PARRIS ISLAND COINS » 1981 Penny Value: How Much Is It Worth Today?

1981 Penny Value: How Much Is It Worth Today?

1981 Penny Value

Do you ever think about the pennies made in 1981? Even though it was a long time ago, some could be worth more money than others because of mistakes or special features. This article will tell you about the 1981 penny value with no mint marks made in Philadelphia, Denver, as well as the rare Type 1 and Type 2 proof made in San Francisco. We’ll also give you tips on how to spot valuable 1981 pennies as we discuss 1981 penny errors. Get ready to learn something about the 1981 penny value here!

Below is a 1981 penny value chart table based on recent data from the Greysheet website that shows the different variations of this Lincoln Memorial coin.

1981 Penny Value Chart

Mint Mark MS63 MS64 MS65 MS66 MS67
1981 No Mint Mark Penny Value  










1981 D Penny Value  










  PR66 PR67 PR68 PR69 PR70
1981 S Proof Penny Value (Type 1)  










1981 S Proof Penny Value (Type 2)  










1981 No Mint Mark Penny Value

1981 No Mint Mark Penny Value
Image Credit: robpaulsenlive

The 1981 penny is a one-cent coin part of the Lincoln Memorial series, including coins minted from 1959 to 2008. On the obverse of this coin, you’ll see the portrait of Abraham Lincoln, along with the words “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “LIBERTY,” and the year “1981.” The design was created by Victor D. Brenner and has been on the penny since 1909.

On the reverse side, you’ll see the Lincoln Memorial, which was originally designed by Henry Bacon and completed in 1922. Frank Gasparro used the same design for the 1981 penny. The words “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” “ONE CENT,” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the initials “FG” are also inscribed on the back.

7,491,750,000 of these coins were minted in 1981 at the Philadelphia Mint, but unlike other coins produced there, there’s no “P” mint mark on the obverse of the 1981 penny. The 1981 penny is made of 95% copper and 5% zinc, weighs 3.11 grams, and has a diameter of 19 mm.

If you’re into collecting coins, you might want to know that some errors during the production of the 1981 penny can make them more valuable. But generally speaking, the value of a 1981 penny depends on its condition grade. For example, an MS67-graded penny can sell for $115, while an MS66-graded coin is worth around $20.25. Even lower-grade coins, like MS60, can still have some value, with a retail price of $0.35.

But the 1981 penny value is not limited to that. In 2016, a 1981 penny without a mint mark was sold for an impressive $1,058 at a Heritage Auctions event. This coin was in excellent condition, graded as MS67+, and certified by PCGS.

1981 D Penny Value

1981 D Penny Value
Image Credit: pcgs

The Memorial Lincoln Cent of 1981-D was minted in large quantities with a mintage of 5,373,235,677. And just like all the other 1981 pennies, it’s made of the same stuff or composition of 95% copper and 5% zinc. If you take a closer look at the front of the coin, you’ll see a little “D” printed there. That tells you it was minted in Denver, Colorado.

Now, let’s talk about the 1981 D Penny value. If you have one in MS67 condition—which is the best possible grade—you could sell it for $169 or more! That’s a nice chunk of change. But if your coin is only in MS60 condition, it’s worth a lot less—only 35 cents, but still great for its original worth of 1 cent. 1981 D Penny that receive a grade of MS68 or higher are considered rare and should be submitted for grading as they represent some of the finest examples in existence.

There are two highest-sold 1981-D 1C pennies in a more refined manner. The first one, graded as MS67+ Red (PCGS-certified coin), was sold at Heritage Auctions in 2017 for an impressive $5,170. The coin was deemed in near-perfect mint condition with a radiant red hue. Another 1981 D penny graded as MS67 Red was sold at the same auction house in 2016 for $494. Both are such a significant amount for a penny, demonstrating that certain coins can command a much higher price than others, even within the same variety.

1981 S Proof Penny Value (Type 1)

1981 S Proof Penny Value (Type 1)

Here’s the 1981 S Type 1 proof mintmark penny. It’s a rare variation produced in San Francisco, and it’s considered the rarest 1981 penny variation out there, with only 3,554,806 of them minted. You can tell it apart from other pennies of the same year by looking for the “S” mint mark on it.

Now, the design on this penny is pretty much the same as the S mintmark you’ll find on Type 2 1979 S and clad-proof 1980 coins. So, what’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 coins? Type 1 coins have a well-defined, clear “S” mint mark, while Type 2 coins have a weaker, less distinct mint mark.

If you’re lucky enough to come across one of these Type 1 penny, you’ll want to ensure it’s in good condition. The two highest 1981 S penny Type 1 sold were PCGS-certified Proof 70 Red Deep Cameo (DCAM), which means they were in perfect condition with no visible flaws or blemishes and had a highly reflective surface with deeply frosted design elements.

One of them was sold at a Heritage Auctions event in 2013 for $4,112, while the other was sold at a David Lawrence Rare Coins auction on July 12, 2021, for $3,300. As of 2023, a 1981 S Type 1 proof penny graded at PR70 condition is valued at $2,190, while a PR63 is worth $0.33.

1981 S Proof Penny Value (Type 2)

1981 S Proof Penny Value (Type 2)

Take a look at the Type 2 version of the 1981 S Proof Penny and notice the “S” mint mark on it. This mint mark means it was also produced in the San Francisco Mint, with a total of 4,063,083 minted.

This variation is considered less valuable than the Type 1 version of the 1981 S Penny. The highest prices recorded for this variety were PR69 Red (Deep Cameo and Ultra Cameo) Type 2 specimens sold for just $129 and $150, respectively. As for other graded 1981 S penny specimens, their prices vary from $6.75 (PR60) to $101 (PR70).

1981 Penny Value Grading

1981 pennies are given a grade to indicate their condition on a scale (Sheldon Scale) from Poor to Perfect Mint State. The grading used to be described using adjectives. An MS 68 grade means a coin is in great condition with strong shine and few marks, but a PR70 Quality Proof is even rarer and has no visible flaws, although some blemishes may be present.

If you’re interested in identifying the various variations of the 1981 penny and learning how they are graded based on their current condition, I recommend checking out this informative video.

Rare 1981 Penny Error Lists

In this section is a catalog of 1981 penny errors that can exceed their face value in terms of condition and error type. Note that different types of 1981 penny may have the same errors but different features, and thus different grades and values.

1. 1981 Doubled Die Error

1981 Doubled Die Error
Image Credit: cointalk

During the production of the 1981 penny, a duplicate impression of the design was inadvertently printed, resulting in a seemingly layered appearance of the coin’s image. A double die is also called hub doubling, where the machinery responsible for imprinting the design mistakenly replicated the process twice rather than once.

This resulted in a slightly thicker image formation in the affected areas. Consequently, the penny exhibits slight variations in thickness, which could be 1.52 millimeters (or 0.0598 inches) in those areas.

2. 1981 Die Break Error

1981 Die Break Error
Image Credit: ebay

A die break error discovered on a 1981 penny is caused by a cracked or broken die during the coin striking process, which is often misinterpreted as a doubled die but is visibly different. When a die comes into contact with the planchet, it can become slightly twisted, leading to the die cracking or chipping and producing a scuffed or marked surface area on the coin. A broken die error can be valuable at auction events despite being initially mistaken for circulation damage. For example, a 1981 penny with a die break error sold for $14.

3. 1981 Misaligned Error

1981 Misaligned Error

The 1981 penny error with a misaligned die error resulted when the hammer dies failed to align accurately with the anvil die’s striking area during the coin’s production. Though misaligned die errors in 1981 penny can sometimes hold significant value, they generally do not command a high premium. As a rule, these errors are not regarded as highly valuable but could still be worth more than just 1 cent.

4. 1981 Double Struck Error

1981 Double Struck Error

The double-struck error in a 1981 penny happens when the coin is struck twice by the same die during the minting process, almost the same as the double-die error but not quite. Struck is the act of pressing the coin onto the planchet, while the die (or stamp) is used to press or strike the coin.

This is not a normal occurrence and is typically made outside a Mint production facility. It should not be confused with a doubled die coin, which results from a mistake during the minting process. According to the Rob Paulsen Coin website, despite the error, a 1981 double-struck penny that was also off-center sold for around $80 on eBay.

5. 1981 Off-center Error

1981 Off-center Error

The off-center error in the 1981 penny occurred during the minting process when the coin was not properly set within the collar of the minting press. This mistake happens when the punch that makes the picture doesn’t hit the coin’s center. It resulted in the portrait of Abraham Lincoln being struck at an angle or with missing parts, making the design distorted or unconventional.

Off-center coins are considered more valuable because they are rare and unique, considering how the strike could affect each piece differently. If you’re a fan of collecting coins, you might want to check out this video that showcases some 1981 penny errors that make them particularly valuable.

1981 Penny Value FAQs

Q: How much is a penny made in 1981 worth?

A: Pennies from the year 1981 carry significant historical value and may be worth between $0.55 and $169 for mint state coins and $2.65 and $2,190 for proof variations. But these 1981 penny values will still depend on various factors, including but not limited to its variety and valuable errors. Nevertheless, even if the penny is rare and highly valued, most circulated 1981 pennies retain their face value of 1 cent.

Q: Are pre 1981 pennies worth anything?

A: The good news is that they actually are! See, those old pennies are made of mostly copper, which is now worth a lot more than it used to be. So, each of those old pennies is worth about 2.2 cents or more because of the copper they contain.

Q: What is the weight of a 1981 D penny?

A: The weight of a 1981 D penny is approximately 2.5 grams, the same for all varieties of 1981 pennies, regardless of their mint marks or proof types. This is because the weight of a penny is determined by its composition, which for pennies minted between 1962 and 1982, is 95% copper and 5% zinc, resulting in a standard weight of 2.5 grams.

Q: What is the difference between 1981 United States proof set Type 1 and Type 2?

A: First off, they are both proof variations of the 1981 penny. So, basically, the main difference between the two types is that the Type 1 letter has a sharp tip at the top while the 1981 letter has a flat top. On the flip side, the Type 2 letter has rounder and wider edges, and the little lines at the end of the letters (known as “serifs”) do not touch the letter S’s interior.

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  1. Prasana kumar behera says:

    I am see one cent 1981 D yes mobile number no. 6380713358 whatsapp

  2. Prasana kumar behera says:

    I am one cent 1981 D keep yes mobile number no. 6380713358 whatsapp yes

  3. William Webber says:

    I have a penny 1981 no mint mark that was obviously struck with the diamond planchette on the tail side and it’s big time over over left over it and intertwining it the lettering has it stamped big time and across the sides of the building how much would that be worth it’s in fairly decent condition and not the greatest

  4. 1981 d penny should weigh 3.11 not 2.5

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