Just how rare is a 1917 penny? In 1917, the United States Mint produced two versions of the iconic Lincoln wheat penny: one with a ‘plain’ design and another with a ‘D’ mint mark from the Denver mint. But how rare are these 1917 pennies today? If you’ve stumbled upon one, you may be wondering about its value.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: While 1917 pennies are old, they aren’t necessarily valuable coins unless in pristine, uncirculated condition. But some rare varieties like the 1917 ‘D’ penny or those with interesting imperfections can fetch higher prices from collectors.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about 1917 Lincoln pennies: from mintage figures and current values to identifying rare varieties, grading condition, and determining authenticity.
Total Number of 1917 Pennies Produced
Plain and Denver Mint Pennies
The 1917 wheat pennies were produced at both the Philadelphia and Denver Mints. The Philadelphia Mint produced 196,429,785 plain pennies, while the Denver Mint had a much smaller output of only 55,120,000 pennies.
Comparing 1917 Production to Other Years
The 1917 penny production of over 251 million coins was fairly typical for the early 20th century. For example, the Philadelphia Mint produced 170,370,000 wheat pennies in 1911. And production numbers remained high in subsequent years like 134,294,860 pennies in 1916 and 140,581,000 pennies in 1918.
So while the 1917 penny stands out among collectors due to its key date status, its original mintage numbers were nothing extraordinary for the time period. The rarity of high-grade 1917 coins is better explained by the heavy circulation and wearing down of coins over the subsequent decades.
Mint State and Circulated 1917 Pennies
1917 pennies can be found in a wide range of conditions from well-worn circulated examples to pristine mint state coins. Professional coin graders use a numeric scale from 1 to 70 to grade and encapsulate the coins, with higher numbers indicating better condition.
Coins graded 60-70 are considered mint state, showing no signs of wear and damage. Key attributes graders look for are strong strike, no marks or hairlines, and vibrant original red luster on copper pennies. A 1917 penny-graded MS-65 RD (red) or better would be valuable.
Circulated 1917 cents exhibit wear and range from Good to AU (About Uncirculated). A grade of XF-40 denotes a lightly circulated example still retaining some original mint red color in protected areas. Most 1917 pennies found in circulation or collections grade VF, F, or G indicating heavy wear.
Values Based on Grade
High-grade 1917 Lincoln cents sell for significant premiums over common date coins. For example, an MS-65 RD example sold for $14,100 in a 2022 Heritage Auction. Another PCGS-graded MS-66 RD penny realized $18,213 in a 2021 Stack’s Bowers sale.
In lower mint state grades, 1917 cents trade for $2,000 to $7,000 in MS-63 and MS-64 holdered condition. Nice About Uncirculated 1917 pennies are valued at around $500-800 in the current market.
|$8,000 – $18,000
|$1,800 – $3,200
|$400 – $850
|$150 – $300
With over 200 million examples produced, 1917 Lincoln cents are plentiful in well-circulated condition. An average 1917 cent graded G-4 trades for just a small premium over face value around $1.25 to $1.50 retail.
Since 1917 marked the first year of production for the Lincoln Cent series, collectors have long prized these coins in the best state of preservation possible. As demand increases for early-date classic US coinage, values for 1917 pennies should continue appreciating into the future.
Key Date Status and Rarity
Why 1917 Pennies Are Not Rare
Despite the iconic date, most 1917 pennies are not considered rare by coin collectors and experts. That’s because over 200 million 1917 wheat pennies were produced in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver that year to meet demand.
The 1917 editions were struck during World War I. With the war raging in Europe, more pennies were required for routine commerce as people hoarded gold and silver coins. According to the Coin Analyst, mints were ordered to focus efforts on lower denominations like pennies and nickels.
The ample 1917 supply means most of these pennies are worth around $1-2 in average condition not a huge premium over face value. However, there are some exceptions, especially for uncirculated pieces with no wear.
Exceptions Like the 1917-D Variety
Rarities do exist among 1917 pennies, namely the 1917-D variety minted in Denver. High-grade examples of the 1917-D are quite elusive. USA Coin Book notes that most show considerable wear. 1917 was still early on in the Lincoln wheat penny series before collectors understood the importance of preservation.
As one of the lower mintage early dates, the 1917-D tends to command bigger premiums, especially in mint state grades:
There are also some extremely rare doubled-die varieties of the 1917 wheat penny worth thousands. But these are far and few between for collectors lucky enough to own them.
So while most 1917 pennies are common, a few special ones fetch big premiums. Checking the mintmark and inspecting the coin for errors can reveal elusive rarities!
Identifying Genuine 1917 Pennies
Design and Lettering Details
Authentic 1917 Lincoln wheat pennies have a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse side facing right. The words “In God We Trust” and the year 1917 are visible above Lincoln’s portrait. On the reverse side, the central design features two wheat heads facing each other with the words “One Cent” written at the bottom.
According to the United States Mint, the S mint mark for the San Francisco mint should be visible on genuine 1917-S pennies just below the wheat stalks.
The 1917 Lincoln wheat penny is composed primarily of bronze with 95% copper and 5% zinc and tin. According to the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), 1917 pennies should weight 3.11 grams if uncirculated.
Circulated 1917 pennies with some wear may weigh slightly less at around 3 grams.
Weighing a 1917 penny is one of the quickest ways to gauge authenticity. Counterfeits tend to be lighter or heavier than the specifications. Use a jewelry scale capable of weighing 0.01 grams for best results. The dimensions should also match the official diameter of 19mm and thickness of 1.5mm.
Clues of Authenticity
When examining a potential 1917 penny under magnification, look for the following signs it may be genuine:
- Smooth, uniform metal flows in the details with no porous surfaces
- Slight bag marks or wear consistent with age
- Verdigris green patina in the recessed areas
- Legible date and mint mark
Key markers of counterfeit or altered 1917 pennies include:
|Overly shiny surfaces
|Pitted or grainy metal heavy
|y dark gunk in letters
|Misshapen or indistinct date
When in doubt, consult a reputable third-party coin grading service. A genuine 1917 wheat penny is indeed a rare and valuable find!
Caring for and Selling Your 1917 Pennies
Storage and Preservation Tips
Collecting and caring for rare 1917 pennies takes some work, but it’s important for maintaining their condition and value. Here are some tips from numismatics experts:
- Store pennies in acid-free folders or coin albums instead of plastic bags or cardboard, which can damage them over time.
- Handle coins by the edges to avoid wear on the face and design.
- Clean coins only professionally or extremely gently with water, mild soap, and a soft cloth to avoid damage to the patina.
- Keep pennies in a cool, dark, stable environment to prevent damage from heat, light, or humidity changes.
Following storage best practices preserves pennies grades and prevents accidental nicks, scratches, or corrosion. This maintains their eye appeal for collectors and can mean a difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars in resale value over many years.
Knowing the Market
While 1917 pennies can potentially sell for very high prices, realizing their maximum value requires following market trends and finding interested buyers.
- Research recent 1917 penny sales on websites like PCGS or NGC to understand their current fair market value.
- Have scarce, high-grade pennies professionally graded by services like PCGS or NGC to authenticate and document their condition.
- Market-graded high-value pennies through specialty online auction sites like eBay and Heritage Auctions.
- Consider selling locally to interested collectors or specialized coin dealers to avoid auction fees.
Following coin values means understanding that market demand drives changes in prices over time – a coin is ultimately worth what someone will pay for it. Finding the right engaged buyers is key to maximizing 1917 pennies value.
How Rare Is A 1917 Penny – Conclusion
While 1917 Lincoln pennies are now over 100 years old, they are still fairly common and affordable for collectors on most budgets. Only pristine, uncirculated specimens or rare varieties like the 1917-D fetch high premiums.
But no matter what condition your 1917 pennies are in, they remain interesting mementos of history. And with a little knowledge about production, values, authentication, and preservation, you can make sure your 1917 cents are properly appraised and cared for.