The Lincoln penny is a staple in US numismatics and has been around for quite some time. In fact, the 1909 version of the coin was the first US coin to feature the face of a US president as prior to that it was believed that presidents shouldn’t be “idolized” on coins.
The Lincoln penny has also gone through some changes since then, however. Parts of the design are switched every 50 years to commemorate the memory of President Abraham Lincoln with a new coin. In the case of the 1987 penny, it bears the design that was used from 1959 to 2008 in honor of Lincoln’s 150th birthday in 1959. So, is the 1987 special or valuable in any particular way?
1987 Penny Value Chart
|Mint mark||Good||Fine||Extremely Fine||Uncirculated|
|1987 “D” Penny Value||$0.10 to $0.33||$0.50 to $1||$1.50 to $7.50||$10 to $120 and above|
|1987 No Mint Mark Penny Value||$0.10 to $0.33||$0.50 to $1||$1.50 to $5||$12 to $60 and above|
|1987 “S” Proof Penny||$0.10 to $0.33||$0.18 to $1||$2 to $5||$12 to $120 and above|
As you can see, the 1987 penny rarely commands high prices. That’s actually true for most Lincoln Memorial pennies that were made between 1959 and 2008. The reason for that isn’t that these coins aren’t appreciated by numismatists, however – they are, both for their beauty and for their historical significance.
Instead, the average value of these coins is rather modest because the US Mint didn’t really go out of its way to make any particularly rare variations of these coins. That, plus the lack of precious metals in pennies and the low face value of just $0.01, mean that most Lincoln Memorial pennies from 1987 or from other years don’t cost much beyond their face value.
If you do find a 1987 penny in a near-mint or uncirculated condition, however, and if it has certain rare manufacturing errors or other unique specifics on it, such a coin can fetch a price of several dozen dollars or even over $100 in some cases. In select few rare cases, 1987 pennies have been sold for 4-digit price tags too – we’ll mention some examples below.
Such prices may not be something that’d make a numismatist rich but, compared to the coin’s face value of $0.01 they are still impressive.
1987 “D” Penny Value
The first major variant of the 1987 one-cent coin is the penny with a “D” mint mark. Made by the Denver Mint, as the “D” indicates, these coins featured the classic Lincoln Memorial penny design – a perfectly round coin with a diameter of 19 mm, a thickness of 1.52 mm, a plain edge, and a weight of 2.5 grams. The coin is made out of a zinc core plated with copper.
The obverse side of these coins was made by Viktor David Brenner all the way back in 1909 for the original wheat Lincoln penny. It features the right-facing head of Abraham Lincoln with the words “In God we trust” right above it. To the left of him and over his shoulder is the word “Liberty” and to the right – the year and the mint mark, in this case, 1987 and a “D” letter below it.
The reverse side of the coin is the side that changes every 50 years. Between 1909 and 1958 it featured the famous wheat stacks which is why it was called the Lincoln Wheat Penny. As of 1959, however, the new reverse side designed by Frank Gasparro included the image of the Lincoln Memorial instead.
Right above the Memorial is the motto “E Pluribus Unum” or “From many, one”. Further above that is written “United States of America”. Below the Memorial is the coin’s denomination of “One Cent”.
Gasparro’s Memorial coin design is very famous and beloved among numismatists not only because it looks great but also because the image of Lincoln’s statue inside the Memorial is slightly visible between the building’s pillars. This makes it the first coin to feature the image of a president on both of its sides, similar to how the Lincoln Wheat Penny was the first coin to feature a US president at all.
While all these specifics make the Lincoln Memorial series as a whole quite beloved, the fact of the matter is that the 1987 “D” penny isn’t really all that unique compared to the other variants of these coins that have been minted for five decades. And, considering that the Denver Mint produced an impressive total of 4,879,389,514 “D” pennies in 1987 alone, those coins aren’t exactly rare either, hence their modest value.
Still, the fact that the series as a whole isn’t all that rare or special doesn’t mean that there aren’t rare and unique coins among them. Almost all of these ~5 billion pennies were released into circulation right off the minting presses and the wear and tear they’ve accumulated over the past several decades mean that they aren’t worth anything past their face value today.
However, the rare few 1987 “D” pennies that never made it into circulation and have been preserved by collectors in their mint state – those coins can be worth quite a bit, usually dozens or even hundreds of dollars.
For example, a 1987 “D” penny of MS 69 quality sold for $3,475 on eBay in 2021. The number 69 here refers to the 1-to-70 Sheldon coin grading scale and “MS” simply means “Mint state”. Another example is a 1987 “D” MS 64 penny that sold for $1,093 at a Heritage Auction in 2007.
So, if you’re lucky, you can get a pretty nice price tag for these coins, especially compared to their face value of $0.01. And, in all other cases, Lincoln Memorial pennies are still considered a very nice set for beginner numismatists as they are affordable to collect while still being gorgeous and very symbolic historically.
1987 No Mint Mark Penny Value
The second major variant of the 1987 Lincoln Memorial penny is the one with no mint mark. This can appear confusing at first as the lack of a mint mark can seem like a rare manufacturing error. Instead, however, no-mint-mark pennies are simply coins produced by the Philadelphia Mint as that mint didn’t use to put mint marks on most of their coins for quite some time.
So, the lack of a mint mark is essentially the “mint mark” of the Philadelphia Mint. And, in 1987, the Philly Mint made a grand total of 4,682,466,931 Lincoln Memorial pennies – almost as many as the Denver Mint.
So, is there any other noteworthy difference between 1987 one-cent coins made in Philadelphia and those made in Denver? No, not really. For all intends and purposes, the coins made by those two mints are identical.
There does appear to be a slight difference in quality, as the Denver-made 1987 pennies are somewhat better than their Philly counterparts, hence the minor difference in the value averages. This is more happenstance than a trend, however, as the reverse has been true in other years and mintages.
Besides, the presence of more lower-quality Philly-made 1987 pennies doesn’t mean that they aren’t high-quality ones too – and those can still command prices in the hundreds of dollars on occasion, similar to their Denver-made counterparts. For example, a 1987 MS 69 Memorial penny was sold at Heritage Auctions in 2022 for $870.
1987 “S” Proof Penny Value
The third type of 1987 penny is the proof penny made by the San Francisco Mint. Proof pennies, just like any other proof coin made in any other year, are meant to provide “proof” against counterfeits and fakes. They are also made using a completely different minting process which is more expensive but ensures a better finish and higher overall quality.
Most notably, however, proof coins are also sold to collectors as special rarer variants of ordinary coins and aren’t released into wide circulation. This helps the US Mint make a profit and serves as an interesting item for numismatists.
In the case of the 1987 “S” proof penny made in San Francisco, there were a total of 4,227,728 such proof coins. This is still quite a high number for uncirculated coins, of course, which is why you’ll rarely see these pennies command very high prices either – most of the time they are evaluated on the same level as uncirculated “D” pennies.
One high-profile example includes a 1987 “S” PR 70 that sold at Heritage Auctions in 2004 for $2,070. So, again, while such coins will doubtfully make you rich, they are still worth paying attention to and are a good set for beginners.
1987 Penny Grading
Grading Lincoln Memorial pennies is fairly straightforward and no different from grading other coins – after confirming the coin’s type, date, and mintage, all you need to look for is how high the coin’s quality is, how rare it is today, and whether it has any notable manufacturing errors or other specifics that’d make it even rarer.
Lists of 1987 Penny Errors
We mentioned coin manufacturing errors a few times above, so, let’s look into that too. In essence, coin manufacturing errors are exactly what they sound like – small, or something big, mistakes that happen during the minting process that often result in some very interesting changes in the coin’s design and other times make it outright unrecognizable.
The key factor here, however, is that, as such errors don’t happen often, they make the individual coins much rarer and, therefore – more valuable. This isn’t always true, of course, as some errors result in coins that are so visually unappealing that their higher rarity status gets ignored by numismatists. We’ll mention a few prime examples below but here is a nice video explanation too.
1987 Penny “Silver” Error
No, 1987 pennies don’t have any silver in them. And there is no manufacturing error that results in them having silver. However, due to certain rare chemical reactions between the zinc core and the copper layering, a Lincoln penny can get a very silvery color. Another error that also happens is for the coin to simply not have a top copper layer at all, so the zinc core will show a silvery color too.
Such coins can fetch prices of $50 and more, even if people are often left disappointed that their coin isn’t actually made of silver.
1987 Penny Off-Center Error
Off-center errors can happen on any coin and 1987 pennies can have it too. When this error happens, the coin’s metal planchet has switched a little bit within its restraining belt and the minting die has ended up hitting it off-center. For this error to be valuable, the coin’s design should still be mostly visible on the metal disk.
1987 Penny Double Die Error
A double die error is similar to the off-center error. The difference is that the shift in the coin’s position under the die has happened between the die’s two strikes. The end result is a slightly blurry or distorted image that can look very pretty if the distortion is minor. Most often, the error is most easily noticeable in the lettering or numbers on the coin’s obverse or reverse.
1987 Penny FAQ
Is there anything special about a 1987 penny?
In the series as a whole – not really. 1987 pennies are made in the exact same way as other Lincoln Memorial pennies minted between 1959 and 2008. Individual coins can have certain very special and error errors or other characteristics, of course, but the series as a whole are identical to other pennies of that period.
Is there any silver in a 1987 Memorial penny?
There shouldn’t be unless the coin has accidentally been minted on a silver planchet. We’re not aware of that ever happening, however – the few silvery-looking 1987 pennies out there don’t have any silver in them, they just look that way because of certain chemical reactions between the zinc and copper on the coin’s surface.