Skip to Content

1966 Lincoln Penny Grading, Errors, and Values

1966 Lincoln Penny Grading, Errors, and Values

The Treasury Department and US Mint produced 1966 Lincoln pennies with some little-known secrets leading to precious coins. Some have been sold for thousands of dollars, and coin collectors consider the best coins highly collectible.

If you didn’t know pennies from the ‘50s and ‘60s could be valuable, think again! When I was younger, I found a 1955 Lincoln penny that looked different from today’s coin. It had stalks of wheat on the back instead of the Lincoln Memorial or today’s Union Shield, but it was hard to view because it was blurry.

My mother said it was a double-die coin and might be worth big bucks. She was right and wrong. The 1955 double die is very collectible. My Die deterioration variety wasn’t an actual double die and was colloquially known as a Poor Man’s double die.

I still have the coin, but it’s only worth the price of a decent steak dinner. Still, it spurred me on to collect coins, some of which I’ve found in rolls of coins are much more valuable. And the 1966 penny can be one of those coins. You may be surprised by the 1966 penny value noted below for mint coins, favorably colored coins, and 1966 penny error coins.

All About the 1966 Penny’s Makeup

The 1966 US 1-cent piece is commonly known as a Lincoln penny. Today, pennies are made of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper, almost a 100 percent flip from 1966:

Composition: 95% copper, 5% zinc

Edge: Smooth – Plain

Coin Weight: 3.11 grams

Diameter: 19.00 mm

Thickness: 1.52 mm

US Mint Facilities: Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco

Total Mintage: 2,188,147,783

Obverse designer: Victor D. Brenner

Reverse designer: Frank Gasparro

1966 US Coin Composition Changes

The silver content was the most significant change to US coins in the 1960s. As industry and coin use of silver increased worldwide, consumption nearly doubled from 1958 to 1964, forcing a rise in silver prices as mining couldn’t keep up with demand.

Coin collectors and speculators tended to hoard US coins for their silver content and numismatic value, so Congress enacted the Coin Act of 1965 to eliminate the use of silver in dimes and quarters and reduce the content in half dollars from 90% to 40%.

Although the US Mint had always been a proponent of coin collecting and printed beautiful “Proof Sets” and “Mint Sets” for numismatists, part of the Coin Act of 1965 eliminated mint marks from the nation’s three remaining mints – “S” for San Francisco, “D” for Denver, and a blank that signified Denver.

While quietly blaming collectors for a coin shortage, the US Department of Treasury also restricted the prior custom of producing proof and mint sets. It designated a “Special Mint Set” with a satiny finish – with no mint marks. Stranger still, the San Francisco Mint was chosen to produce all the sets even though the Philadelphia Mint was considerably larger and had produced nearly all-proof coinage in the past.

As the coin shortage took hold, all three US Mints continued striking coins, with many noted as 1965 not finishing production until 1966. And while mint marks for standard-issue coins weren’t used, the mints kept a scrupulous count (obviously). The mints pumped out pennies at break-neck speed to meet demand and discourage collecting by significantly increasing the supply.

Annually, the San Francisco location minted fewer coins than Philadelphia and Denver. Of the pennies produced in 1966, the Denver mint struck 991 million, Philadelphia struck 811 million, and San Francisco struck 383 million.

Historical Values of 1966 Lincoln Pennies

Due to the glut of new coins hitting the banks from coast to coast, the 1966 pennies were initially worth only their par value of one cent. The poor Lincolns would have had almost no intrinsic value even if the coins had mint marks.

Fortunately, eagle-eyed numismatists began to find little things that would turn some of the most common coins into tiny fortunes! And, because of the original glut of coins, many stayed in nearly pristine condition, adding to their value over time.

Coins in beautiful near-mint condition were often found in the late ‘60s and sold for no more than a nickel in local coin shops.

However, coin values had a new twist in 1965, 1966, and 1967. With the loss of the dime, quarter, and half-dollar’s intrinsic value due to the change from primarily silver coinage, the five coins in the Special Mint set, although satiny and lovely to view, held only a face value of 91 cents and unlike coins from earlier years that collectors and speculators were hoarding, could not be sold shortly at a profit.

The San Francisco Mint issued 2,261,583 sets at an issue price of $4. And while hobbyists were disgruntled by the loss of silver-content coins and the change from Proof Sets and Mint Sets, the Special Mint Sets did sell briskly.

The beauty and high quality remain today, and in some cases, the coins have been removed from their original packaging, especially when a single coin was of considerably higher value than those in the rest of the set.

However, coin values depend on scarcity to grow in value. Die-strike errors are exceedingly rare compared to the billions of coins minted, so they appreciate in any condition. Still, all coins are scarce in superior condition, so those are always good to collect in anticipation of future value.

1966 Penny Value

The 1966 Penny Value has slowly risen over the years, and at today’s copper prices, individual coins are worth twice their face value.

1966 Penny Value Chart
Uncirculated MS-63Uncirculated MS-65Uncirculated MS-67
1966 1C, BN$0.75$2.50
1966 1C, RB$5.00$10.00$50.00
1966 1C, RD$7.50$15.00$375.00
1966 1C SMS, RD$6.00$10.00$25.00
1966 1C SMS, CAM$85.00$160.00$960.00
1966 1C SMS, DCAM$160.00$1,000.00

Grading and coin prices can be very confusing. Although the prices above show retail averages, auction groups often push coins to new highs, especially for ultra-high conditions.

For instance, the Heritage Auctions lot number 227 for a 1966 1C SMS SP69 Red PCGS coin sold for $863 at the 2001 October Long Beach Bullet Sale. Error coins have sold for even more.

Keep reading for eye-opening discussions about the Lincoln coin’s history, plus coin grading and grading services.

Changes to the Lincoln Penny since 1909

The Lincoln penny came into use as the official US Mint issued 1-cent coin in 1909 to mark the 100th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. However, it was immediately met with confusion and speculation after replacing the Indian head penny.

The Lincoln penny was the first standard-issue US coin to depict an actual person and had been suggested by outgoing President Teddy Roosevelt, who also chose Victor David Brenner as the artist. Brenner was responsible for the obverse of the coin, showing an adaptation of a plaque he crafted years earlier, and the obverse showed two stalks of wheat.

Those wheat stalks represented the nation’s prosperity; the coins were often called wheat pennies. However, incoming President William Howard Taft wanted the coin’s obverse to have the words “In God We Trust,” so the coin’s release date was delayed until August 2, 1909. It was an immediate success, and collectors lined up at banks to get rolls of the new penny. Some of those who did were rewarded for another change coming to the coin.

The first issue of the penny included the artist’s initials, VDB, which Secretary of the Treasury Franklin MacVeagh was unhappy with. It was speculated the coins would be removed from public use, and the 1909 Lincoln pennies rose in value to 25 cents each for a month.

Millions of pennies were produced with VDB at the base of the reverse, but the mint retooled the dies, removed Brenner’s initials, and struck more coins. However, pennies with an “S” mint mark from the San Francisco Mint with the original VDB were only on 484,000 coins, and an MS67 coin was sold at auction for over $50,000 in 2019.

More Lincoln Penny Changes

Copper was a critical need during the Second World War, so Lincoln pennies issued in 1943 were made of zinc-coated steel, giving them a silvery color. The coin was confusing since the color initially resembled silver, which was used in nickels and dimes at the time. But the coins haven’t worn well over the years, and many are now mottled gray.

In 1959, the US Mint changed the Lincoln penny’s reverse from those iconic stalks of wheat to a view of the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln is seen in the middle of the memorial on excellent-condition coins. It marks the only time a person appears on the front and back of a US coin.

The change in 1959 was done to commemorate the 150th birthday of President Lincoln. A similar change was made in 2009 for Lincoln Bicentennial cents, which come in four different reverses. 2010, the current reverse was adopted with a 13-stripe shield representing “the states joined in one compact union to support the Federal government.”

Another change occurred in 2017 when the Philadelphia Mint began striking pennies with the “P” mint mark to commemorate the Mint’s 225th anniversary.

Two years later, the West Point Mint in New York began striking cents with the “W” mint mark for uncirculated, proof, and reverse proof sets.

Grading Lincoln Pennies

Grading coins has been the best way to value coins of similar production, with the best grades demanding the highest prices.

The Sheldon coin grading scale runs from 1 to 70, beginning with damaged or cull coins, running through fair, reasonable, fine, and ending in MS-70 for a perfect uncirculated mint state coin.

The color of Lincoln pennies may be subject to opinion. Still, they are made from copper, so older coins may hold their original luster, but gem coins often have a brilliant reddish hue and can grade at MS-60 and higher.

A slightly lower-graded coin may be red-brown and show some wear. These can be valuable in low circulation but are often quite common in high circulation coins. Brown coins have taken on the most wear and can grade anywhere from 1 to 50.

Grading Services

Several professional companies authenticate and “slab” or package individual coins to protect them from damage. Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) graded a 1966 1C MS67 Red, sold at auction in 2012 for $6463.

Coins sold at auction in the last decade show vast price differences for similar coins in MS-67 from $353 to $1563.

1966 Penny Values in Error Coins

Image credit: Heritage Auctions

Error coins exhibit a variety of issues and fetch low and high prices. The mint tries hard to produce nearly flawless coins but prints as many as 100 coins per minute. An occasional error happens as the planchets are produced and stamped into coins.

In the most famous case, the 1955 double die error became a national sensation. A less dramatic double die is seen on both sides of the 1966 penny.

1966 Penny Value Errors Chart
Type of Coin ErrorLower GradeMS60+Higher Grade
1966 Doubled Die Obverse$25$250$550
1966 Double Die Reverse$20$50$450
1966 Die Break$5$20$350
1966 Struck on Clad Dime Planchet$276$299$475
1966 50% Off Center Strike$15$30$100
1966 Die Breaks and Clipped Planchets$5$15$75

The Wrap on 1966 Penny Value

The three US Mints produced 1966 Lincoln pennies at a breakneck pace to keep the economy flooded with coins. Because so many pennies were made, coins in lower condition are generally worth only their par value. Errors may hold some added value.

Still, it’s heartening to know that with so many coins in circulation, you may occasionally find a near-mint condition 1966 penny in your spare change. And it may be valuable, so don’t just toss those coins in a jar or drawer!