Coin Value Finder » 1921 Penny Value: are “S”, No mint mark worth money?

1921 Penny Value: are “S”, No mint mark worth money?

While many know that pennies from before 1983 have a copper value worth double their face value, fewer recognize the real worth of the rare years. The 1921 penny is one of these coins, and the year produced different varieties and minor details to consider when determining value.

To properly value a 1921 penny, you should consider its mint location, general condition, and any unique verifiable features. Generally, the highest value coins are well-preserved examples from smaller mint batches, and you witness this with pennies from this year.

Keep reading as we look at the production numbers and mint locations for the year, as well as current market values and smaller details surrounding the history of the 1921 wheat penny.

Let’s dive right in!

1921 Penny Details

  • Category: Lincoln Wheat Cent (1909-1958)
  • Mint: Philadelphia; San Francisco
  • Mintage: 54,421,000
  • Obverse Designer: Victor David Brenner
  • Reverse Designer: Victor David Brenner
  • Composition: 95% Copper; 5% Tin and Zinc
  • Weight: 0.10970 ounces (3.11 g)

The 1921 penny is part of the Lincoln Wheat Cent series. This year only saw coins minted in Philadelphia and San Francisco, while the Denver mint was preoccupied with the production of silver coins.

The coin’s obverse features the detailed side profile of 16th president Abraham Lincoln. The inscription to the left reads “LIBERTY” and to the right, close to Lincoln’s chest, is the year (1921) and the mint mark (if minted in San Francisco).

The words “IN GOD WE TRUST” arch across the top curve of the coin, and the outer edges are smooth rather than reeded.

The reverse of the 1921 wheat penny is less detailed but still beautifully designed. Victor David Brenner arranged two sheaves of durum wheat on the bottom outer edges of the coin.

Inscriptions on the reverse read “ONE CENT” AND “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” in the middle of the coin. The country’s motto, E PLURIBUS UNUM, sits at the top.

Also Read: Top 20 Most Valuable Old Pennies Worth Money (Penny Collection)

Value Chart

1921 Penny Value Chart

Mint Mark Good Fine Extremely Fine Uncirculated
1921 No Mint Mark Penny Value $0.48 $1.07 $8.13 $19.00
1921 S Penny Value $0.88 $2.98 $31.75 $62.00

1921 Penny Value and Varieties Guide

As we’ve mentioned, the Denver mint had suspended the production of coins other than silver dollars during this year. For this reason, 1921 ranks as the 6th lowest total mintage year during the 50 years the wheat cent was struck.

Of the 54,431,000 struck, the majority came out of the Philadelphia mint. Those from the San Francisco mint, marked with an ‘S’, are therefore more valuable based on scarcity alone.

Let’s dive into the current values of these variants and why they’re often priced that way.

1921 No Mint Mark Penny Value

1921 No Mint Mark Penny

  • Type: Lincoln Wheat Cent (1909-1958)
  • Edge: Smooth
  • Mint Mark: N/A
  • Place of Minting: Philadelphia
  • Year of Minting: 1921
  • Face Value: $0.01
  • $ Price: $48 to $8.13+
  • Quantity Produced: 39,157,000
  • Designer: Victor D. Brenner

Philadelphia took over the majority of penny production in 1921, and the mint oversaw the production of 39,157,000 1921 no mint mark coins. Because of their great number, there’s a good chance you will come across these unmarked coins today.

Because of age and circulation, most 1921 pennies without a mint mark are heavily worn, and a few are so deeply damaged that they’re only worth their $0.02 copper value.

Moderately circulated coins are still worth about $0.48 today, while finer 1921 pennies without a mint mark are worth over $1.

Standout coins include those with great detail in the portrait, particularly well-defined hairs on his head or beard. While they may have some wear, extremely fine no mint mark pennies from 1921 are easily worth $8.

The finest known no mint mark penny from 1921 is a PCGS-graded MS-68 red. This coin sold for $36,000 in 2019, but had previously sold for $55,000 in 2005.

1921 S Penny Value

1921 S Penny

  • Type: Lincoln Wheat Cent (1909-1958)
  • Edge: Smooth
  • Mint Mark: S
  • Place of Minting: San Francisco
  • Year of Minting: 1921
  • Face Value: $0.01
  • $ Price: $0.88 to $31.75+
  • Quantity Produced: 15,264,000
  • Designer: Victor D. Brenner

The San Francisco mint only marked 15,264,000 pennies in 1921, less than half of what Philly produced. These coins have a firm value base because of the low production number.

Because most coin collectors at this time lived on the east coast, it’s also difficult to find S marked coins in fine or extremely fine condition. Many 1921 S pennies are stuck in the “Good” category, and they carry a value around $0.88.

If you happen to find a better-preserved 1921 S penny, it triples the value. “Fine” coins currently circulate for $2.98, but those with better details (such as retention of the fine lines of the wheat stalks on the reverse) skyrocket to $31.75.

All you need to make this jump in value is a coin lacking issues such as surface marks or dulled luster. Coins in uncirculated condition are even more valuable, and they often sell for $62 or more.

The rarest variation is the red 1921 S penny. While other colors may be uncirculated, red pennies retain 90 percent or more of their original color. You should have a penny professionally graded for redness, but doing so can put a price tag of $500 to $10,000 on the coin.

1921 Penny History

The 1921 penny emerged after the first decade of wheat penny circulation. While there are over a dozen varieties of coins featuring Abraham Lincoln, the wheat penny is one of the most recognizable.

Before its debut in 1909, it was out of taste to use a person’s image on a coin. This unspoken rule was defeated by the public’s opinion of Lincoln and their desire to honor him, and Roosevelt was determined to feature him when he saw Victor David Brenner’s sculpted plaque of the 16th president.

U.S. Mint Chief Charles Barber was less enthusiastic, and he had his reservations about working with any artist who had no experience with coin design. Brenner and Barber went back and forth to determine the right blend of complexity and practicality.

In the final design we see on the 1921 penny, Mint Director Frank A. Leach had lowered Lincoln so his face appeared more in the middle of the coin. When given the choice between a blank version and mottoed version, then-President Howard Taft chose the latter.

The 1921 penny is not particularly tied to history, but there were a few historic moments that shaped the coin and its modern value.

In particular, the lack of production from the Denver mint had a major impact on the number, and subsequent value, of 1921 coins. This was the first year that the Peace Dollar (a coin used to recognize post WWI peace) was produced.

While Denver was minting over 20 million of those silver dollars, the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints did their best to make nearly 40 million wheat pennies (not to mention other coins) for the year.

The wheat cent design lived on until it was replaced by the Lincoln memorial design in 1959 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.

1921 Penny Grading

The best route to follow involves professionally grading your 1921 penny using PCGS standards. This system assigns grades from 1 to 70 to identify the current condition of the coin, and it’s ultimately used to determine the value of coins.

The PCGS grading system is based on the origins 70-tier system from numismatist Dr. William Sheldon. While you need a professional eye for proper grading, you can get a general idea of your 1921 penny’s grading by putting it in one of the “buckets” explained below.


A “Good” 1921 penny has been through quite a bit in over a century of circulation. Major details may not have survived heavy wear, and they often merge together. Despite this, the date and lettering remain clear and readable.

The lower part of the portrait wears smooth, and the lines of the coat lapel disappear. Most coins retain the line separating the shirt.

These coins have strong, sturdy features that have held up well against the test of time. They hold on to the details necessary for proper identification and aging, and are usually visually stunning even in poor shape.


Fine quality coins have moderate but even wear. Lincoln still appears boldly, and high areas remain separated from the rest of the coin. Legends and dares are clear and sharp.

Details like the outline of Lincoln’s coat and lapel may have more obvious signs of wear. The bowtie should still separate the coat and the shirt, and major details of the shoulder and coat should remain.

A “Fine” coin is separated from good because it lacks distracting marks or discoloration. While they are still heavily circulated, the coins have pleasant visual appeal.

Extremely Fine

“Extremely Fine” 1921 pennies may show small signs of design loss, usually smoothing of the lapel towards the bow tie.

Despite this slight wear, the coin should still have a defined ridge separating the lapel from the coat. Smaller details may be diminished, but all major designs should remain intact.

If handling a 1921 S penny with brown toning, look for lighter shades that highlight the raised parts of the coin, such as Lincoln’s features and the lettering.


An “Uncirculated” 1921 penny is free of any wear on its surface, and it upholds its original, delicate luster.

The most common place where coins fail a more detailed inspection is along the back of Lincoln’s coat. This is where circulation and wear first take their toll, and tilting the coin under a light may help you detect this issue before bringing in a professional.

List of 1921 Penny Errors

The 1921 penny does not have any specific recognized errors, and many errors you see for this year are actually post-mint damage. That said, errors may still occur, and it’s worth setting them aside until you have the coins properly graded.

Common errors from this time include:

  • Off-center coins: coins struck only once, but obviously off center. The punch is on the edge, and the coin loses its circular shape. Blank planchet space is also visible along the edge.
  • Broadstrikes: coins struck without their retaining collar proper in place. Because of the mistake, the coins come out thinner and abnormally wide. For numismatic characterization, the entire design must be apparent on the coin.
  • Clipped planchets: coins struck when metal is misfed into the blanking press. This results in flat or crescent-shaped bites taken out of the site of the coin, depending on how the sheet was misfed.

Oddities like double dies, die breaks, and re-punched mint marks are not necessarily errors, but considered varieties of the coin. Because they occur during the die creation stage or due to die wear, you would see them on a wider number of coins.

1921 Penny FAQs

How Much are the Pennies Worth from 1921?

Pennies from 1921 are usually worth $0.50 to $3.00, but extremely fine and uncirculated coins can sell for $8 to $60+. This varies depending on the coin’s mint and condition, as well as where you are selling it.

Is a 1921 Penny Rare?

A 1921 penny is rare. This year, only two mints produced pennies, and even fewer have managed to survive to today. Finding a 1921 penny in anything other than “good” condition is a valuable discovery.

How Much is a 1921 Penny Worth with No Mint Mark?

A 1921 penny with no mint mark is worth $0.48 to $19.00, with prices subject to change. The pennies minted in Philadelphia during 1921 are more common than those from the San Francisco mint, but they are still worth quite a bit more than their face value.

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