Are you a coin trader or numismatist? The 1942 penny is an antique coin worth premium prices above face value. If you are looking for a coin to buy, it should be part of your collectibles.
The US mints struck the 1942 penny to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birth anniversary. It features a frontal profile of Lincoln and a pair of wheat strands on the reverse side. Also called the ‘Lincoln cent’ or the ‘wheat penny,’ this coin is worth one cent at face value.
In this article, you’ll learn the history of the 1942-penny and how much it is worth. You’ll also discover how to grade your coin and determine its ultimate value.
What Is the 1942 Penny?
It is one of the single-cent coins struck for circulation from 1909 to 1958. Designed by Victor David Brenner, the obverse features a profile bust of Abraham Lincoln and a pair of wheat stalks on the reverse side. The US mints officially issued the penny in 1942.
Brief Summary of the 1942 Penny
- Name of Coin: 1942 Wheat Penny
- Series of coins: 1942, 1942 D, 1942 S, Proofs
- Portrait: Abraham Lincoln
- Main Reverse Feature: Wheat stalks
- Denomination: $0.01
- Pawnshop Value: $0.19-$3.22+
- Metal Composition: 95% copper, 5% (tin/zinc)
- Diameter: 19 mm
- Mass / Weight: 3.11 grams
- Mint: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco
- Designer: Victor David Brenner
- Mintage Number: 864,579,590 coins
History of Design
The history of the 1942 penny dates back to more than three decades before its official issue. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed concern at the lack of artistic appeal of the American coinage. As a result, there was an urgent need to beautify the coinages in circulation.
There wasn’t a Congress restriction preventing the re-design of circulating coinages. The President, through the US mint, hired sculptor Saint-Gaudens for the task. Although Saint-Gaudens passed away before completing the job, the US mint carried on and completed the process in 1908. All focus then shifted to the few remaining one-cent coins. During the search for a skilled sculptor, President Roosevelt came across a medal designed by Victor Brenner for the Panama-based Canal Commission. Impressed by the award, he inquired about the medal’s designer.
Meanwhile, the 100th birth anniversary was fast approaching, amid increased pressure to have a Lincoln penny. Therefore, the US mint officially hired Victor Brenner to design a coin in memory of Abraham Lincoln. After numerous proposals, the US mint accepted Victor Brenner’s design and set a date for it’s unveiling in July 1909.
Reason for Minting
The main idea behind the Lincoln penny was to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of the late President Abraham Lincoln. Additionally, none of the US coinages featured the portrait of an American President. So, it was time for the Lincoln penny to begin circulating.
Famous numismatists, collectors, and a section of the population mounted pressure on the US mint to design a coinage in honor of Abraham Lincoln. At the onset of the design, the main mint specified that it wanted a coin featuring the profile of Lincoln. Victor Brenner drew inspiration from an old photo of Abraham Lincoln reading a book with his son by the side.
Three mints struck the 1942 penny, namely Philadelphia (657,796,000), Denver (206,698,000), and San Francisco (85,590,000). Collectively, all mints struck a total of 864,579,590 coins in 1942.
Features of the 1942 Penny
Similar to other coinages, the 1942 penny has distinct features on both sides. Features include inspiring slogans, images, face value, and metal composition.Below is an in-depth look into the features:
The portrait is a profile bust of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America. The obverse features a right-facing Lincoln at the central portion of the coin. He appears composed in a nice bow tie and a coat.
Along the upper rim of the coin is a slogan “IN GOD WE TRUST” written clockwise in block letters. Slightly behind President Lincoln is a slogan, “LIBERTY,” starting from the left margin. It appears as a straight line of block text. Below Lincoln’s chin is the official year of issue (1942), appearing closer to the lower, right margin
The reverse features two identical wheat stalks standing along the left and right margins. The Latin motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is on the upper margin,” reading clockwise in block text.
Two dots separate the three words in the Latin phrase. Below the Latin phrase is the coin’s denominational value (ONE CENT) in block letters. The words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” appear at the lower portion, near the margin.
Slogans and Mottos
The 1942 penny has three significant slogans on both faces:
A symbolic American goddess appears on the Liberty statue in New York as Liberty. The nation received the artwork as a gift from France during the Great American Revolution. The slogan is an official motto that signifies liberty and freedom prevailing in the country.
E Pluribus Unum
America adopted the slogan to affirm the formation of a nation out of many states. A Latin phrase denotes ‘Out of many, one.’
In God we trust
The slogan is the national motto of the United States of America. It is an expression of the strong religious sentiments of the nation. The people of America believe that their political and economic fortunes depend on God.
The 1942 series of the Lincoln penny has distinct mint marks that show the location of the mints that struck the coin. Taking a closer look at the currency, you will likely see the following mint marks: ‘’S” (San Francisco) and “D” (Denver). However, as a norm, coins struck at the Philadelphia mint did not have a mintmark.
Weight of Metal Used
The US Mints struck the 1942 penny using 95% copper. In addition, an alloy of zinc and tin forms 5% of the coin. The 1942 penny weighs 3.11 grams and is 19 mm wide.
1942 Penny Value
The 1942 Wheat penny has high value as a numismatic coin and gem in pristine condition. On average, you can earn $0.19 from pawnbrokers for your Lincoln penny. Additionally, the high copper content gives the coin a higher value than its face value. Below is how much the coin is at various numismatic levels:
Comparison Table Showing the Value of the 1942 Penny:
|Condition||1942||1942 D||1942 S||Proofs (PR 63)|
The coin is worth one cent ($0.01) at face value. The face value appears on the reverse side of the coin.
How Much Is the Metal in 1942 Penny Worth?
The 1942 penny contains 95% copper, hence worth its weight in copper. The current spot price for copper stands at $0.26 per ounce. Therefore, it has a melt value of $0.0291. Coin trackers estimate that the melt value will change when the copper spot price changes.
How much Is the 1942 Penny At the Pawnshop?
At a pawn shop, collectors can pay premium values for high-grade 1942 pennies. The lowest starting price is $0.19 for a coin in average condition. An uncirculated MS+ penny sells between $1.11-$3.22 or higher. If you have a proof coin in PR 63 state, it could fetch as much as $44 or more.
The Standard Value of the 1942 Penny
The standard value for the 1942 penny ranges from $0.35 in average condition to $3 in certified mint state.
Factors that Influence the 1942 Penny Value
The US mints struck more than 800 million pennies in 1942. Because of the high mintage and relatively long circulation time, only a few are available in uncirculated conditions. Regardless of the mintage, some factors still play a critical role in determining the value of the 1942 penny.
Here is what to look for in a 1942 Lincoln penny:
It is the most important determining factor in the value of the penny. Premium quality coins have a limited supply and a relatively higher value. Judging the condition begins with a first impression of the overall appearance. Does the coin appear flat, tired, or worn out? Does it have a shiny mint luster with distinct features? With the help of a magnifying glass, you should judge the condition of your coin.
Below are the four main grading conditions suitable for a 1942 penny:
An uncirculated Lincoln penny did not circulate after its issuance by the mints. As a result, it has no wear to the surface. Additionally, it has a shiny mint luster to the high points, and every detail is as it was at the time of mintage. You should see a fine grade of luster and well-defined features through a close inspection of Lincoln’s profile. There should be no scratch marks or abrasions on the surface of the penny.
In this grade, the coin had little circulation time before collectors withdrew it from the market. As a result, it has minor wear on its surface. It has a shiny mint luster, although not similar to an uncirculated coin. There is slight wear on the high-point features, a mark-free surface, and a light-brown tone adds an eye appeal.
A fine-grade coin features Lincoln’s portrait with significant flattened features. A wide flat surface connects the ear and the upper cheek. The once high features now appear dull, without substantial distinctions.
A wheat penny in good grade has large flat portions throughout the central part. The area around Lincoln’s ears is a flat plane, and the jaws connect with the cheeks. Additionally, the contour areas are flat, and the hairline merges into the lower back.
Mint mark (Location)
Due to a high mintage of wheat pennies, the mintmark recognition is a unique feature that determines the value of the penny. In the 1942 series, three main varieties exist; Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver. Philadelphia’s mint struck the highest number of coins in 1942. The high mintage contributed to an abundant supply of Lincoln pennies. The 1942 pennies without the mintmark are therefore low in value in all conditions.
Denver’s mint struck the second-largest number in 1942. Although many still survive, there is a market for those with minimal to no wear. San Francisco mint struck the least amount of wheat pennies in 1942, which created a particular interest in the San Francisco variety. They equally stand out with the highest value in average and uncirculated conditions.
Unique rarities exist in the 1942-penny series. They are a group of coins that appear different from others of the same quality, category, dimension, and type. Error coins, for instance, fetch between $150 and $200 or higher. An example of an extraordinary rarity is the 1942 Ecuador 20 centavos. The US mint accidentally struck Lincoln’s profile on a brass planchet intended for circulation in Ecuador. Unlike other 1942 pennies, it weighs a record 4 grams.
1. Which 1942 Penny is worth a lot of money?
The 1942 proof penny is worth premium values. A proof penny sells at $35+ with slightly above 32,000 struck.
2. Where is the mint mark on a 1942 Penny?
The 1942 D and 1942 S have a mint mark on the obverse side below the date. Coins struck in Philadelphia bear no mint mark.
3. How can I tell if my 1942 Penny is uncirculated?
An uncirculated 1942 penny has a shiny mint luster on all high points. If it has broken sections of the mint luster, it is “circulated.”
Winding Up: Is the 1942-Penny Value Worth It?
The 1942 penny forms part of the wheat cents struck to remember Abraham Lincoln. The coin contains 95% copper, 5% (tin/zinc), and weighs 3.11 grams. A high-grade variety of the coin, mint location, and special mintage error can guarantee you high values.
Is your wheat penny worth some cash? We can help you determine its value and the right market. Contact us today for questions regarding the value of your 1942 penny.