wheat penny, Victor David Brenner, attracted attention when he created a bust of President Roosevelt. Brenner’s design proved immensely popular, and continued essentially unchanged for fifty years, until 1959, when the wheat stalk reverse was replaced with an image of the Lincoln Memorial. The revised design continued unchanged until the early part of the twenty-first century, when the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth resulted in several different commemorative issues. The bust of Lincoln was then restored to the front of the coin, which continues in use to the present day, making it one of the longest running coin designs in history.

The Lincoln wheat penny is usually thought of as a copper coin. However, pure copper is far too soft to withstand the rigors of use in commerce. Instead, a bronze alloy of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc has traditionally been used to make American pennies, including the Lincoln wheat penny.


The 1936 Lincoln wheat penny is an interesting combination of the fairly ordinary with the fairly rare. Collectors hoping to assemble a simple collection of coin types for a penny book, using ordinary circulated grades, will find many examples suitable for their task. Even finding uncirculated specimens should not prove too daunting for more advanced collectors. The higher grades of uncirculated coins are very uncommon, and command significant sums at auction. Some of these can still be purchased for hundreds rather than thousands of dollars. At the highest level, the three varieties of doubled die obverse can sell for extraordinary sums at auction; uncirculated gem specimens can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.