Lincoln memorial pennies are one of the most recognizable coins worldwide. Famous for their signature portrait of Abraham Lincon, they have enjoyed a rich history over the past hundred years.
The 1946 wheat penny is an exciting find for any collector. With its signature durum wheat reverse, this coin’s worth ranges from a little over its face value to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars.
So what exactly makes a 1946 wheat penny a small treasure?
This article will explore everything about the 1946 wheat penny value. Despite its high circulation, we will share all the different varieties, errors, and more you should watch for.
1946 penny value chart
|1946 No Mint Mark Wheat Penny Value||$0.03||$0.11||$10 to $210||Up to $14,950|
|1946 D Wheat Penny Value||$0.03||$0.23||$16 to $36||Up to $2,585|
|1946 S Wheat Penny Value||$0.03||$0.17||$11 to $83||Up to $16,800|
|1946 S/D Wheat Penny Value||$11||$85||$960 to $1,750||Up to $3,173|
1946 No Mint Wheat Penny Value
The first variety of 1946 wheat penny comes from the Philadelphia mint. They can be identified easily by the absence of a mint mark (letter) on the coin, as Philadelphia only began marking coins in 2017.
The Philadelphia mint produced almost as many 1946 wheat pennies as the other mints combined, with records stating just over 991,655,000 coins struck. This incredibly high production number makes 1946 no mint wheat pennies one of the year’s most common coins.
The 1946 coins stayed true to the initial design of the Lincoln penny series, which Lithuanian sculptor Victor David Brenner designed. The obverse shows a profile portrait of 16th president Abraham Lincoln, with the words “In God We Trust” and “Liberty” surrounding him.
The reverse is a simplistic depiction of two ears of durum wheat, hence the nickname ‘wheat penny.’ The reverse included the motto ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ which translates from Latin as “Out of Many, One.”
The 1946 no mint penny was made of 95% copper and 5% zinc, giving rise to three variations; brown, red, and a combination of brown and red. Purely on statistics from coin auction sites, the red variety is arguably the most common and popular coin sold today.
The 1946 wheat pennies were quite heavy as a copper penny at just over 3.11 grams. The high copper also means their melt value is higher than its face value, averaging at just $0.03. This can make them attractive to collectors interested in investing in metal and ensures that you can expect a good return on investment, even if the coin is in relatively poor condition.
Because their production number is 991 million, there isn’t much demand for ordinary 1946 no mint wheat pennies, and they generally sell for much lower than other varieties.
Pennies are often heavily circulated, and mint-condition pennies are increasingly scarce. If you have a 1946 wheat penny that is in high condition, it could sell incredibly well beyond expectations.
According to PCGS, the highest-valued 1946 no mint wheat penny sold for an impressive $14,950 in 2006. This premium valuation was because the penny had a well-struck design, intense luster, and fiery-red surface. The listing noted that the penny would have sold more if not for a small blemish on Lincoln’s cheek.
1946 D Mint Penny Value
The Denver mint only produced 315,690,000 wheat pennies in 1946. They are easily identifiable by the ‘D’ mint mark struck on the coin’s obverse side.
Similar to other wheat pennies, the 1946 D wheat penny had the original obverse and reverse coin designs of Victor David Brenner. Because of its high 95% copper composition, there are three color variations in circulation: red, brown, and a combination. The red coin, though, is arguably the most common.
Because of their significantly lower production number, especially when compared to Philadelphia, the 1946 D wheat penny has more demand and is classed as rarer to find. Reasonably conditioned pennies can quickly sell for 23 cents and above.
But the true value of this coin is in high-mint grade coins of MS67+ rating or higher. As per PCGS auction data, a 1946 D wheat penny sold for an incredible $2,585 in 2014. The reason for this high sale was the coin’s excellent red luster, as well as its sharp details and virtually no faults or blemishes on the surface.
1946 S Wheat Penny Value
The San Francisco mint produced the lowest number of 1946 wheat pennies, with a total record of just 198,100,000. As such, these coins are not as commonly found in circulation as other varieties.
Like all coins made in San Francisco, these pennies will have a signature ‘S’ mint mark on the obverse, located just under the coin’s date. And as part of the Lincoln memorial series, the 1946 S wheat penny has the original design of Abraham Lincoln and the durum wheat on its sides.
1946 S Wheat Pennies were all made of 95% copper composition, again leading to three distinct variations of red, brown, and a combination color. Red is arguably the most commonly found variation on auction sites like PCGS.
Because of their significantly lower production, the 1946 S wheat penny will often sell higher than other variations, particularly in extremely fine or uncirculated conditions. This is because pennies were heavily in circulation then and have become worn over the years.
Coins with an MS 65 grade can go for as high as $83 at auction. But like any collectible coin, the true potential of the 1946 S wheat penny is only discovered in higher mint grades of MS67+. This 1946 S wheat penny sold for an astonishing $16,800 on Heritage Auctions in 2022. The reason behind this evaluation was the coin’s pronounced strike, orange-red luster, and fine preservation.
1946 S/D Wheat Penny Value
In 1946, the San Francisco mint produced a widespread overpunch error on their pennies, which resulted in the ‘S’ mint mark stamped over the Denver mint mark.
Because of this overlay, it can be pretty challenging to identify whether you have an S/D wheat penny. Experts advise owners to examine the location of the mint marks and pay close attention to the curvature of the ‘S,’ as remnants of the ‘D’ mint mark should be easy to see.
Although there is no record of just how many of these wheat pennies exist, they have appeared frequently enough at auctions to warrant their own category, and they will almost always sell for higher than expected at auction.
Even a 1946 S/D wheat penny in so-so condition can easily fetch $11 at auction, a drastic increase from the coin’s face value. Coins in extremely fine condition can sell for $85, while uncirculated coins will go for thousands of dollars at auction.
This 1946 S/D wheat penny sold for over $3,172 in 2019 on Legend Coin Rare Auctions, primarily due to its impeccable condition, sharp detail, and identifiable D and S mint marks, respectively. Discovered in the mid-1990s, it is a prime example that, every day, rare pennies are still being discovered.
1946 Penny Grading
Various coin grading systems consider several aspects of a coin, including sheen, level of detail, color, and preservation.
US currency often follows the Sheldon coin grading system. This 70-point scale coincides with adjectives, with Fair and Good being low quality and Extremely Fine, Uncirculated, and Mint being the top tier.
Below is a straightforward way of determining the grading of your 1946 wheat penny:
Rare 1946 Wheat Penny Error List
Collectors go to great lengths to find unique pennies at auction. An error or fault can transform an ordinary coin into a one-of-a-kind treasure.
Because of their mass production, cheap costs, and high circulation, there weren’t many quality controls for pennies. Thankfully, this means that errors are common.
Below are some errors you can find on a 1946 wheat penny:
1946 Wheat Penny Off-center error
Off-center errors occur when the stamp and the coin are misaligned. This can result in the coin’s design being struck at an angle or even partially missing.
Collectors generally measure the extent of off-centering by percentages, with higher rates being worth the most money. This 1946 wheat penny has an off-center of 30%, with most of the obverse and reverse missing from the coin – it sold for $780 at auction.
1946 Wheat Penny on the wrong coin
Given the sheer volume of coins produced in 1946, there have been many instances when the Lincoln memorial design was struck on the wrong coin. Given the cost of copper, these coins were still allowed into circulation.
Depending on the type of coin struck, the value of these pennies can be enormous. For example, this 1946 no mint wheat penny was struck on a dime coin (10 cents); it sold for $1,620 in 2021.
1946 Wheat Penny Double Strike error
Sometimes, if the wheat penny is not removed from the chamber in time, it will be struck twice. This can mean a double image is created on the coin, making the design slightly askew and hazy. It can also make high-rise features, like text and lettering, much more detailed and pronounced.
The value of double strikes depends on how the coin looks, with more distorted coins often fetching a higher premium at auction. This 1946 no mint wheat penny has a double-struck reverse, with incredibly pronounced lettering, that has increased its value to $52.
1946 Wheat Penny Die Break error
Because of their high production numbers, dies frequently broke when striking pennies. Depending on when the die broke, several unique errors could occur on the coin’s surface.
One of the most common is the ‘BIE’ error, as the die would frequently break when striking the ‘Liberty’ word between the letters B and E. Examples of die errors include this 1946 no mint wheat penny, which has a “major die break” on the left side of the coin; it sold for an impressive $288 in 2021.
1946 Wheat Penny FAQ
Is the 1946 Wheat Penny rare?
As more than a billion pennies were minted in 1946, the coins are considered low value, common, and in many cases, worth their face value.
The rarest 1946 wheat pennies are those in high condition. Pennies scoring higher than MS65+ can quickly sell for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars.
What material is a 1946 Wheat penny made from?
There are two components of a 1946 wheat penny – 95% copper and 5% zinc. This high copper composition makes the melt value of 1946 wheat pennies at a higher-than-average rate of $0.0255.
Which is rarer, a 1946 no mint, D or S Wheat Penny?
Because the Denver and San Francisco mint produced fewer pennies in 1946, the D and S wheat penny is considered rarer than the generic no mint wheat penny.
However, the overall condition and appearance of the penny are arguably the most important thing that makes it rare or not.
Is there anything special about a 1946 wheat penny?
One unique thing about the 1946 Wheat penny is the S/D error. Because of a widespread manufacturing error, many coins have both San Franciso and Denver mint marks. These coins are considered incredibly rare. There are attempts to forge this error, so caution is advised if buying from an auction.
What is the highest recorded sale for a 1946 penny?
Currently, the highest recorded auction for a 1946 Wheat penny was for a single coin in 2022, which sold for $16,800. It has a grade of MS67+, a shark strike, a superb gem, and a unique orange-red appearance.