Lincoln Memorial Penny Overview
Minted continuously for nearly 60 years, the Lincoln Memorial penny is the most familiar cent piece to the majority of Americans today.
This coin was first struck in 1959, the sesquicentennial (150-year anniversary) of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. It was the successor to the much beloved Wheat penny which had been minted for fifty years prior.
The Lincoln Memorial penny maintained the same obverse that the Wheat penny had featured, the famous portrait of Lincoln designed by Victor David Brenner. The reverse design, which was created by Frank Gasparro, is all that was changed
The new reverse features the eponymous Lincoln Memorial building with a miniscule Lincoln statue seated in the center.
Immediately above the building is the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” Along the upper rim is the legend “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” and along the lower rim is the denomination “ONE CENT.”
The Lincoln Memorial cent saw several composition changes throughout its lifespan. Beginning in 1959 with 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc, it was altered in 1962 to 95% copper and 5% zinc. It was altered again in 1982 to copper-plated zinc, a composition of 97.6% zinc and 2.4% copper.
The Lincoln Memorial cent was minted until 2009, when it was replaced by a special penny commemorating the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. The following year, it was replaced by the Shield cent.
Still, the Lincoln Memorial cent dominates the population of circulated pennies and remains a ubiquitous coin.
History of the 1964 Lincoln Memorial Penny
1964 was a prolific year for the penny, with over 6 billion cents struck. Pennies were minted this year in two locations: Philadelphia and Denver.
Denver struck the most coins of the two locations: 3,799,071,500. Coins from Denver are marked by a “D” that can be found below the mintage date on the reverse.
Philadelphia reports striking 2,652,525,762 pennies this year. Philadelphia mintages display no mint mark.
In fact, the 1964 pennies are the last pennies to display mint marks before the marks were removed as part of the Coinage Act of 1965 to prevent excessive hoarding of cent pieces. The marks would be restored only three years later in 1968.
Another result of this act was that pennies minted through 1965 were struck with a date of 1964. Thus, many of the 1964 pennies found in circulated today were actually minted the following year.
As part of the cent pieces minted between the 1962 and 1982 composition changes, the 1964 penny is made of 95% copper and 5% zinc. Also standard to these coins, the 1964 penny has a diameter of 19mm and a mass of 3.11 grams.
Valuing the 1964 Lincoln Memorial Penny
The Lincoln Memorial series, including the 1964 issue, is still extremely common, and it is not unlikely today to find a 1964 penny among one’s pocket change.
Accordingly, most examples of this issue are not worth above face value and are better used as currency than as a collector’s item. That said, collectors seeking to complete a Lincoln Memorial cent set may still value this coin.
1964 pennies, like all coins that contain a significant portion of copper, are graded in terms of color and may receive one of three designations: Brown, Red-Brown, and Red. Brown is least desirable, and Red is the most desirable.
This coloring can raise the value of a 1964 penny a fair portion, so we will examine the value in terms of these three colors.
Brown 1964 pennies of grades up to MS-60 are valued at $0.05. MS-60 examples are worth $0.10, and this increases to $0.25 in MS-63, $0.75 in MS-64, and $2.50 in MS-65.
Red-Brown pennies are worth generally around the same in the lower grades, but they fetch a higher price above MS-60. Red-Brown MS-64 examples are valued at $3.00, MS-65 examples at $5.00, and MS-66 examples at $20.00.
Red pennies bring the highest values. Because they represent very low levels of wear and circulation, Red pennies generally only exist in very high grades. Red MS-64 examples are valued between $7.00 and $8.00.
MS-65 examples are worth $14.00-$15.00, and MS-66 examples range from $30 to $65. Examples above MS-66 are valued at up to $1,900, although such coins generally sell only for hundreds.
A special and very rare set of pennies was also minted in 1964, known as the 1964 SMS pennies. These coins display sharp details and a satin-like luster. They can be worth up to $5,000, and one example sold in 2005 for $11,000!
They are extremely scarce, but if you believe you have an SMS penny, consider having it evaluated by a professional coin-grading service like NGC.