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1937 Penny Value and Error Coins

1937 Penny Value and Error Coins

Lincoln pennies have a long history of public anticipation, surprise, and steady value increases. The coin’s design and composition have changed throughout its use as a US 1-cent coin.

Although today’s Lincoln penny has a shield design on the reverse, from 1959 until 2009, it had an image of the Lincoln Memorial. The coin’s obverse has always depicted the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

From the Lincoln penny’s first issue in 1909 until 1958, the coin’s reverse had two stalks of wheat – representing American prosperity – and has often been referred to as a wheat penny.

Also, on the reverse of the Lincoln penny is E PLURIBUS UNUM – Latin for “Out of many, one.” This is a nod to the fact that a new single nation emerged out of the union of the original Thirteen Colonies. That motto was first struck on US coinage in 1795 on the reverse of the $5 gold piece, called a half-eagle.

When wheat pennies were plentiful in change, and before the copper in those coins was worth double what the coin was worth, they were found in common circulation. When I was younger, those very pennies gave me a start in coin collecting.

I started with Lincoln pennies because they were inexpensive. Pennies from 1959 were very easy to find, and my first set was probably worth less than the cost of the blue Whitman coin book I put them in.

Whitman book one, with slots from 1909 through 1958, was more challenging. Still, I got many coins, including almost uncirculated 1937 Philadelphia and Denver coins, by opening rolls of pennies from a local bank. The “S” variety proved tougher to find.

Still, the wheat pennies were abundant enough for me to pick and choose from similarly dated coins, making sure I could see the individual lines on the wheat stalks instead of seeing only a smoothed-over blob.

Coins made in higher production by the US Mint are easier to find, so the 1937 penny value depends mainly on each coin’s condition.

Collecting coins is a fun and exciting hobby. Collecting with an eye toward investment requires homework, contemplation, and the ability to acquire coins that are in demand. Currently, that demand revolves around scarce to rare high-grade coins.

1937 Lincoln Penny Particulars

US pennies used to be much larger than today. Back in 1793, US pennies were nearly the size of half-dollars and contained close to 1-cent worth of copper. They were minted in a smaller size to keep that 1-cent copper value – the same reason that US dimes were smaller than pennies because they had to be worth less than 10 cents in silver content. After 1964, US 10-cent coins held no silver content.

In 1981, when copper use became insupportable, the Mint changed the penny’s composition to copper-covered zinc. The first coins of the new era were struck in Philadelphia on January 7, 1982.

The Lincoln penny was in high demand in 1937. The Great Depression was at its zenith, and while prices had stabilized, unemployment soared. An entire nation counted its pennies while other countries suffered similar economic disruption.

To meet the need for pennies, the US Mint produced 394,109,320 in 1937.

Obverse Designer: Victor David Brenner

Reverse Designer: Victor David Brenner

Edge: Plain

Diameter: 19.00 millimeters

Weight: 3.11 grams

Metal Composition: 95% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc

US Mint Production Numbers:

Philadelphia – no mint mark – 309,170,000

Denver – D – 50,430,000

San Francisco – S – 34,500,000

Proof – Philadelphia – no mint mark – 9,320

Understanding Proof 1937 Lincoln Penny Values

Image credit: PCGS

US Proof coins date back to the early 1800s. They were produced with polished dies and struck deeply or double-struck to ensure an excellent representation of each die and coin, not to sell as a “special” coin. The die expert provided “proof” that everything was right with their work.

Later, these coins became highly collectible, and the Philadelphia Mint encouraged the individual sale of proof coins that were struck twice to offer sharper rims and overall design than standard coins. In 1916, the practice was discontinued due to declining public interest.

However, after twenty years, the US Mint decided again to produce proof coins for sale to the public. New Proof coins started rolling out in Philadelphia in 1936. Early pennies had a satin finish that disappointed collectors. To appease the public, the Philadelphia Mint struck a new production run of them with the traditional brilliant mirror-like finish. By 1937, this was standard practice, and the Mint allowed customers to order individual coins.

Because of the small number of proof coins produced each year compared to general circulation coins – and their lustrous beauty – proof coins carry a premium price that for decades greatly exceeded their original sales price.

Individual proof coins were discontinued in 1950 when proof coin sales were restricted to complete sets. The fancy sets were sold in a box with the coins in a cellophane package holding five coins, each in a protected section. As with other Philadelphia coins, they bore no mint mark.

As for the 1937 proof pennies, just 9,320 were struck, making them scarce. Primarily found in PR64 to PR66, two ultra cameo coins have sold for five figures, $13,225 and $12,600.

The Meaning of Cameo Coins

To strike the beautiful proof coins collectors loved, the US Mint sandblasted the dies or chemically etched them to produce a frosted finish on the raised design and a mirror finish on the open field areas.

Each new die produced the highest cameo contrast on the earliest strikes. As the number of coins struck increased, the degree of cameo relief contrast faded, and the whole coin displayed an overall mirror finish. Coins with a high cameo on both sides receive the deep cameo designation. Those with the ultra-contrast on only one side are designated simply a cameo.

1937 Penny Value

1937 Penny Value Chart
Business StrikeGrade
Uncirculated MS63Uncirculated MS65Uncirculated MS67
1937 1C BN$2.40$4.05
1937 1C RB$2.65$6.75
1937 1C RD$4.05$13.50$150.00
1937-D 1C BN$2.40$4.05
1937-D 1C RB$2.65$6.75
1937-D 1C RD$4.05$12.15$156.00
1937-S 1C BN$2.65$5.40
1937-S 1C RB$4.05$6.75
1937-S 1C RD$5.40$13.50$260.00
Proof StrikeGrade
1937 1C RD$780.00$3,620.00$14,400.00
1937 1C CAM$2,190.00$5,620.00$19,200.00
1937 1C DCAM$3,400.00$8,120.00

Coin values can rise and fall, but the last few years have seen an unprecedented increase in collectible interest. While more collectors entered the numismatic field during COVID lockdowns, those interested in acquiring quality coins for investment purposes skyrocketed.

Some investors put their cash into rare metals, which have risen steadily in the past few years, and others have been attracted to other acquisitions. Whether it’s a house, a car, a baseball card, or a coin, the higher the condition, the higher the price.

While most of us will never own an original Picasso, we can get a scarce coin in terrific condition without breaking the bank! The 1937 penny is the perfect example, even if we buy it in a high mint state as a hedge against inflation – as long as we aren’t buying coins with large quantities available.

If you are looking for circulated 1-cent coins to fill your collection, those from 1937 are easy to find, but each Mint offers specific notes to follow.

1937 No Mint Mark Penny Value

Image credit: PCGS

Because the Philadelphia Mint struck 309,170,000 Lincoln pennies, there are plenty to go around even after many decades. Coins in circulated condition from Good to AU58 cost less than 25 cents, so why settle for low-quality coins?

Jumping to a brown MS60 does involve a substantial increase to $1.50, while an MS65 runs closer to $4.05.

Red-brown and red pennies command a higher price because they are found in much lower quantity, and there is an eye appeal that creates more demand. MS63 to MS66 coins in red-brown run from $2.65 to $13.50. An MS66 coin is in superb condition. A plethora of these coins keeps the price reasonable.

Red 1937 Philadelphia coins in MS3 start at $4.05, but MS66 coins hit as high as $40.50.

MS67 coin values dropped and plateaued around $500 at the start of COVID-19, but prices in the past year – likely as a hedge against inflation and the stagnant stock market – have seen a 50% increase.

An MS68 Red 1937 penny sold for a record auction price of $7,200 in 2019.

1937 Denver Mint Penny Value

Image credit: PCGS

The Denver Mint produced 50,430,000 Lincoln pennies with the “D” mint mark, not an insignificant number. However, compared to six times the number at Philadelphia, quality coins from 1937 exhibit a higher price point but not in circulated condition.

Red-brown MS63 to MS66 for condition collectors average $2.65 to $13.50. However, an MS67 coin may cost over $100 as the market has heated up and coins are scarce.

In red, the 1937 “D” Mint pennies in MS63 to MS67 sell from $4.05 to $156. The MS68 red coin has risen from $10,000 to $11,500 as coin auctions and dealers find it harder to find quality coins to sell, making it easier to demand higher prices. There is growing interest and a small supply of upper-limit coins.

An MS68 red 1937-D sold recently for $10,800, but the auction record is from a similarly graded coin sold for $17,250 in August 2006. Please note that the date is at the height of rising home prices, and the economy is booming. Today, the PCGS Price Guide lists the coin at $11,500.

1937 San Francisco Mint Penny Value

Image credit: PCGS

With the lowest production of all the minted pennies in 1937, San Francisco struck 34,500,000 coins. Brown coins grading good to AU55 cost $0.25 to $0.90 each. MS60 to MS65 coins range from $2.15 to $5.40. An MS67 specimen sold for $179.99 at auction – a very high grade and high price for a brown coin.

However, the coin in question is a great color and bright.

Like the Denver variety, the 1937-S Lincoln penny in red-brown in MS63 to MS66 sells for $4.05 to $13.50. Higher grades seem to be hard to find.

In red, the ’37-S in MS63 to MS66 sells from $5.40 to $35.10, with most coins in those grades seeing an increase in value. The coin in MS67 grade plateaued in the $500 to $600 range in the PCGS Price Guide from 2019 through 2022 but rose in the ensuing 12 months to $1,200, a 100% increase. Once again, it shows there is heavy demand for ultra-conditioned Lincoln pennies.

1937 Penny Errors

While many pennies were minted in 1937, as always, the US Mint did an excellent job of keeping error coins from reaching the market. Inspectors continuously examine coins; if they aren’t nearly perfect, the coins are bent into waffling waves continuously, and if they aren’t nearly perfect, the coins are bent into waves called waffling. Good coins go to market—bad coins are recycled.

When error coins slip through inspection, we get amazing coins that are often scarce. For collectors, 1937 provides several exciting prospects, from die breaks to off-center coins.

Double die errors are not as pronounced as the 1955 double die date, but 1937 double dies are found from Philadelphia and the San Francisco Mint along IN GOD WE TRUST and from Denver along E PLURIBUS UNUM.

 Type of Coin ErrorCirculatedUncirculated
1937 1C Broadstruck$31.00$144.00 to $288.00
1937 1C 20% Off-center Struck$10.00 to $35.00$81.00 to $126.00
1937 1C Double Die Obverse$2.00 to $6.00
1937 1C Repunched Mint Mark$2.00 to $5.00$10.00 to $15.00
1937 1C Clipped Planchet$1.00 to $6.00

Error coin collectors are a subset of overall collectors, and not all coin enthusiasts want error coins. But many do, so prices for the small number of coins that are actual errors can be high, especially for a year like 1937, when more than 400 million Lincoln pennies were struck.

The Wrap for 1937 Penny Value

Collectible coins in mint state condition have seen a substantial, steady increase over the past 18 months. Some 1937 penny values have increased more than 100% during that time.

Valuable art and tangible assets tend to increase as available samples are depleted. Collect 1937 pennies for fun, but buying mint state coins may be best if you are building a high-quality collection or for investment.