If you’re into numismatics and coin collecting, you probably already know a little bit about the Lincoln penny. But, regardless of whether you’re familiar with this topic or not, we urge you to continue reading, because the 1942 edition of the Lincoln penny is rarely talked about. We’ve decided to change that and take a deeper look into this important piece of American history. 

So, it doesn’t matter if you’re on a random ‘Googling’ session, or if you’re looking for specific information for your research on valuable coins, this is the place to be. In the following paragraphs, we’ll cover everything, from the origin and the history of the coin to its current market value (average and highest price recorded in auctions/sales). So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

The Lincoln Penny (and its 1942 edition)

The 1942 Penny - The Lincoln Penny (and its 1942 edition)

The History and Origin

The 1942 Lincoln Penny isn’t the very first edition of this currency piece. Its origin goes way back, when in 1904 President Theodore Roosevelt decided that the American pennies need to step up their design and artistic game. Compared to the European countries, and the rest of the world, the USA wasn’t really updating their coin design, but this was about to change. Five years later, a new penny is finally announced and introduced to the public. 

This time around, more thought has been put into its design and artistry. The new penny was a part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. So, the penny will honor and celebrate the iconic American history, which was positively received by the public. This design, created by the sculptor Victor David Brenner, would remain in use until 1959, which means that our 1942 penny is in there somewhere as well. 

Things in global politics started to change drastically in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The onset of another World War was palpable, and things started to change; unfortunately, for the worse. The regular coin composition remained for the 1942 penny (which was bronze, 95% copper), but the following year it changed. To save money and redirect it for World War II purposes, the United States Treasury changed the coin composition from bronze to zinc-coated steel.

Nevertheless, the 1942 penny was also used as an experimental coin, where the US Mint was testing alternative compositions for the new penny. The Mint would strike patterns on the penny using various metals. Different dye options were also tested for possible non-metal compositions.

Also Read: The Ultimate Guide to Lincoln Wheat Penny Value ($840,000 for a 1943-S Bronze MS)

The 1942 Penny Design and Description

Just like the previous Lincoln penny edition, the 1942 penny didn’t have any changes in design and description. The initial inspiration for the coin was the commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln, therefore, a plaque of the President was used for the base design. The penny features Lincoln’s profile, as well as the descriptions In God We Trust (above the President’s head), and Liberty to his left side. There are also standard features, like the date and the mint mark on the President’s right side. Each of the pennies also features a mint mark, which is one of the letters D, S, or P, depending on where and which Mint was the coin made (Denver, San Francisco, or Philadelphia). 

The Value of The 1942 Penny: How Much is it Worth Today?

When it comes to determining the value of any coin, there are several things needed to be taken into consideration. For example, a 1942 penny minted in, let’s say, Denver Mint, will have a lower value than a San Francisco Mint penny. And, this logic applies regardless of the condition of the coin. 

Also, the 1942 penny isn’t that scarce. Sure, considering the fact that it did have some experimental features, like coin composition, and it was the last one before the complete coin composition change in 1943. Nevertheless, the three main Mints produced hundreds of millions of these coins and released them all into circulation. Now that we have all these factors in mind, let’s take a look at the current market value of the 1942 Lincoln penny;

Coin Mint Mark Average Value Rarity
1942 Lincoln Penny There is no mint mark under the date. Minted in Philadelphia. $0.15 to $0.75 Common
1942 D The Denver Mint struck the coin with the “D” Mint Mark and the date. $0.15 to $0.85. Common
1942 S The San Francisco Mint struck the coin with the “S” Mint Mark and the date. $0.15 to $5.50. Relatively rare

Of course, the value of the 1942 penny is also determined using the coin grading system. One of the highest graded 1942 Lincoln penny was sold for a whopping 3,960 USD. The grade of this penny was MS 67+, which means it was in exceptional condition; the light-red coloration is bright and shimmering, the details and design are clean and sharp, and the overall coin appears as if it was recently struck. 

The 1942 Penny - The grade of this penny was MS 67+

It is also possible to acquire a high-grade 1942 Lincoln penny for a more budget-friendly price. At the Collectors Corner, you can find the 1942 Lincoln pennies for an approximate price of 90 USD, for a MS 66 grade. Of course, these are not the average prices regarding the current market value of 1942 Lincoln pennies of lower grade. Let’s take a look at the value chart of the ‘more regular’ appearing specimen of this iconic penny;

Condition 1942 1942 D 1942 S
Uncirculated $1.37 $1.61 $5.81
Very Fine $0.06 $0.09 $0.09
Fine $0.05 $0.05 $0.05
Good $0.03 $0.01 $0.05

As you can see, the uncirculated specimen of the 1942 Lincoln penny has the highest current market value. The reason for this is that the uncirculated coins, in general, are in excellent condition, and often appear as if they’ve just been struck. The wear and tear are minimal, if non-existent.  Other characteristics of an uncirculated Lincoln penny include;

  • Luster remains in cheek below President Lincoln’s eye
  • No beard smoothing as a result of no wear and tear
  • Luster high relief
  • Delicate, newly minted frost on the reverse side
  • Wheat high points are grainy as a result of no wear and tear
  • Luster the below lettering, across the field

Moreover, the proof version of the 1942 Lincoln penny would probably be the most valuable edition of this coin. Proof coin specimens are struck for purposes other than being released into circulation. These coins are the best examples of the specimen and are often directed at collectors, and numismatists, or are used for exhibitions and presentations. 

The highest auction bid for a proof 1942 Lincoln penny was 4,080 USD in 2020, for a PR 67+ grade. The price of this proof coin is believed to have reached a whopping 12,500 USD in 2023. Experts believe the value of the proof specimen will keep on increasing in the following years. 

The 1942 Penny - The Lincoln Penny PR 67+ grade

The 1942 Lincoln Penny Error Value

Contrary to the popular belief that an ‘error’ item is inherently less valuable than its original counterpart, in the world of coins an ‘error’s specimen can be extremely valuable. The same goes for the 1942 Lincoln penny. But, what does the ‘error coin’ term really mean?

Well, an error coin is a coin that has a noticeable difference compared to its standard counterpart. For example, the main image might be off-center, or maybe the position of words and dates on the coin is incorrect. An error coin would also be a coin that is made too thick, or too thin. Basically, any issue that has arisen during the production of the coin, and as such is visible on the coin, is making it an error edition. 

Because of this, the coin is extremely rare and unique, which increases its market value. Such coins are also highly sought-after, which further increases their value (compared to the common coins). Let’s take a look at a variety of the error 1942 Lincoln pennies and compare their current market value;

Error 1942 Penny
No mintmark $50
UNUM inscription missing $26.50
Red color $3,960
Wrong planchet Unknown

Where To Purchase/Sell a 1942 Lincoln Penny?

If you’re looking to purchase or sell a 1942 Lincoln penny, you can try the following options;

  • Local antique/coin shops – considering that not everybody is a fan of online sales and purchases, the best option would be a local antique/coin shop. It is a good way to get your coin professionally evaluated first and then offer it for sale, or have it professionally evaluated prior to purchasing. Either way, face-to-face contact is generally a good and safe approach when dealing with coins, especially those rare and highly valuable ones.
  • eBay – there’s an assortment of 1942 Lincoln pennies available for purchase on eBay. The prices vary, from budget-friendly to considerably high. You can choose between ‘regular strike’ coins and those rare, no-mint-mark ones. Whatever you choose, you can be sure to have a safe and pleasant experience.
  • Etsy – this is one of the best places for selling/buying anything vintage or antique, including iconic coins from the past. Here, you’ll come across a variety of 1942 Lincoln pennies, in different conditions, of different grades, and of course, different prices; there’s something for everyone’s budget. And, if you’re looking to sell, setting up an account and a listing is super easy, safe, and reliable.

Also Read: 1942 Walking Liberty Half Dollar Value (The Most Expensive 1942 Half Dollar Costs Uo To $30,000)?

Final Thoughts

Overall, the 1942 Lincoln penny has a rather unique and interesting history. It is one of the most popular and appreciated coins in US history. Even nowadays, it is highly sought after, and its value can reach 4 to 5 digits, when in excellent condition. Coin collectors, or numismatists, appreciate the coin’s history, despite it not being rare, and for it is willing to pay thousands of dollars. If you’re on a journey to start collecting coins or are already on it, we wish you all the luck, and may you come across your very 1942 Lincoln coin.

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