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Discovering the Value of the 1961 Lincoln Memorial Penny

Discovering the Value of the 1961 Lincoln Memorial Penny

The 1961 Lincoln Memorial penny has, at first glance, little to attract collectors. The year does offer one rather unusual variety, the D Over Horizontal D mint mark, which might be of interest to error and variety collectors.

Production of the 1961 Lincoln Memorial Penny

In 1961, the Mint produced over two and a half billion pennies. Denver struck over twice as many one cent pieces as the Philadelphia Mint. With so many coins made, many specimens survive, and collectors will have no difficulty in finding excellent choices to fill out a collection.

1961 Proof3,028,2440
Source: Red Book

How Much Are 1961 Lincoln Memorial Pennies Worth?

Ordinary 1961 Lincoln Memorial pennies are so common as to be not worth very much. The circulated grades are common enough as to draw little, if any, attention from collectors. Uncirculated varieties are rare enough to command a slight premium in the market, but any coin dealer or coin show should have several nice examples available in the lower uncirculated grades. The higher uncirculated grades have become somewhat scarce, as speculators probably did not think to put aside uncirculated rolls or bags, as they did with the previous year’s small date variety. As a result, the highest uncirculated grades have become somewhat scarce and are rarely met with in the marketplace.

1961 Penny Value Chart
Business Strike
Uncirculated MS63Uncirculated MS65Uncirculated MS67
1961 1C RD$4.05$6.75$488.00
1961-D 1C RD$1.10$5.40$416.00
Proof Strike
1961 1C RD$16.20$20.25$130.00
1961 1C CAM$24.30$54.00$228.00
1961 1C DCAM$61.00$338.00$4,380.00
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

Values for 1961 Pennies

1961 1C, RD
Image credit: PCGS

With so many pennies struck, the 1961 Lincoln Memorial coin is extremely common, and collectors will find many examples readily available. Although the older bronze pennies are disappearing from circulation gradually, many are still in use, and so a search of pocket change or bank rolls may disclose examples which can be used in blue penny folders,

Finding a nice uncirculated example to place in a display collection will be easy. Take the time to search and find a nice cin with a distinctly sharp strike and full luster. When examining possible purchases, always bear in mind that the differences between the mid-range of uncirculated coins, graded MS-65, and those carrying a higher grade like MS-67 can frequently be seen only under magnification. The price difference will be substantial, and a few careful purchases quickly set collectors who study the aesthetics of their coins apart from the mere investors who are willing to spend a large sum of money for the two extra grading points.

At the low end of the uncirculated scale, a 1961 penny graded MS-60 should cost a bit under $2.75. Mid-range uncirculated coins, graded MS-63, should cost about $4. Very nice uncirculated coins graded at MS-65 should still cost less than $7.  Only at the highest grades above MS-67 do 1961 pennies become scarce and expensive.

Values for 1961-D Pennies

1961-D 1C, RD
Image credit: PCGS

The 1961-D penny is even more common than the 1961 penny from Philadelphia. All the advice for the 1961 penny pertains to the 1961-D penny. There is no reason to settle for a second-rate specimen, when so many examples can be had for a trifle. 

As can be seen from the value chart, prices are lower for most uncirculated grades of 1961-D penny than for circulated grades of 1961 penny. A 1961-D penny graded MS-60 can be purchased for under $1. Better examples, graded at MS-63 to MS-65, can be purchased for a little over $1 and a little over $5 respectively.

Recent sales of 1961-D pennies graded MS-67 tend to run between $100 and $300. In January 2024, two 1961-D pennies, both MS-67 RD sold at Heritage Auction. The first sold for $169. The second sold for $288.

Most likely, fewer 1961-D pennies were put aside by speculators at the time given the large number minted and so really high grade 1961-D specimens are somewhat rarer than 1961 examples.

Values for 1961 Proof Pennies

1961 1C, DCAM (Proof)
Image credit: PCGS

Many proof pennies survive. However, the Mint was not focused on striking cameo or deep cameo finishes and so these may be somewhat rare.

A lower quality 1961 proof penny, graded PR-63, can easily be purchased for under $0.50 from coin dealers or at coin shows. Somewhat nicer, mid-range grades, around PR-65, will cost around three times that, or about $1.50.  At the higher end, a coin graded at PR-67, should cost under $20. Even an outstanding proof penny, graded at PR-68, can still be found at auction for $20. Only at the very highest grades, like PR-69, do 1961 proof pennies become scarce, and sell for prices over $100. The difference between such a coin, and a penny graded at PR-67, should be detectable only with magnification, and so careful examination of pennies offered for sale can yield good results.

The result is similar with 1961 cameo and deep cameo pennies, though, by definition, lower quality specimens don’t exist. A 1961 cameo proof penny, graded PR-65, should cost $2.65. A better example, graded PR-67, should cost about $25. Even a 1961 cameo proof penny graded PR-68 sells at auction for between $50 and $60.

Deep cameo coins graded PR-67 can be purchased for $61. The next step-up is a costly one, however. A 1961 deep cameo penny, graded PR-68, cost $504 at auction in August 2021. A similar coin with a similar grade, sold three years earlier, for $360.

1961 Lincoln Memorial Penny Errors and Varieties

Value of the 1961-D Over Horizontal D Lincoln Penny Variety

1961-D Over Horizontal D FS-01-1961D-501
Image credit: Cherrypickers’ Guide

The most important 1961 Lincoln Memorial penny variety is the 1961-D repunched mint mark, sometimes referred to as the “D Over Horizontal D” variety. This variety is described by Fivaz and Stanton in their catalog as FS-01-1961D-501.

The initial, or secondary, mint mark was so badly stamped as to be nearly horizontal, with the bottom of the “D” at nearly a 90-degree angle to its correct location. The primary mint mark is stamped correctly over the first mark, which can be seen through the interior loop of the “D”.

This is a well-known and popular variation, and collectors remain eager to possess one. Fortunately, it seems that hundreds of thousands were struck. This mintage created enough existing specimens to meet demand, and this serves to keep the price down somewhat.

Thus, a very nice 1961-D/D penny of this type, graded MS-65 RD, was purchased at auction for $71 in November 2023. A slightly lower rated coin, graded MS-63 RD, sold for $51 the previous May. The price can be somewhat variable, depending upon the quality of the specimen and the bidders at the auction. In April 2023, another 1961 D/D penny graded MS-65 RD sold for $114.

Even circulated specimens of this variety can find value in the marketplace, unlike ordinary examples of 1961-D pennies, which gain little, if any, interest from collectors, and which have no markup above face value. Thus, a 1961 D/D penny graded AU-55 sold at auction for $45 in August 2022.

Value of 1961 Lincoln Penny Errors

Many collectors specialize in coin errors, which have a lively market of their own. With over two billion pennies struck in 1961, even a very good percentage of quality control led to a wide array of mistakes to keep error specialists busy.

1961-D Cent Struck on a 1960-D Small Date Cent
Image credit: Heritage Auctions

One highly unusual error, carried over from the previous year, was a 1961-D penny struck over a previously struck 1960 “small date” penny. The previous year, 1960, saw the Mint experimenting with a new date pattern. The new “small date” variety was struck for only a few months, before being replaced with a large date variety. In this case, a 1961 penny was double struck over one of the rarer 1960 small date coins. The auction notes point out that such overstruck coins are rare, as a finished coin is larger than a coin planchet, and so the finished coin should not fit within the machinery. This rarity probably accounts for why the 1961 penny, graded AU-58, sold for $4,600.

1961 1C Lincoln Cent Struck on 10C Planchet
Image credit: Heritage Auctions

A much more common mistake is the striking of a penny on a silver dime planchet. Over the last several years, Heritage Auctions has offered at least five specimens of this error, so one can begin to speak of a market range for such coins. Most recently, in August 2020, Heritage offered a 1961-D penny, graded MS-62, struck on a dime planchet, which sold for $1,560. A similar coin, graded MS-63, sold for slightly more than $1,700 in 2015. At the lower end of the price range, in 2013, two pennies on dime planchets, one, a 1961-D coin graded at MS-60, and the other a 1961 penny graded at MS-61, sold for around $1,100 apiece. At the high end f the spectrum, and possibly an outlier, a 1961-D penny struck on a dime planchet and graded AU-58 sold for $1,840 in 2011. One can begin to tentatively appraise the value of this particular error as something between $1,100 and $1,500, which is significantly higher than the ordinary price of 1961 or 1961-D Lincoln pennies of even the highest grades.

A number of off-center strikes for 1961 pennies have also been sold in recent years. The value range of these sales seems to run in the range of $100 to $200, with a few outliers below the low end.

Thus, in 2022, a 1961-D penny, struck 55% off-center and graded MS-62 RB sold at auction for $134 in January 2022. At the same auction, a similar coin, double struck, with the second strike 90% off center, sold for $144. In 2021, a 1961-D penny, struck 90% off center, showing only the date and a tiny bit of the bust of President Lincoln, sold for $204. At the low end of the range, in 2022, a 1961-D Lincoln penny, graded MS-63 RD and struck 75% off center, sold for $63 at Heritage Auctions.

Technical Specifications of the 1961 Lincoln Memorial Penny

The year 1961 was the third year of the new Lincoln Memorial penny. The reverse, designed by Assistant Engraver of the Mint Frank Gasparro, featured the Lincoln Memorial. The obverse, designed by Victor D. Brenner in 1909, featured a portrait bust of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Like its predecessor, the wheat penny, the Lincoln Memorial penny has a weight of 3.11 g and a diameter of 19 mm. In 1961, the penny, often thought of as a copper coin, still consisted of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc, thus making it a bronze coin.


If the objective is simply to find a nice uncirculated specimen to fill out a collection, the only question most collectors will face is which coin to choose. A very nice uncirculated coin, graded MS-65, can easily be had for under $1. Such a coin should have no visible defects, and can be distinguished from a higher graded uncirculated coin costing thirty or fifty times as much only under magnification. By waiting patiently and picking carefully, a sophisticated collector with a good eye for quality can have a beautiful coin with outstanding eye appeal, for a fraction of the cost.

A collector seeking to gather as many varieties of the Lincoln penny as possible faces a greater challenge, and one which will add substantially to the cost of building the collection. Still, the 1961 D over D variety remains affordable and accessible across a decent range of grades.