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Discovering the Value of the 1978 Lincoln Memorial Penny

Discovering the Value of the 1978 Lincoln Memorial Penny

The 1978 Lincoln penny is extremely common and available in all grades except for the very highest grades of mint-state or uncirculated showing full shiny red luster. Only then does it begin to achieve any significant value.
Beginning collectors hoping to find some specimens for a penny folder or systematic type collection can easily find very nice examples free for use by looking through circulating coins patiently. This “picking” is one of the joys of numismatics, as one never knows what one can find looking at a roll of pennies from the bank or through a coin jar or pocket change.

More advanced collectors will find several handsome choices for uncirculated coins available at very modest prices. Despite the enormous mintage numbers, the very highest grades, above MS-67+, seem to be quite scarce for 1978 pennies, whether struck in Philadelphia or Denver. Below that grade, however, examples are plentiful, and collectors will have the coins they want at good prices.

Production of the 1978 Lincoln Penny

DatePhiladelphiaDenverSan Francisco
1978 Proof003,127,781
Source: Red Book

How Much Are 1978 Lincoln Pennies Worth?

With nearly ten billion pieces coined in 1978, none of the circulating specimens of Lincoln pennies are especially valuable, as they can easily be found in change even to this day, nearly a half century later. Only uncirculated grades at the highest level have any significant value, and then only if they possess their original red tone.

1978 Penny Value Chart
Business Strike
Uncirculated MS63Uncirculated MS65Uncirculated MS67
1978 1C RD$1.10$4.05$182.00
1978-D 1C RD$0.55$1.90$214.00
Proof Strike
1978-S 1C DCAM$4.05$8.10$2,000.00
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

Values for 1978 Lincoln Pennies

1978 1C, RD
Image credit: PCGS

The 1978 Lincoln penny is common in all grades. In addition to the main U.S. Mint at Philadelphia, a satellite mint at West Point struck pennies in 1978. The San Francisco Mint also produced Lincoln pennies with no mint mark, as though they originated in Philadelphia. With no distinguishing features, these three types of coins cannot be distinguished from one another.

Full detail coins are easily found and available for collectors looking for ideal specimens.

Only uncirculated red 1978 Lincoln pennies have any significant value. A 1978 penny, graded MS-63 RD can be purchased at coin dealers or at coin shows for about $1.10. A somewhat better penny, graded at MS-65 RD, can be found for about $4 or a little more.

Only at the highest grades do 1978 pennies begin to become significantly valuable. In November 2023, a 1978 Lincoln penny, graded MS-67 RD sold for $169 at auction. A coin of similar grade sold in April 2023 for slightly more, at $192.

Despite the huge numbers of coins, better specimens than MS-67 are quite rare, as the standards are quite exact and demanding, and such things as scuffs, nicks and bag marks must be nearly non-existent. Since the Mint does not package coins for the whims of advanced collectors, but for the needs of basic commerce, such coins are almost non-existent.

In March 2016, one such 1978 penny, graded MS-67+ RD sold for $1,703.75 at auction. The auction notes stated that only nine such coins had been presented to the national grading services and were thus known to exist, and that only a single MS-68 RD specimen had been certified.

Values for 1978-D Lincoln Pennies

1978-D 1C, RD
Image credit: PCGS

The 1978-D Lincoln penny is also extremely common in all grades including the higher mint states. There are many fine examples still in circulation, with many displaying sharp strikes and fine details. Collectors wanting examples to place in a penny book or in a display case simply to fill out a collection have no problem finding as many as they might wish by picking through rolls of pennies from the bank or by gleaning pennies out of the change jar, the pocket, or behind the couch.

Uncirculated 1978-D pennies with red coloration have some value. A 1978-D penny, graded MS-63 RD can be found and is slightly less valuable than a 1978 Lincoln penny of the same grade, costing about $0.90 at coin shows or coin dealers. A 1978-D penny graded MS-65 RD should cost a bit more than half that of a 1978 penny of the same grade, around $2.50 or a little more. MS-67 RD pennies can sometimes command significant sums, though the value has fluctuated over many years.

Currently, a 1978-D Lincoln penny graded MS-67 RD sold in April 2023 for $312. A similar coin, graded MS-67 RD sold at Heritage Auctions in June 2019 for only $204.

Higher graded uncirculated 1978-D pennies seem not to exist, or at least none have come to market recently. Given the rarity of truly high grade 1978 mint state pennies, it is quite possible that there are few, if any 1978-D pennies graded MS-67+ RD or higher.

Were Any 1978-S Lincoln Pennies Minted?

The San Francisco Mint closed in 1955 for a decade. While the building was still fairly new, the production equipment and methods were outdated and coinage had been carried on in less significant quantities than in the other mints for some time before the closure. Although there was no plan to revive the facility, the San Francisco Mint reopened in 1965 with an emphasis on proof coin production. Initially, until 1974, some coinage intended for circulation was also carried on under the distinctive “S” mint mark.

Beginning in 1975, no further circulating coins were struck using the San Francisco mint mark, although, as in 1978, occasional circulating coins were struck with no mint mark and included in the total for Philadelphia.

Thus, there are 1978-S proof Lincoln pennies from San Francisco, known to be such. There are also 1978 pennies from San Francisco, but with no mint mark, they are indistinguishable from pennies struck in Philadelphia.

Values for 1978-S Proof Lincoln Pennies

1978-S 1C, DCAM (Proof)
Image credit: PCGS

As over three million proof sets were struck in 1978, proof 1978-S pennies are common, both within sets, and as single pieces from sets which have been broken up. Only cameo and deep cameo proof pennies have significant value, and only at the higher grades.

A 1978-S proof penny, graded PR-63 DCAM should cost about $0.50 outside of its regular proof set collection. A better specimen, graded PR-65 DCAM should cost about $1.50, while a penny graded at PR-67 DCAM should sell for under $10.00.

Unlike circulated 1978 and 1978-D pennies, proof 1978-S pennies at the very highest grades exist. This is not surprising, as the Mint takes great pains to produce proof coins, and they lack the nicks and scuff marks circulating coins suffer during shipping.

In November 2023, Heritage Auctions sold a 1978-S proof penny, graded PR-70 DCAM, the highest possible grade, for $999. A couple of months earlier, in September 2023, a similar coin, with an identical grade, originating from the happily named “Good Karma Lane Collection II,” sold for $1440.

One way to acquire a 1978-S proof penny is to purchase a proof set. The collector can then either retain the whole, as an investment, whether the other coins in the set are collected systematically, or not, or sell the unwanted coins on. In this case, though, the sum of the parts may be worth much less than the whole, and breaking up the set may not be worth the loss in value.

One example of the pricing mechanism at work can be seen in the sale of a 1978 proof set, graded at PR-70 DCAM, still in its original plastic case, which sold for $1920 at Heritage Auctions.

How Much Are 1978 Lincoln Penny Errors Worth?

The U.S. Mint exerts fairly rigorous quality control in its production process, and tries to screen out defective coins. With nearly ten billion pennies, even a low percentage of errors would still lead to significant numbers of individual mistakes creeping through the production process.

Collectors often specialize in seeking and finding these mis-struck coins, and a separate sub-field of numismatics has grown up around categorizing and studying the specimens. Every error is unique, but as a whole they can be grouped under several headings.

Because many error coins are mis-shapen, they are often quickly noticed and removed from circulation before there is much chance for them to become heavily worn. They tend to have high grades, as a result. Also, because there is a separate market for error coins, they tend to have higher values than an ordinary coin of similar grade.

Values for 1978 Lincoln Penny Off-Center Strikes

1978 1C Struck 60% Off Center
Image credit: Heritage Auctions

An off-center coin is a fairly common form of mis-strike. In an off-center strike, the coin blank or planchet fails to fall properly on to the stationary “anvil” die in the coin press, and is not gripped properly by the collar which should retain it in place. Thus, the moving “hammer” die does not strike the coin squarely, leaving only a partial image. Collectors prefer coins which show the date and mint mark, and these have the best value.

In January 2022. Heritage Auctions sold a 1978 Lincoln penny, graded MS-62 RB, which was struck 60% off-center, for $45. An ordinary example of this quality would have practically no value to speak of, and pass for about face value.

Also in January 2022, Heritage Auctions sold a 1978-D penny, graded MS-60 RD, but scratched, which was 50% off-center. This coin was paired with another off-center penny, struck in 1979. The two-coin lot sold for $73.

Values for 1978 Lincoln Penny Double-Strikes

1978-D 1C Double Struck
Image credit: Heritage Auctions

A slightly more complicated error arises if the off-center coin fails to fall from the coin press after the first strike. The dies may then strike the coin again, resulting in a double-strike. Such coins are inevitably not perfectly round, but consist of mis-shapen pieces of metal.

In May 2021, Heritage Auctions sold an off-center double-struck 1978-D penny, graded MS-63 BN, for $74. The second strike was 95% off-center, and left only a slight projection of metal covering the word “Trust” in the motto, “In God We Trust,” on the original strike. Such a coin, if properly struck, would have negligible value on the ordinary numismatic market. In January 2022, a similar combination of errors, an originally off-center 1978 penny which was then double struck, sold for $50. The coin was graded MS-60 RB.

Values for 1978 Lincoln Penny Clipped Edge Strikes

1978 1C 15% clipped edge planchet
Image credit: Heritage Auctions

Another valuable combination of errors can arise when an off-center coin is struck on a clipped planchet. The metal used for coins is originally shipped in long coiled rolls, which is then punched by a blanking machine. Should the machine punch the edge of the roll, it does not make a perfectly round coin blank, but creates a “clipped edge.” The Mint tries to sieve these out during the initial process, but occasionally fails.

In May 2021, a 1978 Lincoln penny which was on a 15% clipped edge planchet, was then struck 10% off-center. The coin, graded at MS-64 BN, was sufficiently eccentric to sell for $432 at Heritage Auctions. The price was much higher than most ordinary uncirculated red 1978 pennies sell for.

Technical Specifications of the 1978 Lincoln Penny

The 1978 wheat penny is a bronze coin, made of 95% copper and 5% zinc. It has a weight of 3.11 grams and a diameter of 19 millimeters.

The original design of the Lincoln penny first appeared in 1909, as a commemoration of the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. The initial obverse design featured a bust of Lincoln on the front, created by sculptor Victor D. Brenner. The initial reverse featured a pair of stylized wheat stalks, surrounding the value of the coin, “one cent.”

In 1959, officials at the Mint commissioned a new reverse for the coin, featuring the Lincoln Memorial. The design for the reverse was created by the Assistant Engraver of the Mint, Frank Gasparro. The design remained in use for a further fifty years, until 2009, when new designs were created for the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. Soon enough, the original obverse portrait of Lincoln was restored, and continues in use to the present (2024) making it the longest running coin design in American history, and one of the longest-lived designs in the world.


The 1978 Lincoln penny is not a very challenging coin for even beginning collectors. It is common, and commonly available. Even the better grades of uncirculated pennies from the year are easily found, inexpensive and readily purchased. There are no unusual varieties to complicate collections and drain wallets, and so this might be a good starting point for a young or novice collector wishing to learn about the subject.