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Discovering the Value of the 1940 Lincoln Wheat Penny

Discovering the Value of the 1940 Lincoln Wheat Penny

The 1940 Lincoln wheat penny is a very typical example of an American coin struck in the middle of the 20th century. It was minted in enormous numbers, and enormous numbers survive today. It is readily available for collectors, especially in circulated condition and in the lowest grades of “mint-state” or uncirculated condition. The price of any given 1940 wheat penny is usually quite low, and beginning collectors will have no problem finding several nice choices to fill up any gaps in their penny book, or in their specimen collection. Only at the very highest grades of mint-state and bright luster does the 1940 Lincoln wheat penny become scarce enough to prove a challenge for advanced collectors with greater budgets.

Production of the 1940 Lincoln Wheat Penny

All three U.S. Mints, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco, produced wheat pennies in 1940, and in large numbers. As we can see from the chart below, Philadelphia, which uses no mint mark, produced far and away the most pennies, and coined over half a billion of them. San Francisco, using mint mark “S.” struck about a fifth as many. Denver, using mint mark “D,” struck the fewest. Philadelphia also minted over 15,000 proof coins.

DatePhiladelphiaDenverSan Francisco
1940 Proof15,87200
Source: Red Book

Values for the 1940 Lincoln Wheat Penny

1940 Penny Value Chart
Business StrikeGrade
Uncirculated MS63Uncirculated MS64Uncirculated MS65
1940 1C BN$2.40$2.65$4.05
1940 1C RB$2.65$4.05$5.40
1940 1C RD$3.38$4.05$13.50
1940-D 1C BN$2.40$2.65$4.05
1940-D 1C RB$2.65$4.05$5.40
1940-D 1C RD$4.05$5.40$10.80
1940-S 1C BN$2.40$2.65$4.05
1940-S 1C RB$2.65$4.05$5.40
1940-S 1C RD$4.05$5.40$10.80
Proof StrikeGrade
1940 1C BN$54.00$88.00$162.00
1940 1C RB$47.25$101.00$195.00
1940 1C RD$115.00$130.00$325.00
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

Coin values are determined in large measure by the grade, or quality of preservation, of a coin. Circulated coins, those used in commerce, are less valuable than uncirculated ones, which have never been used, but have instead been preserved. While coin grading is a detailed subject, a collector should definitely learn enough to be able to evaluate coins which are presented for sale or purchase at auction or to dealers. There are many resources available to help collectors begin to understand the basic elements of grading Lincoln wheat pennies.

Values for Circulated Grades of the 1940 Lincoln Penny

Image credit: PCGS

Circulated 1940 wheat pennies are very inexpensive, and can be purchased quite cheaply at coin shows or from coin dealers. This is true across the board, whether the penny in question comes from the Philadelphia, Denver or San Francisco Mint. Lincoln wheat pennies from the Philadelphia Mint can be purchased for prices ranging from $0.18, for coins at the grade of G-4 to $0.21 for coins graded AU-55. Coins from either the Denver or San Francisco Mint are only slightly more expensive, and can be purchased for about $0.22 for pennies graded G-4 to about $0.60 for coins graded AU-55. These prices hold true for both mints.

Values for Uncirculated Grades of the 1940 Lincoln Penny

Image credit: PCGS

Uncirculated bronze coins like the Lincoln wheat penny are evaluated not only by their grade, but by their luster. A coin retaining almost all its original shine is described as “red.” A penny which has oxidized and lost its original shine is described as “brown.” A penny which is intermediate between those two states, is described as “red-brown.”

Wheat pennies minted in 1940 are sufficiently common that the lowest grades of uncirculated or mint-state coins can be purchased for only a few dollars. Lincoln wheat pennies from 1940, graded MS-63, can be routinely purchased for between $2.00 and $4.00. Brown or red-brown 1940 pennies, graded MS-65 are scarcely more expensive, and can be purchased for a little over $5.00. Red specimens may run as high as $11.00.

Only the very finest specimens command more. In November 2023, a 1940-D wheat penny, graded MS-68, sold for $4,800. The auction notes state that this specimen was one of seven such coins known to exist at that grade, and no higher graded coin, at MS-69 or MS-70, has yet been found. In May 2023, a 1940 wheat penny, also graded MS-68, sold for $3,360.00. The catalog for this coin said that only ten such coins were known to exist at the grade, with none known to be of a higher grade.

Slightly less attractive coins, graded at the higher end of MS-67, sometimes denoted as MS-67+, sell for lower prices. In July 2023, one such coin, a 1940 wheat penny, graded MS-67+ sold for $504. Another, a 1940-S wheat penny graded MS-67+, sold for $216.00 in November 2023.

Coins at the MS-67 grade sell for lower prices yet. A 1940-S wheat penny, graded MS-67, sold for $91.00 on December 12, 2023.  A 1940 wheat penny graded MS-67 sold for $114 at auction in October 2023 at Heritage Auction.

Higher graded Denver wheat pennies can sell for somewhat more. A 1940-D MS-67 penny, described as red-brown, sold for $144.00 at auction on January 24, 2023.

Were Any 1940 Proof Lincoln Wheat Pennies Produced?

Image credit: PCGS

The Philadelphia Mint produced nearly 16,000 proof wheat pennies in 1940. Proof coins, intended for collectors and the speculative or artistic market, are made using specially polished dies and more careful manufacturing techniques. Because of this process, all proof coins initially emerge from the mint with an unusual “mirror-like” finish. The dies used deteriorate rapidly from hard striking in coin presses.A few proof coins, struck early in the life-cycle of each coin die, give a special appearance to the raised portions of the coins struck, known as a “cameo” finish. Proof coins with a cameo finish are more sought after than proof coins with an ordinary finish. Also, the proof coin can oxidize when exposed to air, just as any other coin. Those coins which have lost their luster, or have been circulated, are known as “impaired proofs,” and command a much lower price in the marketplace.

A 1940 Lincoln proof penny with a nice cameo finish can be expected to sell for a significant price at auction. As an example, a 1940 Lincoln proof, graded PR-65 cameo, sold for $2,160.00 at Heritage Auctions in August 2021. In contrast, a 1940 wheat penny proof, also graded PR-65, but lacking the cameo finish, sold for only $67.00 in October 2023. A similar coin sold for slightly more, $94.00, in July 2023. As is usually the case, slight improvements in grade can lead to significant steps up in value for proof coins. In November 2023, a 1940 Lincoln proof wheat penny, graded PR-66, sold for $240.00, a significant advance on the previous examples. In May 2023, a 1940 proof penny, graded PR-67, sold for $1,680. The informational material provided on the Heritage Auction site seemed to indicate that there were only a handful of similar coins, perhaps under 30, known to exist.

Error Values for the 1940 Lincoln Wheat Penny

The U.S. Mint exerts rigorous quality control, and tries to prevent defectively struck coins from reaching circulation. Errors can be of two different types. Mistakes can creep into the dies used for striking coins during the manufacturing process. Such accidents affect any coins struck using those dies. There are no such known mistakes for the 1940 Lincoln wheat penny. Individually, errors can arise when a coin planchet, or blank, is fed into a coin press incorrectly, or when some other mishap occurs during the minting process. These coins can sometimes reach circulation, and are avidly sought by collectors. Such defective coins are often considerably more valuable than ordinary ones of the same grade.

A split planchet coin defect occurs when inferior metal is used in a coin planchet. Internal defects in a lower quality planchet can lead to part of the coin blank breaking off. The coin that emerges from the press often has a much weaker image than a normal coin, as there isn’t enough material for the coin die to stamp out properly. In January 2023, a 1940 Lincoln penny on just such a split planchet, graded AU-50, sold for $79.00 at Heritage Auctions. Such a coin, if not defective, would have sold for about $0.20.

A coin clip occurs when the planchet is being cut from a strip of metal. If the strip is misfed into the blanking machine, it can be cut in an irregular way. The planchet that results is smaller than a regular planchet, sometimes missing a large part of the metal needed. Any coin that results will be oddly shaped as well. In October 2022, a 1940-S Lincoln penny, graded XF-45, incompletely clipped, sold for $84.00. An ordinary coin of that grade should sell for about $0.40.

Off-Center Strikes and Broadstrikes of 1940 Lincoln Wheat Pennies

Image credit: Heritage Auctions

A very common form of error in the coin minting process is the off-center strike or the broadstrike. Both of these errors arise when a planchet enters the coin press improperly. If the machine is functioning correctly, the coin blank should lay flat against the center of the lower “anvil” die, where it will be held in place by a retaining collar. The moving “hammer” die will then strike the coin correctly, and make a well-centered image.

If the coin blank doesn’t fall exactly to the center of the anvil die, and instead goes on one side or the other, the hammer die can only strike a partial image, leaving an oblong-shaped coin. The “off-center” coin that results is avidly gathered up by error collectors, who tend to quickly remove them from circulation. Collectors prefer off-center coins in which the date and mint mark both clearly show.

A broadstruck coin fell properly on the center of the anvil die, but the retaining collar did not then function to hold it in place. Instead, the hammer die struck, and the coin flowed out into a larger area than usual.

Recent sales of off-center and broadstruck 1940 Lincoln wheat pennies show the eagerness with which collectors will bid up prices.  In July 2021, a 1940 wheat penny, described as “broadstruck with a curved clip,” sold for $324 at Heritage Auctions. In January 2022, two off-center Lincoln wheat pennies were sold at auction. The first, a 1940 wheat penny struck struck 20% off center and graded MS-62 BN, sold for $80. The second, a 1940-S wheat penny, struck 25% off center and graded AU-53, sold for $81.00.  Had the coins been correctly manufactured, they would have sold for $2.40 and $0.60 respectively.

Technical Specifications of the 1940 Lincoln Penny

Although we tend to refer to the U.S. one cent piece as copper, the pure metal is too soft to use for coinage and wears out too quickly. Instead, a bronze alloy of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc was used in 1940 for penny production. The Lincoln wheat penny of 1940 weighs 3.11 grams, and has a diameter of 19 millimeters.

By 1940, the Lincoln wheat penny design was already 31 years old. It first appeared in 1909, as part of a larger plan to redesign American coinage in conformity with the changing artistic taste of the era. The design was created by Victor D. Brenner, a sculptor and medallion engraver, who was commissioned by the Mint after sculpting a bust of then-President Theodore Roosevelt. The design proved highly popular with the American public and the portrait of President Lincoln has been used, with a few exceptions in the early 2000s, ever since, making it the longest running American coin design. The reverse design, of a pair of wheat stalks surrounding the denomination, of one cent, continued in use for about fifty years, which is also a very long run for an American coin design.


The 1940 Lincoln wheat penny is an ordinary coin for the era. It was minted in large numbers, and survives. It is not particularly valuable, except at the very highest levels of artistic or museum-grade collecting which ordinary collectors will rarely, if ever, see in the market. It is inexpensive, and available in quantity at any desired grade of quality.