Collecting pennies and cents, or money in general, is one of the most interesting hobbies one can have. And, such a hobby quickly turns into a treasure hunt once we all realize how interesting and important the history of money and pennies really is. Nowadays, millions of people embark on this journey of searching, researching, looking, and finding some of the most valuable coins, pennies, and cents that have ever existed. Rarity is a must, but sometimes, even a common item sparks joy and inspires us to continue searching for that one proud coin.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about the 1957 penny, also known as the Lincoln Wheat penny. It is one of those pennies/coins with a rather elaborate history and a rather substantial value. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and see what is the story, as well as the worth of this penny nowadays.
The 1957 Penny – Explained
History of the Lincoln Penny
The 1957 penny, also known as the Lincoln Wheat penny (or Lincoln cent), is a valuable and highly sought-after coin for collectors and numismatists alike. This particular penny has a unique, rather elaborate history that has contributed to its popularity and value, making it a fascinating subject for study. So, let’s take a look at how this penny came to be.
It is 1904, and President Theodore Roosevelt decided that the American coins/pennies lack artistic value, compared to the coins of, let’s say European countries. He recommended the U.S. Treasury hires an actual artist to prepare new coin designs and make them unique and outstanding.
Fast forward to 1909; the penny is finally introduced as a part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. It featured a portrait of Lincoln on the obverse side and two wheat ears on the reverse side. This design, created by sculptor Victor David Brenner, remained largely unchanged until 1959 when it was replaced by the Lincoln Memorial design.
The 1957 penny is unique in that it was produced at a time when the United States was transitioning from copper to zinc-coated steel for penny production. The U.S. Mint had been producing pennies using copper since the coin’s inception, but by the mid-20th century, copper was becoming increasingly expensive. In an effort to reduce costs, the U.S. Mint began experimenting with alternative materials for penny production.
Now, as World War II was at its peak in 1943, the U.S. needed to set its priorities straight and atop using copper for coin production, as it was much more needed elsewhere. As result, the first experimental steel pennies were produced in 1943, and copper was deemed essential for the U.S. war efforts. However, the steel pennies proved unpopular with the public because they were easily mistaken for dimes due to their similar color and weight. The U.S. Mint returned to producing copper pennies in 1944 and remained so until 1982 when inflation made copper too expensive for coin production. Other important historical events and overall facts regarding the 1957 Lincoln penny include;
- In 1955, the U.S. Mint began producing test coins using a zinc-coated steel alloy. These coins were released into circulation in a limited number of markets to test their durability and public reaction. The coins were met with mixed reviews, with some people complaining that they rusted quickly and turned brown. Despite the complaints, the U.S. Mint began full-scale production of the coins.
- A few years into production, the zinc-coated steel penny proved to be problematic. The coins quickly began to rust and turn brown, causing them to look dirty and unappealing. The public was unhappy with the new coins, and many people refused to accept them as payment. In response to the public outcry, the U.S. Mint decided to return to producing copper pennies in 1959, which has remained the standard for penny production ever since.
- The initial designer for these coins was a sculptor named Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Unfortunately, before he managed to propose the coin design, Saint-Gaudens did, and the Mint decided to move on and find another sculptor/artist who will finish what was started.
- The coin designer’s initials (VDB) were at first rather prominently placed at the very coin base but were later restored as much smaller since Lincoln should be the prominent figure on the coin, not the initials.
The Lincoln 1957 Coin Features
The initial inspiration for the coin was a plaque of President Lincoln in the designer Brenner’s studio. The plaque served as inspiration, and as the base for the initial coin design, featuring a Lincoln profile. Further, the coin contained the everpresent In GOD WE TRUST above the president’s head, as well as the word LIBERTY to his left, as well as the date, and the mint mark to his right side. Right under the date, there is also a small D, a mint mark indicating that the coin/penny was made in Denver.
The back of the coin features two stalks of wheat and on the very top the Latin phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM. In the very center, the coin features ONE CENT, and right under UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Now, there are varieties of the Lincoln 1957 penny/coin. The one with the small D under the date is one variety. However, there are multiple other varieties of this very 1957-D penny. For example;
- Doubled Die Obverse (Catalog ID CDDO-001) – penny characterized by doubling on the letters of LIBERTY and the motto. The mintmark is shifted to the south.
- Doubled Die Obverse (Catalog ID CDDO-002) – penny characterized by minor doubling on the letters of LIBERTY, as well as the number 9 and the date.
- Doubled Die Obverse (Catalog ID CDDO-003) – penny characterized by doubling on the letters of LIBERTY, as well as numerals 9 and 7 in the date.
The Lincoln 1957 Coin Worth
The short-lived production of the 1957 zinc-coated steel penny, combined with the public’s negative reaction to the coin, has made it a valuable and rare item for collectors nowadays. The coin’s scarcity, combined with its unique history, has made it one of the most sought-after pennies for collectors.
The worth or value of the 1957 Lincoln coin depends on a number of different factors, but the main one regards the circulation of the coin. Now, there are circulated and uncirculated coins and coin collectors generally obtain uncirculated examples of the Lincoln 1957 coin (often in full mint-red color, or MS-66 red).
Uncirculated Lincoln coins are rather scarce; after all, they’ve never been used, and this plays a significant role in determining their value. In general, Lincolnc 1957 coins are worth around 70 cents nowadays. But, the uncirculated specimen can be sold for thousands of dollars. For example, in 2018, a 1957-D Lincoln penny was sold for around 2,700 USD at a Stack’s Bowers auction.
The penny’s rarity is considered to be the main contributor to its value, as is the case with coin-collecting. But, the fact that the U.S. Mint produced a relatively small number of 1957 zinc-coated steel pennies before production was halted, means there are relatively few of these coins in circulation, and it is hard to come across these rare specimens. This rarity has made the coin highly prized by collectors nowadays, who are willing to pay a premium for a well-preserved 1957 penny, as proven by the previously mentioned 2018 auction.
The most valuable, and so most expensive 1957 Lincoln pennies are those of mint red and brown color, grade MS, which have a price point of around 20,400 USD, sold by the U.S. Coins Signature Auction, which is also the highest prive ever paid for a 1957 Wheat penny.
Overall, the 1957 Lincoln Wheat penny/coin has a rather unique and interesting history. It is the main contributor to its popularity, among the other facts regarding its short-lived circulation and a generally negative public response to the coin. Nevertheless, it is a piece of history, an important one, and as such, it is highly sought-after nowadays. Coin collectors, or numismatists, appreciate the coin’s rarity and history, and for it is willing to pay thousands of dollars. If you’re on a journey to start collecting coins or are already on it, we wish you all the luck, and may you come across your very 1957 Lincoln coin.