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Did you find a 1946 penny and want to know its value?
There are still some 1946 pennies floating around in circulation.
If you’re lucky enough to find one of these old coins, you’ll be glad to know that it’s worth more than face value!
But just how much is your 1946 wheat penny worth? Are old wheat pennies from 1946 worth hanging on to?
We’ll share all the important details on these old Lincoln cents, including:
- What a 1946 wheat penny is worth today.
- Whether or not a 1946 penny is a rare coin.
- Why the U.S. Mint made 1946 Lincoln cents from a very special bronze alloy.
What’s A 1946 Penny Worth?
Those 1946 pennies are now obsolete. Therefore, they’re collectible and worth more than face value.
Still, they are relatively common coins in that millions were made. So, if you find a 1946 penny in pocket change or a bank roll, it’s likely to have much wear. Therefore, it will be worth less than an uncirculated 1946 penny.
Below is a rundown on the 1946 penny value, as well as mintage figures — which tell you exactly how many were made:
- 1946 penny (no mintmark, made in Philadelphia) — 991,655,000 minted; worth 2 to 5+ cents
- 1946-D penny (produced in Denver) — 315,690,000 minted; 3 to 5+ cents
- 1946-S penny (struck in San Francisco) — 198,100,000 minted; 5 to 10+ cents
- 1946-S S Over D mintmark variety — unknown mintage; $10+
*1946 penny values listed above are for specimens carrying average circulation wear and free of damage — such as holes, bends, or any signs of cleaning. Uncirculated 1946 pennies are worth more than the values listed here.
Do You Have A 1946-S Penny? Is The”S Over D” Penny Error Worth Collecting?
Many Lincoln wheat pennies have evidence of certain design or die adjustments, and the 1946-S “S Over D” overpunched mintmark variety is one such piece. It’s actually one of the more popular overpunched mintmark varieties in the Lincoln cent series.
How was this error coin made?
Apparently, a 1946 penny working die with a “D” mintmark from Denver was overpunched with the “S” mintmark for San Francisco, and then this die was put into operation.
It’s easy to tell if you have a 1946-S “S Over D” penny by using a 5x magnifying glass.
You should be able to see traces of the “D” mintmark around the inside of the “S.” In fact, the bottom serif of the “S” (the bulbous part of the S, or its wide tail) on the 1946 error penny will appear to be connected by a thin line to the middle part of the “S.”
If you find a 1946-S “S Over D” penny, you’ll be glad to know that it’s worth significantly more than face value.
This 1946 overpunched mintmark error penny is worth about $10 in the lower circulated grades and $100 or more in uncirculated condition!
1946 Pennies Contain A Special World War II Alloy
The bronze alloy of your 1946 penny isn’t just ordinary copper!
All 1946 wheat pennies contain a special blend of copper from recovered ammunition shell cases that were salvaged from United States military training grounds.
Why were shell cases used to make pennies?
Many people complained that the 1943 steel cents were too easily confused with the dime. Others didn’t like how quickly the steel pennies rusted (as most of them eventually did). Some folks simply missed handling copper pennies.
Of course, many coin collectors today think 1943 steel pennies are pretty neat, but back in the day steel cents were more apt to be seen as a nuisance. So, the U.S. Mint responded by returning to a copper-based composition in 1944. (Though some 1944 pennies were accidentally made from steel. These 1944 steel pennies are now very rare and valuable!)
1946 pennies mark the last year that the U.S. Mint made so-called shell case pennies.
Circulated shell case pennies look about the same as ordinary copper wheat pennies. However, uncirculated shell case cents look a little darker in color than their regular bronze counterparts.
The difference in color is caused by the compositions of the shell case pennies, which — unlike most wheat pennies — don’t contain any tin.
The 1946 wheat penny contains the following alloy:
- 95% copper
- 5% zinc
Meanwhile, most of the bronze wheat cents are made from this composition:
- 95% copper
- 5% tin and zinc
Yep, that’s a very tiny difference, or so it seems… But it goes to show how even just one slight adjustment in a coin’s metallic composition can really make a difference in the way a coin looks!
Isn’t chemistry cool?
What Else Happened When Your 1946 Penny Was Made?
The year 1946 was busy! World War II was over, but the Cold War was heating up between the Soviet Union and the United States. Meanwhile, back in the States, young couples reunited after the war were getting married, buying homes, and having lots of kids — starting the “Baby Boomer” generation. Surely most Americans were spending lots of shiny new 1946 pennies helping to stimulate a peacetime economy.
Here’s what else happened in 1946:
- The first official meetings of the United Nations (UN) were held in London. Also established were the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
- In July, bikinis splash onto the summer fashion scene in Paris.
- Tupperware emerged, ensuring that food leftovers could go on to live another day — or many days!
- The first Cannes Film Festival was held in France.
- The University of Pennsylvania introduced the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, more famously abbreviated as ENIAC.
- The Roosevelt dime debuted, replacing the Mercury dime. The Roosevelt dime honors President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died while serving as commander in chief in 1945 at the age of 63.
- Popular movies of 1946 included It’s A Wonderful Life, Gilda, The Best Years Of Our Lives, The Big Sleep, and The Postman Always Rings Twice.
- Top songs in 1946 were “Five Minutes More” by Frank Sinatra, “Oh! What It Seemed to Be” by Frankie Carle, “The Gypsy” by The Ink Spots, “You Keep Coming Back Like A Song” by Dinah Shore, and “For Sentimental Reasons” by Nat King Cole.
More Info About Old Pennies
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you learn more about your 1946 wheat penny:
- Old Lincoln Cents You Can Still Find In Pocket Change
- Old Copper Pennies: Which Ones To Save & What They’re Worth
- Which Old Pennies Are The Most Valuable?
- 5 Popular Wheat Penny Error Coins
- 43 Most Valuable Pennies Worth Holding Onto
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!