Demand for domestic coinage continued to grow in 1936 and the United States Mint responded by adding shifts and ramping up production. In Philadelphia, cent production was higher than it had been at any time since 1920. In total, 309,632,000 pieces were struck, all from blanks that were manufactured in-house. This production level largely satisfied national demand, as output from the Denver and San Francisco Mints numbered 40,620,000 and 29,130,000 respectively.
With its large mintage, the 1936 cent circulated freely for decades, the details of each cent gently wearing down over time. Today, while unusual to find in change, roll hunters know that the 1936 cent turns up here and there, typically in grades Good to Fine.
The coin hobby was growing in the mid-1930s. The Great Depression, paradoxically, lent the hobby a hand in becoming a popular pursuit. Coin boards allowed for some cheap entertainment and collectors sought one-cent coins from each date and denomination, pulling the coins from change and mounting them in a decorative display.
Original rolls were preserved, though not in the large numbers that were set aside with later dates. As the coin roll boom took hold in the 1950s and ’60s, 1936 cent rolls were routinely offered. An ad placed in the August 1948 Numismatist by dealer Lu Riggs promoted original uncirculated rolls for $2.20 each. This breaks out to about 4.5 cents per coin. Roll dealer M. Hirschhorn had an inventory of rolls in 1957, which he offered at $7.60 cents each (15.2 cents per coin) and a decade later he offered what inventory he had left of the date for $32.75 (65.5 cents per coin). Uncirculated singles and partial rolls trade with some regularity on eBay. $15 to $20 seems to be the going rate these days, although a complete original roll with 50 brilliant Red cents sold in December 2020 on eBay for $386 ($7.72 per coin).
The 1936 Lincoln Cent in Today’s Market
The certified population of 1936 Lincoln cents has exploded since researcher David W. Lange published his excellent Complete Guide to Lincoln Cents in 2005. Lange reported 207 examples in the grade MS67RD. As of the time of publication of this article, PCGS has certified 319 examples in this grade with three finer. NGC has certified 699 with one finer for this date. That finer grade, MS68, has no reported public auction data from which we might establish a market value, so we determine an approximate value based on data more than a decade old from the sale of the Jack Lee specimen of the 1937-D cent, which has a similar population today but only two certified examples when it realized $8,625 at a June 2010 Heritage auction. Given market trends, a $10,000 level for an MS68 RD 1936 cent seems about right.
The coin is much more affordable one half a step down, where a pretty lightly toned example in MS67+ Red brought $840 at a June 2021 Heritage sale. MS67RD coins sell for between $100 and $200 dollars (a wide range), which prices settle around $60 for MS66RD examples. Given the cost to submit a coin for grading, examples of an MS65RD 1936 seem like loss leaders today. $15 to $20 is the going price for those. Not a bad place to be if Gem coins suffice and you have no interest in pursuing Set Registry dominance with a collection of super-premium and ultra pricy Lincoln cents.
Lange reported in his book that the issue provided collectors with a number of similar-looking cud breaks. Overuse of dies leads to failure, resulting in cuds. There is also a dramatic doubled die obverse variety that is visually striking and quite scarce. Legend Rare Coin Auctions sold one of the finest known 1936 FS-101 Doubled Dies (PCGS MS66+RD CAC) for $14,100 in January 2020. This variety has significant doubling in IN GOD WE TRUST, LIBERTY, and the date and reminds one of the 1955 and 1972 Doubled Dies in the spread of doubling.
Victor David Brenner’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln depicts the 16th president from the shoulder up. Lincoln is dressed in a period suit and is wearing a bow tie. Brenner’s initials “V.D.B.” appear in Lincoln’s shoulder truncation. At the top of the design, wrapping around the rim is the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”. “LIBERTY” appears behind Lincoln’s neck, on the left side of the coin. The date 1936 appears slightly lower, in front of Lincoln’s portrait, on the coin’s right side.
Brenner’s “Wheat Cent” reverse. Two sheaths of wheat wrap around the right and the left side of the coin. At the top of the design, the motto “E ·PLURIBUS · UNUM” wraps around the rim. ONE CENT is inscribed in large letters, sans serif, the bottom arm of the E extends beyond the arm at the top. The middle arm is recessed. Beneath, in the same font, but smaller type: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The edge of the 1936 Lincoln cent is smooth or plain, without lettering or reeding.
Victor David Brenner, born in Lithuania in 1871, immigrated to New York at the age of 19. The classically trained sculptor built a group of clients, which included the future president Theodore Roosevelt. Having previously created a medallion of Lincoln, Brenner was contracted by Roosevelt in 1908 to use one of his previous images of the 16th president for a new design of the cent. At the time of his death, Brenner had carved over 125 different medals, sculptures, and coins (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||1936|
|Denomination:||One Cent (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||95% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc|
|OBV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
|REV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
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