Ever since 1909, when the Lincoln cent (also known as the Lincoln penny) has been first struck, coin collectors and enthusiasts have had one mission; to collect this iconic coin and hopefully sell it for a lot of money in the future. But, isn’t this the case with any historic coin or bill? Well, sure, but rarely is any other coin in the history of the States more iconic and sought-after than the Lincoln penny. 

If this penny has piqued your interest as well, you’re at the right place! Regardless of whether you’re simply interested in its story, or you’re looking to invest in one or sell it, it is essential to gather all the necessary, valuable information that can help you get your money’s worth. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in and explore one particular edition of the Lincoln penny; the one from 1986. 

The 1986 Lincoln Penny – Everything You Need To Know

The 1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny - The 1986 Lincoln Penny – Everything You Need To Know

  • Type: Lincoln Penny
  • Year: 1986
  • Face Value: $0.01
  • Composition: 97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper
  • Total Weight: 2.5g
  • Diameter: 0.750 in. 19.05 mm
  • Thickness: 0.0598 inches (1.52 mm)
  • Edge: Plain
  • Quantity Minted: 8,937,272,688

The History

As we previously mentioned, the first Lincoln cent, or penny, was minted back in 1909. The purpose of this ‘new’ penny was to commemorate the 100th birthday of the late President Abraham Lincoln, who served as the 16th President of the United States, until his assassination in 1865. The initial coin was designed by Lithuanian sculptor and engraver, Victor David Brenner. 

The coin featured a portrait of President Lincoln on the obverse, and two wheat ears on the reverse of the coin. The design of the coin remained unchanged until 1959 when it was replaced by the Lincoln Memorial design. The design changed for the reverse of the coin, as the wheat ears were replaced with the Memorial building, for President Lincoln’s 150th birthday. 

The design and the features of the Lincoln Cent, from this point onwards, remained the same. The Lincoln Cent did go through certain composition changes until 1982, but the 1986 Lincoln Cent was deemed similar to the very original edition of the coin. The only difference between the original and the 1986 Lincoln coin lies in the changed reverse design, and as a result, the name of the coin; the Lincoln cent wasn’t referred to as the Wheat cent, but rather as the Memorial cent or penny.

The Coin Features

The main features of the coin refer to its design, composition, weight, and size. The 1986 Memorial Lincoln penny is a one-cent coin, made from zinc and copper. It has a plain edge and a diameter of 0.75000 inches, or 19.05 mm, to be exact. The coin weighs 0.08818 ounces or 2.5 g. The one-cent coin is 0.05984 inches thick, or 1.52 mm.

  • The obverse of the coin

The 1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny - The Coin Features - The obverse of the coin

As we previously mentioned, the obverse of the coin features the portrait of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as the inscription In God We Trust, at the very top rim of the coin. On the right side, there’s the Date, in some cases a mint mark (D or S, for mints in Denver and San Francisco, where to coin would have been minted), and to the left side, there’s the inscription Liberty, right behind the President Lincoln’s back. Bear in mind that, if the coin doesn’t feature a mint mark on the obverse, it doesn’t mean it is not a real coin; the lack of a mint mark simply suggests it was minted in the Philadelphia mint.

  • The reverse of the coin

The 1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny - The Coin Features -The reverse of the coin

When it comes to the reverse of the coin, the main change when compared to the original Lincoln Cent is that the 1986 Lincoln Cent features a design with the Lincoln Memorial in the center (instead of the two wheat ears). The initials of the obverse designer, Frank Gasparro, were also included, next to the right side of the Memorial stairs. If one looks closely, between the pillar of the Memorial, there is also a statue of President Lincoln. This makes the coin rather unique, as it features the President on both sides.

Of course, above the Memorial building, there is the inscription United States of America, and right in between is the motto E Pluribus Unum (meaning, one of many). The is also the denomination One Cent at the very bottom of the coin.

Minting Numbers and Rarity

By no means is the 1986 Memorial Lincoln penny scarce or extremely valuable to collectors and numismatists, apart from it carrying a sentimental value; at least not when compared to other extremely valuable and sought-after coins. One piece of information that proves this lies in the minting numbers; the 1986 Memorial Lincoln penny was minted in millions, and it was mostly made for circulation purposes. Sure enough, there is an error or proof 1986 Lincoln cents were deemed highly valuable and scarce, but other than those, the 1986 Lincoln cent is a contemporary one, and therefore, not as rare as often perceived by the public.

1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny
Location Year Minted
Philadelphia 1986 No Mint mark penny 4,491,395,493
Denver 1986-D penny 4,442,866,698
San Francisco 1986 – penny (proof) 3,010,497
Total / 8,937,272,688

The 1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny Value: How Much Is it Worth Today?

When it comes to determining the current market value of the 1986 Lincoln Memorial penny value, we need to take a few things into consideration. For all, coins coming from different mints will have a slightly different value. The least valuable ones are the ones without any mint mark, indicating they were struck and issued in Philadelphia, as previously mentioned. 

The 1986 Lincoln penny that contains a D mint mark was made in Denver, and as such is slightly more valuable. The most valuable pennies and coins in general were struck in the San Francisco Mint, which are in this case proof coins as well.

Furthermore, the grade of the coin is essential when it comes to its value as well. Any coin with a grade of MS 60 upwards is significantly more valuable than, for example, pennies and coins deemed to be of fine or good condition. And, of course, if a coin is uncirculated (was never released into public use, or circulation), or if it’s a proof example, the value will increase significantly. Error 1986 Lincoln Memorial pennies are also highly sought-after and of significant value; in some cases even higher than the proof coins.

Now that we have all the necessary information, let’s take a closer look at the current market value of the 1986 Lincoln Memorial penny or cent;

No Mint Mark (Minted in Philadelphia)

The 1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny - No Mint Mark (Minted in Philadelphia)

The 1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny - Reverse No Mint Mark (Minted in Philadelphia)

The 1986 Lincoln Memorial Cent minted in Philadelphia has no mint mark. It is considered to be a regular strike coin, and has a lower grade and a lower price in the current market, especially when compared to the same 1986 Lincoln pennies minted in Denver in San Francisco. The minting numbers of the No Mint Mark, or Philadelphia 1986 Lincoln cent reach 4,491,395, 493. The current market prices range between $0.05 (good condition), and $2.400 (MS 68+).

D Mint Mark (Minted in Denver)

The 1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny - D Mint Mark (Minted in Denver)

The 1986 Lincoln Memorial cent minted in the Denver mint features a ‘D’ mint mark. On the market, the ‘D’ penny is slightly more valuable than the Philadelphia penny, and as such it has a higher price as well. The minting numbers of the Denver 1986 Lincoln penny reach 4,442,866,698, which is a slightly lower minting number than that of the Philadelphia mint. The current market prices for this coin range between $3 and $100, while the auction record has reached $7,840 (MS 69).

1986 Memorial Lincoln Penny Value (July, 2023)
Condition  No Mint mark penny 1986-D penny
MS 60 $0.10 $3
MS 61 $0.25 $3
MS 62 $0.50 $3
MS 63 $0.75 $3
MS 64 $1 $3
MS 65 $2.50 $5
MS 66 $5 $15
MS 67 $7.50 $20
MS 68 $2.400 (auction record) $100
MS 69 / $7,840 (auction record)

S Mint Mark (Minted in San Francisco, Proof)

As we previously mentioned, the San Francisco Mint struck proof of 1986 Memorial Lincoln pennies. These would be the highest in demand and highest in value among the three. Despite the SF mint not usually producing as many coins as the Philadelphia and Denver mint, we can say that they did produce unusually low numbers of the 1986 Lincoln penny; around 3,010,497. 

As a result, almost all of the coins ended up in circulation, and their value is particularly modest. Still, one can get a slightly greater price than the face value and an exceptionally large sum for a PR 70 1986 Lincoln penny. The price for this coin ranges between 

$1 (last year, in 2022, the price was $5), and $550 (PF 70, Red, Ultra Cameo). The auction record for the 1986-S Memorial Lincoln penny has reached $3,450 (PR 70).

Also Read:

1986 Lincoln Penny Error

Errors in the minting process are a normal occurrence. As millions of coins are being struck, errors are bound to happen, resulting in dimes missing coating, for example, being clipped, the design being improperly positioned, etc. Despite the errors, these dimes and error coins, in general, are highly sought-after and can be extremely valuable. Depending on the actual error, the value can vary, as you’ll see in the following explanation;

  • 1986 Penny Double Die Error – this error occurs when a coin is struck twice, and as a result, has a slight doubling of the design on both sides or one of the sides. The location of the doubling varies but often occurs around the central image of President Lincoln (eye, tie), or around the inscriptions and the dates. Sometimes, the doubling occurs on the reverse image of the Memorial building (between the pillars). Such an error coin can reach the price of $50.
  • 1986 Penny BIE Error – this error occurs when the die of the coin becomes worn out or cracked. As the die cracks or breaks, it creates an error in the word Liberty. Because the crack creates an imperfection, it adds an additional letter between B and E letters; which is often an I-looking crack. Such an error coin can reach a price of up to $15.
  • 1986 Off-Center Penny Error – this error occurs when the minting machine fails to center the coins perfectly on the minting press. As a result, the central coin image/design is off-center. One really needs to pay attention to notice this error, as it is barely visible and rather rare. Such an error coin can reach a price of up to $100.
  • 1986 Coin Struck on Unplated Planchet – this error occurs when a part of the Planchet coil stock is not plated and then punched out as a blank. The blank manages to go through the entire process and leaves the mint without the plating layer, as a plain coin. Such an error coin can reach a price of up to $285.

Auction Records

We’ve briefly mentioned 1986 Lincoln penny auction records, but we’ve also wanted to expand on this topic since the auction prices can go super high. And, our readers deserve to know the highest possible price their coin can potentially reach. Here’s a list of the highest auction records for the 1986 Memorial Lincoln penny;

  • The 1986 D MS 69 RD Memorial Lincoln penny – $7,840
  • The 1986 S PR 70 DCAM Memorial Lincoln penny – $3,450
  • The 1986 MS 68+ RD Memorial Lincoln penny – $2,400
  • The 1986 MS 63 BN Memorial Lincoln penny – $1,553
  • The 1986 D MS 63 BN Memorial Lincoln penny – $285

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Now you’ve learned everything essential there is to learn about the 1986 Memorial Lincoln penny. Hopefully, this brief journey was fun and informative. For more information about the 1986 Lincoln penny, we recommend you check professional coin/bill grading services and their informative blog posts as well as active or closed auctions. This can help you understand how the value of a penny changes over time, and what can you expect regarding the market climate. We wish you the best of luck and happy collecting!

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