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Discovering the Value of the 1985 Lincoln Memorial Penny

Discovering the Value of the 1985 Lincoln Memorial Penny

The 1985 Lincoln penny was produced in huge numbers. Individual specimens don’t usually have more than face value but exceptions exist. It will take a keen eye and patient, prudent sorting to find the exceptions among the great mass of Lincoln pennies from that year. Collectors will have to study finer points of the hobby if they hope to make the purchase of a genuinely outstanding specimen.

Production of the 1985 Lincoln Penny

In 1985, the U.S. Mint struck Lincoln pennies in both the Philadelphia and Denver Mints. The number struck at both mints was similar, with a total of over ten billion pennies being minted. Some number of Lincoln pennies were also struck at the West Point branch mint, which, like Philadelphia, generally uses no mint mark. Large numbers of coins from both mints survive, and the issue accordingly has only face-value except at the very highest grades.

DatePhiladelphiaDenverSan Francisco
1985 Proof003,362,821
Source: Red Book

How Much Are 1985 Lincoln Memorial Pennies Worth?

With so many Lincoln pennies minted at both the Philadelphia and Denver Mints in 1985, it is no surprise that huge numbers survive, in all grades. The vast majority of 1985 Lincoln pennies are worth exactly one cent, and no more. A tiny handful of uncirculated 1985 Lincoln pennies, the very best, with decent grades and outstanding red tone, can be worth a great deal, and some uncirculated pennies, with less impressive grades, can be worth anywhere from a few cents to a few tens of dollars.

If a beginning collector wants to find some 1985 pennies to build a collection for display or to fill out a holder, there will be no difficulty in digging out the coins needed, and to have several nice coins to choose from. Any penny jar, pocket change holder or roll of bank coins should yield at least a couple coins from the 1980s, if not more, and the odds of finding 1985 pennies in the mix are quite good.

The few 1985 Lincoln pennies that have outstanding value are all at the higher end of the uncirculated grades. By definition, these coins are unlikely to be found in the odd gathering of pocket change behind the couch cushions. The difference between a 1985 Lincoln penny graded at MS-67 and worth tens of dollars, and one graded at MS-68 and worth hundreds of dollars is quite subtle, and may even be hard to spot with the naked eye. The step-up to MS-69 or even MS-70 is even more subtle, and requires a fair understanding of the grading standards.

In addition, there can be wild swings of price between two coins within the same grade, based upon such definite, but unquantifiable concepts as “eye appeal” and “strength of strike.” Collectors should examine carefully and buy carefully. Research in advance is key, as is a good understanding of the grading standards for Lincoln pennies. Having a magnifying lens handy when shopping for MS-grade pennies would be good advice.

1985 Penny Value Chart
Business StrikeGrade
Uncirculated MS64Uncirculated MS66Uncirculated MS68
1985 1C RD$0.50$3.04$208.00
1985-D 1C RD$0.50$5.40$47.25
Proof StrikeGrade
1985 1C DCAM$0.40$2.65$5.40
Source: CDN CPG® (Retail)

Values for 1985 Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

The 1985 Lincoln penny is easily found in all circulated grades, and many uncirculated grades. Sharply struck specimens are common, and collectors can afford to be quite selective in seeking out the very best choices. Lincoln pennies struck at the West Point branch mint cannot be told from Philadelphia coins as both lack mint marks.

Circulated coins retain only their face value. Uncirculated coins are mainly valuable only if they have red coloration. An uncirculated 1985 Lincoln penny graded MS-63 RD can be found for about $0.35, while a Lincoln penny graded MS-65 RD can be found for $0.60.

Only at the very highest uncirculated grades does finding specimens begin to become problematic. Lincoln pennies graded MS-66 and MS-67 begin to demonstrate value, and coins graded MS-68 and higher can command decent prices at coin dealers and auctions.

In November 2023, a 1985 Lincoln penny graded MS-68 RD sold for $264 at Heritage Auctions. In 2017, a 1985 Lincoln penny graded MS-68+ RD sold for $5,875 at Heritage Auctions.

Values for 1985-D Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

A new variety of “D” mint mark, somewhat larger than in previous years, was introduced on the coin dies this year. In general, the 1985-D minting was well produced, and well-struck specimens are easily found.

The 1985-D Lincoln penny is very common, and readily available at all grades. It routinely circulates, and beginning collectors hoping to develop a simple collection to fill up a penny book or folder can have a great deal of inexpensive fun simply searching pocket change and rolls of pennies from banks to find several nice choices.

Circulated grades of the 1985-D penny have only face value, as do the lower grades of uncirculated coin. Uncirculated coins with grades of up to MS-67 RD are readily available, and become progressively more scarce, becoming quite rare at the highest grades. Given the choices, collectors should search for quality, and be quite particular about the coins they ultimately select from this year.

Uncirculated 1985-D pennies graded MS-63 RD should be readily available from coin dealers for prices around $0.25. Higher-graded MS-65 RD 1985-D pennies should cost only slightly more, at $0.35. Pennies with a grade of MS-65 RD should be available for prices around $25, rising to a price closer to $50 as the grade approaches MS-68 RD.

In November 2023, Heritage Auctions sold a 1985-D Lincoln penny graded MS-69 RD for $1,020. A 1985-D penny of the same grade, MS-69, but with a red-brown tone, sold in September 2023 for $504.

In April 2023, a 1985-D penny, graded MS-69 RD went for $840 at auction. In February 2023, a similar coin of the same grade sold for $2,040.

Because of the change in composition in 1982, from bronze to copper-clad zinc, the Mint introduced an electro-plating step, in which zinc blanks were immersed in a copper bath. Occasionally, the bath would become contaminated with zinc, leading to a lighter-colored brass penny. While this was a recurring problem which happened several times during different years during the 1980s, the 1985-D “brass” or “light-colored” penny is most frequently met with.

Values for 1985-S Proof Pennies

Image credit: PCGS

The San Francisco Mint produced only proof coins in 1985. The U.S. Mint offered proof coins only in sets, and over 3,000,000 were produced. The proof penny of 1985 was struck with deep cameo contrasts. It is readily available in most grades at a very reasonable price.

Lower grades of 1985-S pennies, graded between PR-60 and PR-63, should be available for $0.33. A penny with a nicer grade of PR-65 should cost around $1.50. Even at higher grades, 1985-S proof pennies are inexpensive. A penny graded PR-67 can be valued around $4, while one graded PR-69 should cost under $7.

At the very highest level, 1985-S proof pennies can fetch a good price. A 1985-S penny, graded at the highest PR-70 RD level, sold for $240 in August 2021. A similar coin sold in June 2021 for $114 at Heritage Auctions.

In 1985, the Mint introduced a larger “S” mint mark. In addition, the Mint added the mint mark directly to the master die used to make proof production dies. This eliminated varying positions in mint marks, and double mint marks. The change would be introduced for the circulation strike master dies of the other two mints in 1990.

How Much Are 1985 Lincoln Penny Errors and Varieties Worth?

Some collectors specialize in errors. While the U.S. Mint exerts excellent quality control, the creation of ten billion Lincoln pennies among other coins means that substantial numbers of mistakes will happen, even if the percentage is tiny.

Off-Center Strikes, Broadstrikes, and Other Error Varieties of 1985 Lincoln Pennies

Image credit: Heritage Auctions

The introduction of the copper-clad zinc composition of the Lincoln penny provided a new scope for errors, with defectively plated planchets. These coins are sought by collectors specializing in errors in much the same way as off-center and broadstruck coins are pursued. In September 2023, a partially plated planchet 1985 penny, graded MS-64 RD, sold for $159. Such a coin if it had been made correctly would have sold for under a dollar.

Another specimen, a 1985 penny graded MS-64 RB, with only partial plating, sold for $552 at Heritage Auctions. The image shows that the coin had at best only about half of the surface plated with copper. Occasionally, even completely unplated coins slip through the quality control cracks of the U.S. Mint. As an example, a 1985-D cent, graded MS-63, on an unplated planchet, sold for $55 at Heritage Auctions in October 2018.

One very unusual error that came up for sale in 2022 was a 1985 Lincoln penny overstruck on a dime. The coin, graded MS-67, sold for $1,860 at auction. A similar error, of a 1985-D Jefferson nickel over struck on a Lincoln penny, graded MS-62, sold for $1,020 in August 2023 at Heritage Auctions.

double-struck 1985-D penny, graded AU-58 and paired with two other coins, sold for $55 at auction in January 2022.

Off-center strikes are also a popular field for collectors. A 1985 penny, struck 40% off center, sold for $69 in April 2022. A 1985-D penny, struck 75% off center, sold for $59 at the same auction. A broadstruck 1985 Lincoln cent, graded MS-65 RD and paired in a lot with a 1989 broadstruck penny, sold for $31 at auction in October 2021.

Technical Specifications of the 1985 Lincoln Penny

By 1985, the design of the obverse of the Lincoln cent was 76 years old, having first been introduced in 1909 to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the Sixteenth President of the United States. The designer of the obverse, Victor D. Brenner, was a sculptor and engraver who had come to the attention of then-President Theodore Roosevelt, who sought to bring a more interesting and artistic appearance to American coins. Brenner created a portrait of Lincoln for the front of the coin, and a wreath of stylized wheat stalks, surrounding the denomination, for the back. This design was immediately popular and remained unchanged for fifty years. The obverse remains unchanged to the present day, thus becoming the longest running American coin design.

The reverse of the coin, featuring the Lincoln Memorial, was 26 years old in 1985, having been introduced in 1959. The designer, Frank Gasparro, was the Assistant Engraver of the Philadelphia Mint when he designed the reverse of the Lincoln penny. He would go on to become the Chief Engraver of the Mint, and would subsequently design the Kennedy half-dollar, and the Eisenhower and Susan B. Anthony dollars.

While the original Lincoln penny was a bronze coin, in 1982, the Mint shifted to a coin made from copper-plated zinc, to reduce expenses. Ideally, the composition of the penny was to be 97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper.  While the diameter remained the same, at 19 millimeters, the weight of the Lincoln penny was reduced from 3.11 grams to the present 2.50 grams.


The 1985 Lincoln penny is a coin which should pose no challenge to acquire, but a great deal of challenge to find much value in. Only at the highest levels can one expect to find extraordinary prices, and these coins are mostly known. Still, part of the joy of collecting is the joy of the hunt, and some patience and skill in hunting value in coins can be rewarded.