How Much is a 1938 Penny Worth (Price Chart)

Every coin has a story to tell. But, this post will tell you not ‘stories’ but history and facts about the 1938 Pennies instead. How much are 1938 pennies worth? Why are 1938 pennies called Lincoln Wheat Pennies? We’ll discuss everything here!

So, if you’re a coin collector or just a coin-enthusiast looking to find some new interesting facts on 1938 pennies, read on for more information on these coins!

What is A 1938 Penny?

Lincoln Pennies have been minted since 1909 and are still in the running. During these years, while the obverse side has been the same or at least similar more or less, except for the date on it, the reverse sides have been changed multiple times.

One such variation is Lincoln wheat Pennies, minted from 1909 to 1958. With a total mintage of 191,871,996 in three minting locations, and millions of them surviving today, 1938 pennies cannot be declared rare.

Features of 1938 Penny

Features of 1938 Penny

1.   Coin Specifications:

1938 pennies are made up of 95% Copper and the remaining 5% Tin and Zinc. Therefore in uncirculated conditions, the coppery reddish mint-luster is intact. On the other hand, the color is oxidized to reddish-brown and brown in circulated specimens.

The mass of these pennies is 3.11 gm, and the diameter is 19 mm. Furthermore, the edges of these coins are plain.

2.   Design:

On the obverse side of 1938 Wheat Pennies, you will see a stunning denomination featuring Abraham Lincoln.

On the left side of Lincoln, the text ‘LIBERTY’ is struck and on the right side is the date. And, right above his head is written ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’.

The reverse side of a 1938 penny features two durum wheat ears with big bold ‘ONE CENT’ written in between. Below this text is written ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’, and on the top of the reverse coin is ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’. Victor David Brenner designed Lincoln Wheat Pennies.

3.   Mint Marks:

Mint marks in 1938 pennies are found right below the ‘1938’. A small ‘S’ denotes that the coin is struck at the San Francisco minting facility and ‘D’ means that it was struck at the Denver mint. Philadelphia minted 1938 pennies should bear no mint marks.

Which Mints Made The 1938 Penny?

Which Mints Made The 1938 Penny

1.   Philadelphia Mint:

The main US mint in Philadelphia minted 156,682,000 1938 pennies. Plenty of these coins survive today, and even higher MS grades of these coins aren’t very expensive.

Moreover, halted during 1916, the minting of proof pennies again started in 1936. Proof coins were only struck in the Philadelphia mint. In 1938, 14,734 proof pennies were struck.

2.   Denver Mint:

While significantly lesser mintage in Philadelphia mint, 20,010,000 is still a pretty solid mintage number.

Denver-minted 1938 pennies are believed to be struck with worn dies. The lower grades coins are cheap and readily available; higher grades aren’t rare either. However, they may cost slightly more expensive than 1938 pennies with no mint marks.

3.   San Fransisco Mint:

15,180,000 wheat pennies minted at the San Fransisco minting facility in 1938 aren’t considered to be great quality either.

‘Poorly struck from worn dies’, says the president of PCGS, Ron Guth, while describing the strike quality of wheat pennies at San Fransisco and Denver mints.

Reasons For Minting 1938 Penny

Reasons For Minting 1938 Penny

When many citizens proposed to the Treasury a coin honoring their beloved 16th president Abraham Lincoln, President Theodore Roosevelt was eager for coinage redesign. In fact, he was not happy with the US coins since 1904 due to a lack of artistic merit.

After a long process of design, redesign, and modifications, Brenner’s Lincoln Wheat cent denominations were minted as 1909 pennies and released on 22 June 1909. These became the first batch of coins ever to honor a US president.

For the rest of the years, the denominations were simply kept the same and minted each year until 1958. Therefore, just like 1909 wheat pennies, 1934 pennies were also minted to honor Lincoln.

What Factors Influence The Value of The 1938 Penny?

What Factors Influence The Value of The 1938 Penny

1.   Errors:

Errors make coins special. Consequently, they sell at a much higher price than their typical counterparts.

For instance, in 2002, a 1938-D Repunched Mint Mark (RPM) was auctioned for around $18 at Heritage Auction. Likewise, a 1938-S penny on which the mint mark was punched not once but twice sold for around $94.

There also exist 1938 pennies with double die error where you should witness the wheat ears and text on the reverse side doubling.

Therefore, make sure you check your 1938 penny for planchet errors as well as coin minting errors to make sure you can grab the best bargain!

2.   Grades:

  • Uncirculated:

These 1938 Lincoln Wheat Pennies never entered into circulation. Consequently, these premium 1938 pennies feature the original mint luster as well as the texture.

While hovering a light source on top of these coins, the high points on the coin as well as the rim should reflect light without any disruption. There might be minor undistracting scratches on the surface.

  • Extremely Fine:

Extremely fine 1938 Lincoln Wheat Pennies look more brown than coppery, as it loses the bright mint luster during the circulation. However, textures, even the finer ones, are still remarkably preserved with minor imperfections and flattening on the high points of the coin.

You might notice some signs of wear around Lincoln’s hair, right beside his ear, around the jaw, and the coat around his shoulders. On the reverse side, the fine lines on wheat ears must be separated, and there should be no wheat grains merging on the surface.

  • Fine:

Despite the loss of maximum fine details, the curls on Lincoln’s hair are still visible on a fine 1938 Wheat penny. You’ll notice the flattening of high points on both sides.

On the reverse side, while most of the fine details on the wheat ears will have merged, there should still be some separation. Likewise, there should also remain some distinction among the wheat grains.

  • Good:

On a good graded 1938 penny, only the outline of the more structure remains, with most of the finer details lost due to the years-long abuse. You’ll notice extreme flattening of Lincoln’s cheeks on the obverse side, and hair details only remain on the top.

Wheat grains will probably be missing, and the wheat ears on the tips will have merged into flat areas. Text on edges might also display signs of merging with the rims. Good 1938 pennies are the most affordable 1938 Lincoln Wheat Pennies.

3.   Proof Coins:

Proof coins are struck twice, whereas other circulated and uncirculated coins are struck only once. Consequently, the mirror-like background on proof coins that make the background pop makes them appealing to the collectors.

Earlier, proof coins were struck to check the quality of dies and later to be archived. However, in recent years, these coins have been minted exclusively for the sake of collectors.

Proof coins look much more striking and are significantly more expensive than circulated/uncirculated coins.

4.   Rarity:

With 191,871,996 pennies minted in the year 1938, it would be fair to say that these coins aren’t as rare and are affordably available.

However, as we’ve discussed in this section, always be on the lookout for error coins, coins of higher grade, or PR coins, as these 1938 pennies are worth much more.

1938 Penny Value

The face value of a 1938 penny is $0.01, and beyond that, it all depends upon the coin’s grade, rarity, and some other factors we discussed above.

Let’s talk about some of the record-breaking 1938 penny specimens. In 2007, a Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) certified MS-68 grade1938-D Lincoln Wheat Penny was sold for $4,313.

Below is the estimated price guide for 1938 Wheat Pennies. These data are collected from multiple resources, including and not limited to PCGS price guides, recent auction prices, and prices on different online coin transaction platforms.

These tables are in no way hard and fast market buying and selling value for 1938 pennies and should only be used for reference purposes.

Let’s start by comparing the prices of 1938, 1938-D, and 1938-S in different circulated grades: Good, Very Fine, Extremely Fine, and About Uncirculated.

Good (G-4) Very Fine (VF-20) Extremely Fine (EF-40) About Uncirculated (AU-50)
1938 $0.17 $0.45 $1 $2.28
1938-D $0.22 $0.90 $1.25 $3.30
1938-S $0.45 $0.85 $1.10 $3.30

Below is the list of value comparisons for 1938, 1938-D, and 1938-S in different uncirculated grades, MS63 and above.

MS63 MS65 MS66 MS67 MS67+ MS68
1938 $10 $25 $43 $180 $325 N/A
1938-D $10 $25 $45 $300 $500 $11,000
1938-S $10 $25 $50 $200 $600 N/A

Finally, let’s have a look at the estimated worth of 1938 proof pennies. The latest auctioned price for these coins was $3,120 for PR67+ in January 2020.

PR63 PR65 PR66 PR67 PR67+ PR68
1938-Proof $90 $200 $350 $1,350 $3,120 N/A


Have you ever bought or sold a 1938 penny? If yes, please feel to share your insights and help fellow collectors.

And, in case you have any queries on your 1938 pennies and what they’re worth, leave your concern down below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Until then, happy collecting!

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