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Discovering the Value of the 1956 Lincoln Wheat Penny

Discovering the Value of the 1956 Lincoln Wheat Penny

The 1956 wheat penny was produced in enormous numbers. It has come down to the current time in a remarkably good state of preservation, compared to earlier years of the series. Individual specimens are common, and not especially valuable, especially in the lower grades. Even the higher levels of uncirculated, or mint-state coins, can be found at remarkably reasonable prices. Beginning collectors will easily find their choice of many nice examples to pick from. At the same time, there are a couple of die variations which may prove challenging to collectors hoping to assemble a complete set, not only of wheat pennies, but of die variations.,

Production of the 1956 Wheat Penny

In 1956, coin production in the United States centered on two mints, Denver and Philadelphia. Between them, the two mints turned out over one-and-a-half billion coins for circulation, as well as over 600,000 proof sets for collectors. Coin collecting was beginning to grow in popularity, and many collectors began to organize and save collections in a systematic way, using a variety of products.

DatePhiladelphiaDenverSan Francisco
1956 Proof669,38400
Source: Red Book

How Much Are 1956 Wheat Pennies Worth?

The combination of a huge mintage, and a group of collecting hobbyists able and equipped to preserve coins using new, chemically neutral, products, meant that a large number of 1956 wheat pennies survive, and come down to the present day in a condition yielding a number of high-graded specimens. Circulated 1956 wheat pennies from both Philadelphia and Denver are very inexpensive, while uncirculated examples from both mints are also common through all grades up to MS-65 or MS-66

1956 Penny Value Chart
Business Strike
Uncirculated MS63Uncirculated MS65Uncirculated MS67
1956 1C BN$0.40$2.15$47.25
1956 1C RB$0.55$4.05$61.00
1956 1C RD$0.80$16.20$780.00
1956-D 1C BN$0.40$2.15$47.25
1956-D 1C RB$0.55$4.05$61.00
1956-D 1C RD$0.80$10.80$260.00
Proof Strike
1956 1C RD$4.05$40.50$325.00
1956 1C CAM$20.25$122.00$650.00
1956 1C DCAM$260.00$780.00
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

Values for 1956 Wheat Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

Ordinary, circulated 1956 wheat pennies from the Philadelphia Mint are not especially valuable. Good, or Fine specimens, at the lower end of the grading scale, can be found at coin shows or dealers for $0.18 or $0.19. Higher graded coins, rated at Extremely Fine, or About Uncirculated, can be purchased for only a penny or two more, for under $0.25.

Uncirculated coins, whether brown, red-brown or red, are also readily available in the lower grades. Such coins sell for remarkably low prices. A 1956 wheat penny, graded MS-63 BN, should sell for about $0.40. A red-brown specimen of the same grade will cost only slightly more, at $0.55. A very nice red specimen will cost $0.80.  In the middle ranges, of MS-65, a brown coin will cost about $2.15, a red-brown coin will sell for a bit over $4, and a red coin will sell for a bit over $16.

Only in the higher grades, of MS-67 and above, do 1956 wheat pennies begin to take on any significant value. High grade red gems, well-struck and showing sharp detail can be to find, and command high prices as a result. David Bowers attributes this to poor quality control and craftsmanship at the Mint at the time.

A 1956 wheat penny, graded MS-67 BN may cost nearly $50. A red brown specimen should sell for around $60. At the very top of the scale, a 1956 wheat penny, graded MS-67+ RD sold for $57,600 in December 2022 at Heritage Auctions. Only two other 1956 wheat pennies hold a similar grade, and only a handful are regarded as gem quality. Even so, the price may be something of an outlier. Only a year before, in June 2021, a 1956 wheat penny holding a similar grade fetched $13,200 at auction. The sharp rise in price between the two is inexplicable.

Values for 1956-D Wheat Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

Even though the Denver Mint struck about three times as many wheat pennies as the Philadelphia Mint in 1956, prices remain remarkably similar for both kinds of coin. Circulated 1956-D wheat pennies can be purchased for under $0.25 at coin dealers or coin shows.

Many coins were well-struck and have sharp details, and finding a particularly nice example, at any desired grade, should not pose a challenge. Prices for uncirculated grades of the 1956-D wheat penny are similar to those of coins from the Philadelphia mint, ranging from $0.40 up to $10.80 for an uncirculated 1956-D wheat penny graded at MS-65 RD

At the highest grades, of MS-67 RD and higher, 1956-D wheat pennies become scarce, and sell for high prices at auction. In December 2022, a wheat penny graded MS-67+ RD sold at Heritage Auction for $18,000. The auction note states that the coin is one of two holding the highest certified grade for 1956-D wheat pennies. It had no carbon flecks or any other disfiguring marks which might have led to a downgrade. Despite the lovely appearance of that particular wheat penny, its price may also be something of an outlier. In January 2019, a 1956-D wheat penny, graded MS-67+ sold for $1,560 at Heritage Auctions.

Were Any 1956-S Pennies Minted?

Although the San Francisco Mint moved to a new building in 1937, less than 20 years before, the production equipment and techniques used in the facility were considered obsolete. In 1955, the Treasury suspended production at the San Francisco Mint with no intention of reopening the facility. Production would remain on hiatus for 13 years until the building was repurposed to strike proof coins. Occasional circulating coin strikes were also undertaken between 1968 and 1974.

In 1956, no coins were struck in San Francisco, and there are no genuine 1956-S wheat pennies.

Values for 1956 Proof Wheat Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

In 1956, the U.S. Mint produced nearly 670,000 proof sets for sale to the public. This was one of the higher mintage numbers for proof coins. By the 1950s, individual proof coins were no longer offered for sale. Instead, a package consisting of one of each of the proof coins struck was sold to the public for $2.10.

Examples can be readily found in a variety of grades and conditions up to PR-67. Ordinary proof specimens range in cost from $1.50 for coins graded at PR-60 up to $4.05 for coins graded PR-65.

At grades above PR-65, coins become somewhat scarce. A proof wheat penny graded PR-67 can sell for more than $40.

Additionally, 1956 cameo or deep cameo wheat penny proofs can command higher prices than ordinary proof coins. In an auction in January 2019, a deep cameo proof wheat penny, graded PR-68 sold for $4,080. Just a year before, in January 2018, a similar coin sold for $3,120 at Heritage Auctions. The auction notes indicated that only 15 coins existed at that grade. In 2017, a cameo proof wheat penny, graded PR-68. sold for $564.

In addition to the standard proof wheat penny, a known doubled die reverse variety exists, referred to by its Fivaz-Stanton number as FS-801. The U.S. Mint used a process in which a working die was struck numerous times by the master die, or hub. Ideally these strikes would fall in precisely the same place each time. If the dies were misaligned, the result would be a faint double image on the die, which would carry over to every coin made using that die. Ordinarily, proof coin dies were very carefully made, and so varieties in proof dies are somewhat less common.

Most recently, in November 2023, Heritage Auctions sold a 1956 double die reverse proof wheat penny, for $432. The coin, graded at PR-67 RD, would probably have been worth about $40 if struck with one of the ordinary dies.

How Much Are 1956 Wheat Penny Errors and Varieties Worth?

Values for 1956 D/D Wheat Penny Repunched Mint Marks

1956-D 1C Repunched Mintmark FS-501
Image credit: Heritage Auctions

Two varieties of repunched mint marks exist for 1956-D wheat pennies. Until recently, the U.S. Mint added the date and the mint mark to each die by hand in a separate step of the manufacturing process. The mint mark was added by striking the die with a punch. Ideally, the engraver responsible for the step would strike the die in the identical place each time. If the punch moved, then a double image would arise, which would show up in each coin made using that die.

The variety of repunched mint mark known as 1956-D FS-501 has two very clear images of the letter D. The secondary mark appears to the left, or “west” and slightly lower than the main mint mark. The main mint mark also appears to be slightly rotated. 

This is a very popular variety among collectors, and can fetch a substantial price at auction. In August 2021, a 1956 D/D repunched mint mark wheat penny, graded MS-66 RD of this variety sold for $74 at Heritage Auctions. In 2022, a similar coin, of the same variety, but graded only AU-50, sold for $124. In April 2023, a 1956 D/D repunched mint mark wheat penny, graded MS-67, of this variety, sold for $1,050.

A second repunched mint mark variety can be found in the 1956-D wheat penny mintage. It has th Fivaz-Stanton catalog number of FS-508, but is sometimes known as the “D Above Shallow D” variety. Pennies of this type show a single very clear “D” mint mark. The faint outline or remains of a second complete mintmark “south” or below the main mint mark can be seen as well.

This second variety is well-known and popular among specialized collectors. Many circulated specimens have lost all traces of the second mint mark because of its faint nature.

In April 2022, a 1956D/D wheat penny, variety FS-508, graded MS-65 RD, sold for $174 at Heritage Auctions.  In 2017, a similar coin with a similar grade, sold for $74. The major grading service PCGS has certified fewer than 100 uncirculated examples of this variety, so the supply probably isn’t large, even though the price seems to be affordable on those occasions when specimens do come to market.

Values for 1956 D/D Wheat Penny Errors

In addition to a number of die varieties, many mis-struck 1956 wheat pennies reached circulation. Other errors also surfaced from time to time, escaped the Mint quality control process, and reached the hands of collectors.

In July 2023, a 1956-D wheat penny, struck 55% off-center, sold for $115 at Heritage Auctions. The coin, graded MS-63 BN, would have sold for less than $0;50 had it been correctly struck. In March 2022, a 1956 wheat penny, which had been graded at MS-60, but improperly cleaned, and which was struck 30% off center, sold for $53. In January 2022, a 1956 penny, graded MS-60, but scratched, and struck 40% off center, sold for $67 at auction. Both of these coins would have fetched about $0.30 if they were ordinary coins.

An unusual penny error, a 1956-D wheat penny struck on a silver dime planchet, sold for $1,200 at Heritage Auctions in May 2022. One wonders whether the coin was a deliberate error by mint employees, or a simple accident.

Technical Specifications of the 1956 Wheat Penny

The 1956 wheat penny is a bronze coin, made of 95% copper, and 5% tin and zinc. It has a weight of 3.11 grams, and a diameter of 19 millimeters.

The design of the Lincoln wheat penny first appeared in 1909, to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. It was introduced as part of a more general redesign of American coinage undertaken at the behest of then-President Theodore Roosevelt. The designer of the Lincoln penny, Victor D. Brenner, was selected in part because he had prepared a bust of President Roosevelt.

The design was the first circulating American coin to feature the portrait of a historic, rather than an allegorical figure. The design proved immensely popular. Although the obverse would continue, soon after 1956 the reverse would be transformed, from a pair of stylized wheat stalks, to a frontal view of the Lincoln Memorial. Despite this change, the Lincoln penny remains one of the most enduring coin designs in world history, and the longest running coin design in  American history, having continued more or less unchanged from 1909 to the present day, excepting only three years in the early 2000s, when various designs were featured to commemorate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth.


The ordinary run of 1956 or 1956-D wheat pennies is not very valuable, except at the very highest grades. Collectors will find many fine specimens for their purposes, whether to display or simply to fill up a space in a penny folder. Some of the finest specimens of wheat pennies in that year can command significant sums, of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars at auction. Also, several varieties exist which can challenge advanced collectors. Patience and diligence will be rewarded in those few cases.