A penny is a 1-cent coin. We call them pennies in America because that’s what they’re called in the United Kingdom, and we used to be a British Colony way back when. The 1956 Penny is a Wheat Cent because of the design on its back. For reference, pennies have seven reverse designs including wheat, memorial, and shield. For now, let’s find the true 1956 Penny Value.
1956 Penny Value Chart
|Mint Mark||Good (G 4)||Fine (F 12)||Extremely Fine (EF 40)||Uncirculated (MS 60)||Mint State (MS 63)|
|1956 (P) No Mint Mark Penny Value||$0.02||$0.05||$0.13||$0.39||$1.13|
|1956-D Penny Value||$0.02||$0.05||$0.13||$0.33||$1.13|
|1956-D Above Shadow D Penny Value||$3.30||$7.88||$28||$39||$83|
History of the 1956 Penny
The American Penny is popularly known as the Lincoln Cent because it was coined to honor Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. He was assassinated in 1865, but the coin celebrated the year of his birth, 1809. More commemorative pennies were made for his 100th, 150th, and 200th birthdays, each with a special reverse design. (That’s the tails side.)
The penny has various characteristic traits that make it memorable. It was the first US coin to feature an American leader because George Washington (1st US President and Founding Father) shot down this habit back when the American Republic began. The penny was also the first 1-cent coin to have In God We Trust. The legend had earlier appeared on a 2-cent.
In 1959, the reverse design of the penny switched to the Lincoln Memorial, so the years before the change appeal to collectors. The decision had been debated since 1952, and in 1955 a double-die variety of the penny slipped into circulation. It wasn’t discovered until years later, but this error retroactively drew collectors’ attention toward the 1956 penny.
Also, 1956 Pennies are VDB Pennies. VDB is Victor David Brenner. He was an assistant to Augustus Saint-Gaudens. A bit of background – before the 1900s, coins were designed by mint staff, particularly the Chief Mint Engraver and his assistant. But Theodore Roosevelt (the 26th US President) wanted US currency to be attractive and artistic, not just functional.
The Big VDB Debate
He asked the mint to hire Saint-Gaudens, but the sculptor died before completing his work, and his assistant continued the project. Designers were allowed to put their initials on coins as a sort of signature or monogram. But Brenner over-emphasized his. First, he spelled out his full surname. When that was rejected, he replaced it with VDB. That was shot down too.
The next suggestion was to just use B, but that would take too long, and the current Mint Engraver (Charles Barber) was against it for two reasons. He was affronted by these artists that had been brought in to do his job, and he didn’t like the Lincoln Cent. He had designed earlier coins marked B for Barber and he didn’t want people to think the cent was his work.
In the end, after protests by both the public and mint officials, the VDB was taken off the cent. This upset Brenner, but he had no say in the matter. Still, his initials were restored in 1918. They appear in a much smaller, barely visible font at the shoulder cut-off of Lincoln’s portrait. VDB is worth a lot on 1909 pennies, but on the 1956, it has no particular premium.
In 1956, the San Francisco Mint didn’t produce any pennies because its mintage section was closed from 1955 to 1968. But it still quietly produced a few coins, though they never carried the S mint mark. They include the coins made during the shortage years (1965 to 1967) when no coins had mint marks to deter collectors who were falsely blamed for the coin hoarding.
Features of the 1956 Penny
All pennies are Lincoln Cents, but they’re further subdivided by their rear design. And as we’ve mentioned, the 1956 Penny was a Wheat Penny aka Wheat Cent because of the images on the coin’s back. Let’s take a closer look at the distinguishing features of the 1956 penny.
First, the technical terms. The image or portrait is known as the device, the background is called the field, and the words are called legends or mottos. The heads side is known as the obverse of the coin, and the tails side is referred to as its reverse. A blank coin is a planchet.
The Obverse of the 1956 Penny
The obverse (heads side) of the 1956 Penny bears a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. He’s facing right, and it’s similar to the image used on a desk plaque made for Gorham Manufacturing in 1907. The 1956 Penny has VDB on the shoulder cut-off, the mint mark and the date on the lower right, Liberty on the mid-left, and the motto In God We Trust above Lincoln’s head.
The Reverse of the 1956 Penny
The reverse (tails side) of the 1956 Penny has a pair of durum wheat ears. They lie along the sides of the coin, framing One Cent and United States of America. E Pluribus Unum runs along the upper collar of the coin, between the tips of the two wheat sheaves. Although both sides of the coin were designed by Victor Brenner, VDB only appears on the front of the coin.
Other Features of the 1956 Penny
The 1956 Penny is 95% copper and 5% zinc + tin in unlisted proportions. The coin measures 19.05mm in diameter (0.75”) with a plain, smooth, unreeded edge. It weighs 3.11g. The cent’s color can be graded as RD for red (the best grade), BN for brown, or RB for reddish-brown.
1956 Penny Value Guide
Pennies can’t buy much in today’s economy, and lots of people toss them without thinking. This abundance of abandoned pennies may be why it’s considered lucky to pick a penny – so many are lying around unattended! Besides, the collector’s value on some of those pennies can be quite high, so the next time you spot a stray copper, inspect it with a loupe to be sure.
1956 (P) No Mint Mark Penny Value
In 1956, the Philadelphia Mint made 420,745,000 1-cent coins without mint marks. Even without errors, you can get a decent price on these. A 1956 MS 67 RD Penny sold for $2,100. Another coin also graded MS 67 RD was $3,700 while an MS 67+ RD CAC went for $13,200.
1956 (P) Proof Penny Value
Since San Francisco didn’t mint any pennies in 1956, proof coins were made in Philadelphia and had no mint marks. The Philly mint released 669,384 proof pennies. Proof coins differ from circulating coins because their planchets are pre-burnished to get that mirror shine.
The dies are pre-treated to render sharper features. A 1956 1c PR 68 RD CAM sold for $564. CAM is cameo, the highly reflective quality of the first 50 to 100 coins from any proof die. As the polish fades, the field gets less reflective and the device loses some of its hazy frostiness.
If the contrast is intensely visible, the coin grade is Ultra Cameo or D-CAM (deep cameo). A 1956 PR 68 RD D-CAM sold for $5,800, another for $9,000, and a third for $16,000. A PF 69 RD Ultra Cameo sold for $2,760. (PF is NGC’s PR.) In PR 67 D-CAM, it drops to $440.
1956-D Penny Value
In 1956, the Denver Mint made 1,098,201,100 pennies with the D Mint Mark. But despite the high mintage – more than double the volume of Philadelphia coins – you can still get a premium price for a 1956-D Penny in good condition. In MS 67 RD, it once sold for $7,475.
1956-D Above D Shadow Penny Value
Coin molds are made in multiple stages starting with a master hub, working hub, master die, and working dies. Errors in any of these phases can lead to varieties. A variety is when multiple coins are minted from the same flawed die or hub, so they have identical mistakes. The D Above D Shadow Penny is a variety with its own sub-category. It’s worth about $100.
1956 Penny Errors
Even the least experienced reseller knows coin errors can add value to your 1956 penny. But some errors are worth more $$ than others, so let’s check out a few flaws worth good money.
1956 Penny D Over Shadow D RPM Error
We’ve noticed those D/D errors come in at least four styles. The first two have the second D overlapping the first on its upper right. The third error has a visible D slightly below a faded D but overlapping its lower left. The final RPM is a bold D above a shadow D with none of the Ds touching each other. D over Shadow D is worth $25 in AU 55 and $259 in MS 66 RD.
1956 Penny Struck on a 10c Blank
Planchets come in different thicknesses and metal compositions according to denomination. And sometimes, a coin gets stamped on the wrong blank. This 1956 penny was struck on a 10c (dime) planchet so it weighs less (2.4g) and the legends In God We Trust (obverse) and E Pluribus Unum (reverse) are partially sliced off. In MS 63, this planchet error sold for $960.
1956 Penny Struck on a Honduras 1c Planchet
We do sometimes mint coins for other countries, so their planchets may get mixed up with ours. This 1956 Penny was struck on a 1 Centavo planchet from Honduras. The coin is much lighter than it should be (1.5g) and has a truncated appearance with the outer edges missing (e.g. Lincoln’s forehead, 6 in 1956, L in Liberty, etc). In MS 64 BN, this coin sold for $2,070.
1956 Penny Struck on a 10c Planchet
These next two 1956 Pennies were also struck on dime planchets. But they have a silvery tone because up to 1965, dimes were 90% silver. Later dimes have a nickel top coat to retain that silver shimmer. The coins are lighter than they should be at 2.5g, and since dime diameters are smaller, part of the legend is sliced off. These MS 63 pennies sold for $1,500 and $1,700.
1956 Penny D/D RPM Error
Most of the design detail on a coin is machined into place. But until 1989, the mint mark was placed manually with a hand-held punch. This means an RPM (re-punched mint mark) may occur if the person was nervous, distracted, or cold, making their hands wobbly. The D/D error can sell for $15 in EF 45 and $300 in MS 66 RD. In MS 67 RD, it jumps to $1,200.
1956 Penny Struck Thru Error
A struck thru error (alternately spelled as strike thru, struck through, or strikethrough) is when some foreign object slips between the die and planchet, leaving its silhouette on the coin. The error description will often explain what the object was, and it could be a piece of cloth, tape, a staple, etc. In 2018, this 1956 MS 65 Struck Thru sold for $379.97 on eBay.
1956 Penny DDO Error
A DDO error or double die obverse happens while the die is being made. The die might shift between strikes, and the error will transfer onto all coins minted with that flawed die. This doubling effect is clearest on letters and numbers, but on the 1956 Penny, you can also spot the doubling on Lincoln’s eye and lip. This error is worth $100 in MS 65 and $325 in MS 66.
1956 Penny Double Denomination Error Struck on a 10c
The three main currency appraisers are ANACS (American Numismatic Association Coin Service), PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service), and NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Company). They all use the Sheldon Scale, but they have slight variations e.g. PR vs PF or Ultra Cameo vs Deep Cameo. So this PCGS Dbl Denom graded in AU 58 sold for $2,587.
1956 Penny Wrong Planchet Error
When a coin is struck on existing currency that was already struck, PCGS calls that a double denomination error. We saw an example above. But a coin can also be struck on a blank planchet from a different denomination, and that’s called a wrong planchet error. In AU 58, this 1956-D Penny struck on a dime blank (that’s an unused 10c planchet) is worth $1,560.
1956 Penny Struck on an Elliptical Planchet
The planchets that are used to mint coins are generally in sheet form. A punch then strikes the sheet to produce coin discs. But sometimes, the disc-maker fails, causing planchet errors. In this example, the punch made an oval planchet instead of a round one, and the resulting penny was shaped like an eye. In 2021, this adorable error coin sold at auction for $290.
1956 Penny Double Curved Clip Error
The coin business is funny and sometimes counter-intuitive. You might find coins with drastic damage that isn’t worth much, while other coins need a microscope to spot the flaw, but they still sell for thousands of dollars! The error on this coin is obvious – two of the sides are chopped off, which is called a clip error. But this double clip error is only worth $150.
1956 Penny Obverse Struck Thru Capped Die Error
If you’re new to reselling, you may have been attracted by those thousand-dollar sales figures on YouTube. And while some errors will only get you a hundred bucks, that’s still 999,900% profit on a 1-cent coin! This capped die error is technically a strike-thru as well since the mint worker forgot to remove the die cap before striking. This blurry penny is a $145 flaw!
1956 Proof Penny DDOs and DDRs
Proof coins are minted more slowly and carefully to avoid mistakes. This is because they’re targeted at collectors and sold at a premium right from Day #1. But they can still exhibit doubling errors, and as usual, these are clearest on the coin’s wording and numbering. A 1956 PF 65 RD DDO 1c sold for $50. It’s not much, but it’s a profit of 499,900% on a penny!
FAQs About the 1956 Penny
How Much is the 1956 Penny Worth?
A 1956 Penny in average condition is worth about 2 cents. That’s still double its face value, and the extra expense comes from the melt value of copper in November 2022. But some 1956 Pennies in high grades can fetch significantly more. The priciest one sold for $13,200.
What Makes a 1956 Penny Valuable?
Grading and errors. The penny is the most collected coin in the US, with the silver dollar trailing close behind it. And a flawless 1956 penny can sell for over $10,000. But the right error can add value to your coin, so look through the common ones and compare your cents!