United States 1936 Lincoln Cent

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 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.

Design


Obverse:

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.

Reverse:

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.

Edge:

The edge of the 1936 Lincoln cent is smooth or plain.

Designer

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.

Coin Specifications

Country:  United States
Year Of Issue:  1936
Denomination:  1 Cent
Mint Mark:  None (Philadelphia)
Mintage:  309,632,000
Alloy:  95% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc
Weight:  3.11 grams
Diameter:  19 mm
OBV Designer  Victor David Brenner
REV Designer  Victor David Brenner
Quality:  Business Strike

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. How would I go about selling my coins and who would I get confirmation from on the value and condition of the coins who could I trust.

    • If you go to the website PCGS.com, they have tools you can use to judge the approximate value of just about any U.S. coin. After getting a grade, then you can look up their values on the web site. Aside from listing the approximate values, they also list past auction prices realized for all coins.
      Important reminder: Do not ever, under any circumstances, attempt to “clean” any old coins, regardless of condition. Once a coin is cleaned, it diminishes the coins value greatly.

  2. I have a 1936 wheat penny..when you look at the back it looks imprinted upside down..I have a total of 23 wheat pennys..don’t kno what to do

    • Please compare their orientation to some newer coins in your pocket change. For well over a century US coins have been minted with what’s called “coin rotation”. The term means when you flip the coin side to side like book page, the obverse and reverse sides will be oriented 180° from each other. I.e. the sides in point opposite directions so one side appears to be upside down.

      If that’s true for your coins then they’re normal strikes and not errors.

    • Do your own research. Do not deal with pawn shops. Go to shows where dealers display their collections. Many websites available. Numismatics.

      • Agree 100%.

        They could also get a copy of the Red Book to learn about history, mint marks, conditions, etc.

        Also run, do not walk, away from using auction sites as guides. My experience is that for every good listing there’s at least as many scams – not a place for someone just starting out.

    • Leslie, although most people in the numismatic field are honest business people, I wouldn’t guarantee they all are. I recommend that you do your own research first so you have a general idea of what you have. PCGS.com is a great site to research and learn about coin values. And when you do choose to sell what you have, get multiple opinions on their values. If you had a coin worth MILLIONS of dollars, it may be tempting for a pawn shop to offer you only $10.00 if you were willing to accept that amount.
      Good Luck

  3. Most of numis newbs like myself search through our jars of pennies looking for a rare coin. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen that way. Most all value US are already in the possession of collectors. Not many new coins added to unless the rare occasion somebody ancient dies and happens to have a collection of valuable coin. You can find plenty for sale at exhorbitant prices though.

    • Unfortunately they’re not very valuable. Huge numbers of cents were struck in the mid to late 1940s. Unless it’s in new or almost-new condition you’re unlikely to get more than 5 to 15 cents, if that.

    • In general circulated condition it can be worth anywhere from 10 cents to $10. dollars, but if you have one in pristine, uncirculated condition it can go for up to $700 or more. But a coin can only be worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it at auction, so if someone wants the coin badly enough, it can go for hundreds of thousands of dollars

    • My understanding is that this isn’t really a “what’s it worth” site, more of a news and info place. There are lots of other sites that may help. If you’re familiar with mint marks, conditions, etc. you can search sites run by major agencies like PCGS, ANA, etc.

      Despite what you may read on FB, etc. DON’T rely on general auction sites as price guides. They’re not necessarily curated or moderated for accuracy. I’ve seen more than a few crazy-outrageous scam postings; it can be a slog to separate valid sales from fakes.

  4. I have a 1936 wheat cent that looks like the mint struck over 2 previous (foreign) strikes and then had a strike through after that. I am currently trying to determine which images are from which coins. Possibly the Manila Commemorative set coins and Mexican centavos. Wish me luck figuring this coin out

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.