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1939 Wheat Penny Value (Rare Errors and Varieties)

1939 Wheat Penny Value (Rare Errors and Varieties)

Some Wheat Reverse pennies are exceptionally valuable, selling for thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But what’s the 1939 penny value?

In this article, we’ll explore the values and varieties of 1939 Lincoln Wheat cents. We’ll also discuss this coin’s rare errors. You can use this information to determine whether one of your 1939 pennies is worth far more than one cent!

1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny Value Chart

1939-P BN$5$8$20
1939-P RB$8$11.5$25
1939-P RD$9$16$32
1939-D BN$9$13$20
1939-D RB$12.5$18$25
1939-D RD$12$20$40
1939-S BN$5.5$8.5$23
1939-S RB$9$18$26
1939-S RD$9$17$50
1939 Proof BN$55$70$105
1939 Proof RB$75$115$250
1939 Proof RD$130$190$450
1939 Proof RDC$500$1,150$4,400

1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny: History

The design for the 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny is identical to that of all pennies produced by the U.S. Mint from 1910 onwards. However, this coin does differ from its predecessors in at least two unique ways.

For example, the 1939 Wheat Reverse cent:

  • Was produced in higher volumes than the 1938 Lincoln Wheat penny, and
  • Featured more errors than the previous year’s pennies

Let’s briefly explore these qualities and discuss how they impact the value and rarity of 1939 Lincoln Wheat pennies.

Higher Penny Production

In 1938, the Philadelphia Mint only produced about 156 million pennies, with the San Francisco Mint producing about 20 million and the Denver Mint producing a scant 15 million. This brings the total number of 1938 Lincoln Wheat cents to approximately 191 million.

This was far below the sufficient production volume, necessitating a much more productive minting process in 1939. All told, the three U.S. Mint facilities responsible for striking pennies produced more than double their 1938 output, making 1939 pennies slightly more common than the previous year’s specimens.

However, this more rapid production led to a sudden increase in striking errors, which is another unique aspect of 1939 Lincoln Wheat cents.

A Greater Number of Errors

Depending on which year you’re examining, a U.S. one-cent coin might have between one and four “rare errors,” which are production mistakes leading to rare specimens.

Two of the most common mistakes are doubled die obverse (DDO) and doubled die reverse (DDR) errors. This is when a coin has a doubled design on its front (obverse) or back (reverse) side due to off-center die pressing.

But 1939 Lincoln Wheat pennies featured a much wider range of errors stemming from the increased production rate. For example, some of the coins are badly off-center, have strike-through marks, or have significant die clips. In some cases, these errors can significantly increase the base value of the coin.

Still, we’ll discuss 1939 Lincoln Wheat cent errors in just a few moments.

1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny: Design

The 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny design is called the Wheat Reverse design. It gets this name from the fact that the reverse (back) side of the coin features two wheat stalks.

Like every penny produced from 1909 onward, the front (obverse) side of the 1939 penny features an image of President Abraham Lincoln, his face in profile, looking to the right side of the coin. This design was created by Victor David Brenner, whose initials briefly appeared on 1909 Lincoln Wheat cents.


photo source: PCGS

The obverse side of the 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny features:

  • The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” arched at the top of the coin
  • A right-facing profile image (called a device) of Abraham Lincoln that extends from directly beneath “IN GOD WE TRUST” to the bottom edge of the coin
  • “LIBERTY” legend on the left side of the coin, just below the middle point (parallel with Lincoln’s collar)
  • The date “1939” on the bottom right corner of the coin, slightly beneath Lincoln’s bow tie


photo source: PCGS

The reverse side of the 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny features:

  • “E PLURIBUS UNUM” motto arched at the top of the coin, separated by interpoints
  • “ONE CENT” denomination marking beneath the motto, with “CENT” sitting just above the center point of the coin
  • “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” issuing nation designation beneath the denomination
  • Two wheat stalks, each poised at the furthest sides of the coin, curving upward and encircling “ONE CENT” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”

1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny: Features and Specifications

About 384 million Lincoln Wheat pennies were produced in 1939, with the Philadelphia Mint striking the most out of all three U.S. Mint facilities (Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver). But regardless of where these pennies were produced, all 1939 share a handful of characteristics.

For example, virtually all 1939 Lincoln Wheat pennies:

  • Feature the Wheat Reverse design that debuted in 1909
  • Weigh 3.11 grams
  • Have a diameter of 19mm
  • Are 95% copper and 5% zinc and tin

The only potential exceptions to these qualities are error coins, which can feature obscured, warped, or doubled designs.

How Much Is a 1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny Worth?

The estimated value for a 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny varies between $0.05 and $9,000.

A circulated specimen in good (G-4) condition has an estimated value of $0.15, while one in about uncirculated condition (AU-50) has an estimated value of about $1. An uncirculated 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny (MS-66) has an estimated value of $20.

1939 Lincoln Wheat pennies produced at the Denver Mint facility have higher average values than those minted at the San Francisco or Philadelphia Mint facilities.

The most expensive type of 1939 Wheat Reverse penny is the red (RD) 1939-P (No Mint Mark) Lincoln Wheat cent, followed by the red (RD) 1939 Wheat Penny (Proof) coin.

According to NGC, an MS-68 RD 1939-P Wheat penny has an estimated value of $9,000. In 2006, one of these coins sold at auction for $9,775. No other 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny has sold for a higher price at auction.

In contrast, a PR-65 RD 1939 Wheat Penny (proof) has an estimated value of $185. However, a PR-67+ RD Proof specimen sold for $6,900 in 2001, setting a record for proof versions of the 1939 Proof Lincoln Wheat penny.

1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny: Value Comparison

With the exception of error pennies, there are four primary types of 1939 Lincoln Wheat pennies:

  • The 1939 No Mint Mark Lincoln Wheat penny
  • The 1939-D Lincoln Wheat penny
  • The 1939-S Lincoln Wheat penny
  • The 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny (Proof)

Each of these one-cent coins has a unique value that varies depending on coin condition and coloration. Let’s explore each in more detail to discover which of these 1939 Wheat pennies is the most (and least) valuable.

1939 No Mint Mark Lincoln Wheat Penny Value

photo source: PCGS

The 1939-P Lincoln Wheat penny (also called the “No Mint Mark” penny) was produced at the Philadelphia Mint facility, which is why it doesn’t bear a mint mark. After all, the Philadelphia Mint only put its mint mark (the letter P) on pennies minted for one year in 2017, so most pennies minted at this facility lack a mint mark.

The Philadelphia Mint produced more than 316 million pennies in 1939, making the 1939 “No Mint Mark” Wheat penny the most common type available to collectors.

The value of the “No Mint Mark” 1939 Lincoln Wheat cent varies significantly. The least valuable of these coins has an estimated value of $0.05 (about good condition or less), while the most valuable varieties can be worth as much as $9,000 (RD coins with a grade of MS-68 or higher).

Brown (BN) 1939-P pennies have the lowest average value. An MS-67 BN 1939-P Lincoln Wheat cent has an estimated value of $30. For comparison, a red and brown (RB) MS-67 version has an estimated value of $42.50, while a red (RD) MS-67 version has an estimated value of $130.

1939-D Lincoln Wheat Penny Value

photo source: PCGS

The 1939-D Lincoln Wheat penny is the rarest of all the 1939 regular strike pennies.

After all, the Denver Mint facility only produced about 15 million of these coins. For comparison, the Philadelphia Mint produced more than 316 million, and the San Francisco Mint produced more than 52 million during the same year.

The value of these Lincoln Wheat pennies varies between $0.35 (brown (BN) G-4) and $8,000 (red (RD) MS-68).

Brown (BN) 1939-D Lincoln Wheat cents in lackluster condition (about good, fair, or poor) have an average value of $0.20, making them more valuable than the average modern penny (which is only worth its listed denomination of $0.01).

1939-S Lincoln Wheat Penny Value

photo source: PCGS

The 1939-S Lincoln Wheat penny is so-called because it was minted at the San Francisco Mint facility. These coins are rarer than those struck at the Philadelphia Mint but not quite as uncommon as though struck at the Denver Mint.

The value of a 1939-S Lincoln Wheat cent varies between $0.15 (brown (BN) G-4) and $1,300 (red (RD) MS-67+).

These cents are generally considered lower quality than other pennies produced that year by other U.S. Mint facilities. These differences in quality become particularly noticeable when compared to 1939 proof-strike pennies.

1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny (Proof) Value

photo source: PCGS

Apart from high-quality RD 1939-P Lincoln Wheat cents, the most valuable penny from this year is the 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny (proof). Unlike regular strike pennies, proof-strike coins are specifically produced as collectibles and are never meant to enter circulation.

The value of this proof-strike coin varies between $30 (brown (BN) PR-60) and $6,750 (red (RD) PR-67+).

The only U.S. Mint facility to produce proof-strike pennies in 1939 was the Philadelphia Mint, so none of these one-cent coins features a mint mark. Altogether, the Philadelphia Mint only struck 13,520 proof pennies in 1939, making it the rarest non-error penny for that year.

1939 Cameo Proof Lincoln Wheat cents are even harder to find, with only a few known specimens in existence; in 2010, one of these coins (a PR-66) sold for $4,025 via a Heritage Auctions sale.

1939 Lincoln Wheat Penny: Rare Errors

Although the U.S. Mint strives to eliminate mistakes during the coin-striking process, mistakes occasionally happen. And when it comes to 1939 Lincoln Wheat pennies, there are five potential mistakes to watch for:

  • Doubled die obverse (DDO) coins
  • Die curved clip coins
  • Strike-through coins
  • Die crack coins
  • Off-center coins

1939 Doubled Die Obverse (DDO) Lincoln Wheat Penny

Of all coin errors, doubled die obverse (DDO) mistakes might be the most common. This error occurs when a die presses into a metal planchet twice, but the coin shifts slightly between presses. The result is a doubling of the design on the obverse (front) side of the coin.

A 1939 DDO Lincoln Wheat penny can sell for between $7 and $700, with condition and coloration being the most influential factors regarding value.

1939 Die Curved Clip Lincoln Wheat Penny

When a metal sheet undergoes the striking process, a machine punches out the newly formed coins into their familiar round shapes. But sometimes, the sheet can end up off-center, resulting in coins missing significant chunks.

These curved “scooped away” areas are called curved clips. Although curved clip 1939 Lincoln Wheat cents are rare, a handful exist in private collections. One of these coins can sell for about $10 (brown, circulated, fair to good condition).

Naturally, higher-quality red specimens could sell for much higher prices.

1939 Strike-Through Lincoln Wheat Penny

A struck-through coin (or strike-through coin) has had its design damaged during the striking process. These coins typically have missing design elements, smudged designs, or noticeable ridges or indentations in their design that aren’t the result of wear and tear.

The value of a 1939 Strike-Through Lincoln Wheat cent varies significantly depending on the severity of the strike-through damage and the overall condition and coloration of the coin. Still, prices generally vary between $5 and $100.

1939 Die Crack Lincoln Wheat Penny

Have you ever used sealing wax to seal a letter or envelope? If so, you’re likely familiar with wax seal stamps.

These metal stamps feature recessed designs that transform melted wax into raised designs. Coin dies work in a similar way!

However, coin dies don’t remain in tip-top shape forever. Over time, these stamp-like pieces can develop cracks, leading to noticeable flaws in the obverse and reverse faces of the coins they press.

That said, 1939 Die Crack Lincoln Wheat pennies often aren’t incredibly valuable, with some selling for as little as $1.

1939 Off-Center Lincoln Wheat Penny

When a coin is off-center during the striking process, it can develop a DDO or DDR error. But it can also end up becoming a highly flawed off-center coin.

These rare coins are essentially flattened planchets with very off-center designs. Some of the designs on these pennies are so off-center that they don’t feature a date, making them virtually impossible to trace.

These unique coins can sell for upwards of $100, depending on their quality and whether they feature a discernible date.

Frequently Asked Questions

There’s quite a lot to learn about penny values. It’s normal to have a few additional questions about the 1939 Lincoln Wheat cent. Fortunately, these frequently asked questions might hold the answers you’re looking for, so go ahead and check them out.

Is a 1939 Wheat Penny Worth Anything?

All pennies are worth something! However, most modern pennies are worth $0.01, their listed denomination. In contrast, the 1939 Lincoln Wheat cent is worth between $0.05 and $9,000.

Red (RD) “No Mint Mark” pennies in top-notch condition (MS-68 or higher) are worth more than any other type, with standard brown (BN) regular strike pennies being worth the least. Still, all pennies from 1939 are worth more than their denomination of one cent.

What Makes a 1939 Wheat Penny Valuable?

As with other pennies, the value of a 1939 Wheat Reverse penny varies depending on its mint mark, condition (PCGS grade), and coloration. Errors can also influence the value of a 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny, though to a lesser degree.

Generally, red coloration, pristine condition (a grade of PCGS MS-65 or PR-65 or higher), and proof striking make one of these one-cent coins valuable.

Final Thoughts

The 1939 penny value varies significantly depending on the coin’s mint mark, coloration, and grade. These pennies have an average value of about $0.05, but some can sell for more than $9,000.

The most valuable 1939 Lincoln Wheat penny is the red (RD) Proof 1939-P Lincoln Wheat cent. The brown (BN) 1939-P Lincoln Wheat cent is the least valuable of these coins. Still, if you have any 1939 pennies, you can sell them for more than $0.01 apiece!

Some coins are worth big bucks! Check out these related articles to learn more.