In 1959, the U.S. Mint changed the design of the penny’s reverse from “stalks of wheat” to the “Lincoln Memorial.” Due to high volumes of mintage, the Pennies in circulation were greater in number compared to previous years. Therefore, apart from the Lincoln Mule Memorial Penny error, other pennies are not regarded as rare.
- The value of the 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny (MS+) Mint Condition in circulation is worth from $0.22 to $0.33 or more.
- The 1959 Lincoln penny was composed of 95% copper and 5% of zinc and tin.
- In 1959 the U.S. Mint produced Lincoln redesigned reverse Memorial cents at two different mints: Philadelphia and Denver, with both striking a total of 1,890,624,291 pieces.
- The 1959 D Lincoln Mule Memorial penny is one of the most controversial coins.
The USA Coin Book estimates the value of the 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny (MS+) Mint Condition in circulation to be worth from $0.22 to $0.33 or more. However, the value of uncirculated and rare error coins can increase considerably. Other Proof coins are estimated to cost $3.30 or more.
Join us as we take you through the grading process, the factors determining its worth, history, market analysis in 2023, varieties, and notable errors on the 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny..
Table of Contents
History of the 1959 Penny
In 1959, Frank Gasparro, a mint engraver, designed a new reverse side of the penny which changed the image from stalks of wheat to Abraham Lincoln’s Memorial to commemorate the 150th birthday anniversary of Abraham Lincoln. The United States Mint struck the first Lincoln penny in 1909 to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln.
The reverse change marked the 50th anniversary of the Lincoln penny. It has an image of Abraham Lincoln’s Memorial. On the top, it has an arched text of “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”; below it is “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” the U.S. motto, and on the lower side, it has an arched text of “ONE CENT.”
Victor David Brenner designed the obverse. The obverse has an image of Abraham Lincoln, with the text “IN GOD WE TRUST” on top, “LIBERTY” on the left, and the mint year “1959” on the right.
The 1959 Lincoln penny comprised 95% copper and 5% zinc and tin. The coin weighs 3.11 grams, measures 19 millimeters in diameter, and has plain edges.
Related: 1945 Wheat Penny – Complete Guide
Grading of the 1959 Lincoln Penny Value
From the 1970s, numismatists used the Sheldon scale to grade and give a numerical value for the pennies. The Sheldon Scale grades from poor (P-1) to the perfect mint state (MS-70). Before, collectors evaluated coins using words like good, fine, extremely fine, fair, and uncirculated to reflect their condition.
An image of a 1959 very fine circulated Lincoln penny courtesy of eBay.
A worn coin is regarded as a circulated coin, while those with no sign of wear and tear are considered uncirculated. In 1959 the U.S. Mint produced Lincoln redesigned reverse Memorial cents at two different mints: Philadelphia and Denver, with both striking a total of 1,890,624,291 pieces.
Opinions of a Lincoln Memorial penny grade can vary from one collector to the other based on different interpretations of the grading system. However, the ANA Grading Standards have provided collectors with a system to assist in grading the coins.
Professional collectors base a coin’s grade on its wear, where the one with more wear receives a lower grade than that with less. Other coins experience issues such as corrosion, holes, and scratches. Other essential features to consider when grading a coin are die state, luster, strike, and contact marks.
Image of Brilliant Uncirculated Red 1959-P Mint Lincoln Memorial Penny.
The Philadelphia mint struck 609,715,000 No Mint mark pennies and 1,149,291 proof pennies, while the Denver mint struck 1,149,291 D pennies. The following are the most common 1959 penny grades:
|Poor||P-1||It is blurred and looks damaged. If in circulation, it contains a mint mark and the production date.||Circulated|
|Fair||FR-2 and G-4||Are identifiable, smooth, and not as damaged as the poor coin. Others have their inscriptions on the rims with some details erased.||Circulated|
|Very good||VG-8||It is slightly worn, with all the primary design details visible. Although faintly, there is wear in most of the central elements.||Circulated|
|Good||F-12||They are evenly worn out, with all their features still visible. There is a visible detachment of rims from the field.||Circulated|
|Extremely fine||EF-40||Details are visible. The penny is in moderate use with minor visual wear.||Circulated|
|Very fine||VF-20||It has slight wear, and its features are visible. All the inscriptions are visible, with rims detached from the field on both sides.||Circulated|
|Uncirculated||AU-50||There is slight wear on the high points, with good eye appeal and some contact marks.||Circulated|
|Uncirculated choice||AU-58||It has significant eye appeal, is moderately worn, has mild contact marks, and has substantial mint shine.||Circulated|
|Basal||MS-60||Strictly uncirculated with no sign of wear on its highest points. It may have reduced luster, hairlines, and visible contact marks.||Uncirculated|
|Acceptable||MS-63||It has a weak to average strike, contact nicks, scratches, reduced shine, and an appealing appearance.||Uncirculated|
|Choice||MS-65||Has minor contact marks, significant mint shine, and great eye appeal||Uncirculated|
|Premium quality||MS-68||Has a stunning strike, incredible luster, no visible contact marks, and excellent eye appeal.||Uncirculated|
|Almost perfect||MS-69||Its strike is sharp, brilliant, and has perfect eye appeal. It has minor errors in the strike, contact marks, and planchet.||Uncirculated|
|Perfect||MS-70||No recognizable imperfections, rigid strike, and perfectly placed on a planchet. It has original luster and perfect eye appeal.||Uncirculated|
How To Preserve a 1959 Lincoln Penny
If you have some 1959 Lincoln Pennies, store them in envelopes or special pockets to protect them from dust and scratches. Enclosed pennies are less susceptible to damage. Choose an acid-free material for your enclosure.
Most collectors prefer to use plastic materials to store coins. Such materials include Polypropylene and Polyester to maintain the condition of the coin. Avoid PVC since it is not acid-free. With time, it will break down and become acidic.
Related: 1964 Penny Value – A Complete Guide
1959 Lincoln Penny Varieties and Errors
During the minting process, various errors appeared on the surface of the 1959 Lincoln pennies. The errors are a result of either mechanical failure or human interference. Coins with significant mistakes that left the mint became rare, while others had rarely visible errors and thus were not worth much.
Due to the large number of pennies minted in 1959, an error will likely appear. In addition, the 1959 penny came in three different varieties and errors, which include:
- 1959-P Lincoln Penny Value
The 1959-P Lincoln Penny was struck by the Philadelphia Mint, producing more than 609 million Lincoln pennies that year. The estimated price range is 0.01 to $14.00, although some could be more valuable in the open market.
- 1959-P Proof Lincoln Penny Value
In 1959, the Philadelphia mint also produced some proof coins apart from the regular strike pennies. The number of proof coins produced was lower than the average strike, with about 1,149,291 proof nickels in 1959.
The PSGC graded the coin from PR-61 to PR-69, depending on the color and the preservation level. The penny can be worth from 60 cents to $200 or more. In 2004 a Lincoln-proof coin graded PR-69 sold for $20,700, which the collector sold at a profit of $4,313 later in 2009.
- 1959-D Lincoln Penny Value
The Denver Mint struck the 1959-D Lincoln penny, producing 1,279,760,000 pennies. Despite being the smallest coin value in the U.S., it had a very high number of mintages. The coin’s obverse has a D mint mark, differentiating it from the Philadelphia penny.
The PCGS recorded the highest grade of the 1959-D penny at MS67, with only 50 coins available. The estimated price range is 0.01 to $15.00, depending on the condition of the penny.
- The 1959 D Lincoln Mule Memorial Penny
After the U.S. mint changed the reverse of the Lincoln penny from wheat stalks to Lincoln memorial, a former police officer announced a 1959-D penny with wheat stalks on the reverse. The penny was named “the mule memorial penny.”
In 1986, Former police officer, Leon Baller, discovered the Mule error. He then sent it for authentication to the U.S. Treasury in 1987. Later he received it back, signed “1959-D” by Richard M. McDrew, a then agent for the Department of Treasury. Leon Baller later sold the coin to Heritage Rare Coin Galleries.
In 2002, the Department of Treasury and Secret Service declared the mule coin genuine. However, both Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and Professional Coin Grading Services have disregarded grading the mule coin.
The decision also concurred with the American Numismatic Association Certification Service. Despite all the controversy surrounding it, Goldberg Auctioneers grade the coin as MS60.
The 1959 D Lincoln Mule Memorial penny remains one of the most controversial and rare coins. Though not graded, it remains one of the rarest coins. The penny is worth about $50,000.
- 1959 Error Pennies
The 1959 pennies may have double-die reverse errors or double-die obverse errors. The errors may have resulted from weak strikes, double strikes, or improper planchets alignment. Here are some 1959 errors:
- Off-Center Strike
An off-center strike is caused when a coin is outside the collar when the dies strike or the planchet is improperly aligned.
- 1959 No Mint Mark Penny Value
The no-mint mark pennies produced by the Philadelphia mint in 1959 had a low value due to the high number of 609,715,000 pieces. The current market per penny is about two cents.
However, some pennies are worth impressively high because of their conditions, like the red-brown 1959 MS66 that sold on eBay at 638 dollars in 2020. Also, the Philadelphia 1959 M.S. 67+ Lincoln penny with red toning sold for $5,887 in 2016.
In addition, the brown 1959 Lincoln penny MS-65 sold for $1,880 in 2017 at the Heritage Auctions.
Market Analysis on Value of the 1959 Lincoln Penny
Due to the continuous production of the 1959 Lincoln penny, it became one of the most popular long-term U.S. coins. Numismatic and Professional Coin Grading Services offer registry sets for collectors to enter their coins and engage in the best collection credits.
But in market analysis, the value of coins has changed over time, and prices may decline or increase due to condition rarities, color, and errors. E.g., A Red 1959-D Lincoln cent graded MS-67+ with two others is tied as the finest certified by PCGS, selling for $3,432 in an online auction in 2016.
Here is a chart of best-selling 1959 lincoln pennies:
|Lincoln Coin||Grade||Condition/ color||Value in $||Year of sale||Place of sale|
|1959 D||MS 60||Brown||48,300||2003||Goldberg auctions|
|1959 proof coin||PR-69||_||20,700||2004||Heritage auctions|
|1959 no-mint mark||MS-67+||Red||5,887||2016||Heritage auctions|
|1959 no mint mark||MS-66||Red-brown||638||2020||eBay|
|1959 proof coin||PR-69||4,313||2009||Heritage auctions|
|The 1959 no mint-mark Penny.||MS 65||Brown||1,880||2017||Heritage auctions|
Is a 1959-D Penny Rare?
Due to large circulation, the 1959-D Penny value is very low. However, the 1959-D Mule Error Coin was the only coin with wheat stalks on the reverse produced in 1959. These made it the most valuable and rare 1959 error penny worth $50,000.
What Is the Value of the 1959 Gold Penny?
In its mint state, MS+ is worth about $22, while in the standard circulated condition, it’s worth around 1 cent in an auction.
The 1959 Lincoln penny is among the most popular and the first to highlight the Lincoln memorial. What makes it unique is the appearance of Abraham Lincoln on both sides of the coin. Where on the obverse is his bust, while on the reverse is a small statue of him standing between the pillars.
However, the 1959 Lincoln penny’s value depends on its condition, possible errors, and mint marks. You can still find valuable pieces that are worth more due to the almost 100 percent copper.1959 Lincoln pennies are available both online and offline. You can buy them from USA coin Book, Amazon, eBay, Grey Sheet, Etsy, Coin Tracker, and other websites. You can also get them offline from coin shops, pawnshops, and collectors near you.