Lincoln pennies come in multiple varieties as the US Mint tends to change this coin’s reverse side design every 50 years to commemorate the various anniversaries of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The first version of this coin and one of the two most memorable ones is the so-called “Wheat penny”.
Minted from 1909 to 1958, this penny was the first US coin to feature the image of a US president on it. What’s more, the 1912 penny, which we’ll talk about today, is not only the fourth year of this coin’s mintage but it’s also the second year to see four different penny variations, including the rare and valuable matte proof penny. So, let’s examine the 1912 penny in a bit more detail below.
1912 Penny Value Chart
|1912 “D” Penny Value
|$7 to $9
|$11 to $74
|$112 to $273
|$300 to $4,800 and above
|1912 No Mint Mark Penny Value
|$1.42 to $1.88
|$2.55 to $14
|$28 to $55
|$607 to $6,000 and above
|1912 “S” Proof Penny Value
|$27 to $29
|$33 to $83
|$121 to $285
|$325 to $12,000 and above
|1912 No Mint Mark Matte Proof Penny Value
|$300 to $540
|$400 to $22,500 and above
The Wheat penny coin is both old and iconic which means that there are quite a few of these coins that are incredibly valuable even though their face value is technically only one cent. All this applies to the 1912 penny too, as one of the several earliest versions of this coin.
Even poorly preserved examples of this coin can nab prices of hundreds of times their face value because of all that, however, if you want a truly valuable 1912 penny, you need to be on the lookout for coins of particularly good quality. This means coins that rank very high on coin grading scales such as the 1-to-70 Sheldon coin grading scale.
Coins that are of “Extremely Fine” visual quality or those that have just not been circulated at all can be worth in the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars. That’s because these coins have been so well-preserved that all the most intricate details of their designs are still visible as if they were minted yesterday.
Still, even then, there is lots of variation in the value of these coins based on what type of penny they are exactly. So, let’s go over the four main variants.
1912 “D” Penny Value
1912 pennies made by the Denver Mint bear the “D” mint mark just below the 1912 date on the obverse side of the coin. The rest of this coin’s obverse design is exactly the same as that of other Lincoln pennies – both wheat pennies and later re-designs. It features the ex-president’s bust facing to the right with the word “Liberty” behind him on the left.
The motto “In God we trust” is printed at the top of the coin while the date and mint mark are on the right. As for the reverse side of the coin, it has the classic wheat penny design – the words “One Cent” and “United States of America” are front and center with two large wheat stacks flanking them across the left and right edges of the coin.
The motto “E Pluribus Unum” (From many, one) is minted above all that along the top ridge of the reverse side of the coin. The edge is plain and the coin as a whole is 19.05 mm (1.75 inches) in diameter and weighs only 3.11 grams (0.10970 ounces). It’s also 1.55 mm thick (0.06102 inches) and it’s made of a 95% copper alloy with just 5% zinc or tin.
The variation of the additional metal in the alloy as well as other factors such as the coin’s storage and the manner of its use has resulted in a few different colors of wheat pennies such as red, brown, and red-brown. As a rule of thumb for both “D” pennies and other mint marks, red pennies are more valuable, with red-browns being second to them, and brown pennies being the least valuable ones.
1912 was only the second year in which the Denver Mint produced wheat pennies as only the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints made these coins in 1909 and 1910.
The Denver Mint made 10,411,000 of these coins in 1912 – not an insignificant number but quite a bit fewer than the coins produced by the Philadelphia Mint that year. As far as numismatics are concerned, however, that should be a plus for “D” coins’ value as it makes them rarer.
Despite that and even though the “D” 1912 penny can be seen as quite significant historically, the value of this variant of the wheat penny is still not quite at the level of the other three variants of the 1912 coin. This isn’t to say that the 1912 “D” penny isn’t valuable – even pennies in just “Good” physical condition have price tags of close to $10 – that’s about one thousand times their face value!
What’s more, pennies in the “Fine” and “Extremely Fine” quality grades even outpace similar coins made by the Philadelphia Mint. Yet, the average value of uncirculated 1912 “D” penny coins is lower than that of their Philly-made counterparts. $300 to $4,800 for a “D” mint mark compared to $607 to $6,000 for Philadelphia’s no-mint-mark coins of the same quality.
Again, this isn’t to say that you should sleep on 1912 “D” pennies – some of these coins can be extremely valuable if they are not only of uncirculated quality but also have some rare manufacturing errors. To give you an example, in May 2005, an MS 66 “D” 1912 penny (MS stands for “mint state” whereas 66 refers to the 1-to-70 quality grading scale) was sold for a whopping $34,500.
1912 No Mint Mark Penny Value
The lack of a mint mark in many pennies from 1912 is essentially the “mint mark” of the Philadelphia Mint. That mint is famous for not using mint marks for a very long time, only changing this tradition and switching to “P” mint marks for most of its coins in the 1980s.
So, even though the missing mint mark can seem like a rare and lucrative manufacturing error at first, it’s actually quite an ordinary sight in US numismatics. In fact, the Philly Mint made the most wheat pennies in 1912 – 68,153,060 in total. So, these coins are quite common compared to the other variants of the 1912 wheat penny which explains why the lower quality grades aren’t as valuable as the other variants.
Aside from the lack of a mint mark, 1912 pennies made in Philadelphia aren’t really different than those made in Denver in any way. They have the same design and components, however, there seems to be a relatively distinct difference in quality and a presence of rare manufacturing errors with the no-mint-mark penny as higher-grade coins of this Mint are more valued by collectors.
Even though the highest price tag given to a 1912 no-mint-mark penny so far has been $21,850 given to an MS 67 Philly-made 1912 penny in 2006, the average value for an uncirculated coin of this variant is significantly higher than that of Denver-made coins of that year.
1912 “S” Proof Penny Value
The third variant of the 1912 penny is the one made by the San Francisco Mint. 4,431,000 of these coins were made in 1912 and they are commonly classified as “proof coins” which is what the San Francisco Mint typically specializes in. These coins aren’t quite of the “proof coin” quality we’ve come to expect in later years, however, and the vast majority of them were released in wide circulation.
So, while you’ll see these coins listed as “proof coins” don’t expect all 4.4 million of them to be in uncirculated condition. Nevertheless, 1812 pennies bearing the San Francisco Mint’s “S” mint mark under their date are quite highly valued. You may notice from the value chart above that all quality grades of these “S” coins have higher averages than their “D” and no-mint-mark counterparts.
The highest value 1912 “S” penny to date has been an MS 65 coin that sold for $27,600 in May 2003, however, many others sell for somewhere between $12,000 and $16,000 – prices rarely seen for “D” or no-mint-mark pennies.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for 1942 and 1944 “S” wheat pennies to be counterfeited into 1912 “S” pennies. This is done by scrubbing parts of the third number in the date – the first 4 – to make it look like a one. Such fakes can be spotted by the extra space left after the 9 and before the fake 1. The mere fact that people are trying to make fakes of this coin tells you that it is quite valuable.
1912 No Mint Mark Matte Proof Penny Value
The last variant of this coin is a second kind of proof made in 1912 – the matte proof produced by the Philadelphia Mint. Such matte proof coins were made from 1909 to 1917 and are quite highly valued today because of how different and unique they are. This is further helped by the fact that their mintage was quite low – only 2,145 coins in 1912.
Given all that, it should come as no surprise that these coins are typically the most valued versions of the 1912 wheat penny. Even brown no-mint-mark 1912 matte proof pennies can earn price tags of up to $7,000 and red ones can cost up to $22,500 on average at auctions – not just in certain rare cases as is the case with the other 1912 pennies above.
All this is helped by the low mintage, the excellent quality, and the different matte look of this Philly-made penny.
1912 Penny Grading
Grading such an old, rare, and historically-significant coin is done in much the same way as any other coin – first, it gets dated, then its visual quality and preservation are compared to other coins, and lastly, numismatists look for certain rare characteristics and manufacturing errors. Here’s a good video to give you a visual example of this.
Lists of 1912 Penny Errors
1912 pennies are not devoid of manufacturing errors but that’s a good thing because it makes some of them even rarer. Here’re some key examples below:
1912 Penny Off-Center Error
An off-center error happens when the coin’s planchet hasn’t been properly positioned in its belt before being struck by the minting die. This results in the design of the obverse or reverse being minted off-center. If the deviation is small enough for the design to still be present in its entirety, this can be a rather lucrative error.
1912 Penny Die Crack Error
When a minting die gets overused, the wear and tear it’s collected over the years results in cracks and other visible issues. If the minting die doesn’t get replaced quickly, these cracks will soon start showing on the coins made by that minting die. These errors are usually small and hard to notice as the minting dies get replaced as soon as the errors are noticed.
1912 Penny Re-Punched Error
A re-punched error occurs when the minting mark of coins made in San Francisco has been struck twice. This is noticeable by the “S” mint mark seeming “doubled” on the coin and it can increase the piece’s value by a fair bit.
1912 Penny FAQ
Is a penny from 1912 worth anything?
Indeed – most pennies of that year will be worth quite a bit, as long as they are at least moderately well-preserved. Not every 1912 penny will make you rich, of course – such a coin needs to be perfectly preserved to be valued in the 4- or 5-digit range. However, even the more modest examples will cost in the dozens or hundreds of dollars which is great for a 1-cent coin.
Why are 1912 pennies different colors?
All 1912 pennies were made from an alloy that included 95% copper, however, the other 5% of it could vary, typically including tin or zinc. Depending on the exact metal, how the coin had been stored or handled, and the various chemical reactions that could have resulted from all that, its color can vary between brown and red.