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Do you have a 1964 penny and want to know what it’s worth?
It’s possible that yours might be a type of rare 1964 penny — worth more than $5,000. Or you might just have a regular, worn 1964 penny — worth 2 cents.
But you won’t know for sure unless you find out more about 1964 pennies, what they’re worth, and which 1964 pennies are especially rare and valuable.
1964 Penny Values
Most worn 1964 pennies are worth the value of their copper content — or about 2 cents.
But some 1964 penny values are much higher. We’ll talk more about this in a minute and explain why some of these rare pennies are worth so much:
- 1964 Philadelphia penny (no mintmark) – 2,648,575,000 (2.6 billion) minted; 10 to 25+ cents
- 1964-D penny (Denver) – 3,799,071,500 (about 3.8 billion) minted; 10 to 25+ cents
- 1964 proof penny – 3,950,762 minted; $1+
- 1964 SMS penny (special mint set) – approximately 30 estimated to be minted; $5,000+
*Values are for coins in uncirculated grade, proof finish, and special mint set finish. Circulated 1964 pennies with no errors or special varieties are worth approximately 2 cents.
As you can see, the 1964 Lincoln penny was struck by the billions upon billions. Virtually all of these pennies went into circulation and can still be found in your pocket change. In fact, the 1964 Lincoln cent is one of the most common pre-1982 Lincoln Memorial pennies you’ll find in circulation today!
And, as in most years, the United States Mint struck a limited number of 1964 proof pennies as well.
Then there are the 1964 SMS pennies. What exactly are those?
The Story Behind The Rare 1964 SMS Penny
Yes, the 1964 SMS penny really is rare — and it really is worth $5,000!
So now you’re probably wondering what, exactly, a 1964 SMS penny is and how you can find one.
It’s a long story, but I’ll zip right to the main points:
- There was a major coin shortage in the early 1960s — due to silver hoarders removing 90% silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars from circulation.
- Some U.S. Mint officials blamed coin collectors for the coin shortage.
- To focus efforts on making more circulating coinage, the U.S. Mint temporarily stopped producing the long-popular annual uncirculated sets and proof sets, and streamlined the production of coin sets to just a single collector product known as a “Special Mint Set” (SMS).
- The Special Mint Sets of the 1960s include one coin of each denomination — and the SMS coins bear a satin-like (sometimes proof-like) finish.
Why they were made is unknown for sure. 1964 SMS pennies and other 1964 SMS coins may have been made as prototype coins for the 1965 Special Mint Sets. Or, perhaps they were intended for a 1964 Special Mint Set possibly including the 1964 Peace dollar. We’ll probably never know the true origin of 1964 SMS pennies for sure.
How To Identify A 1964 SMS Penny
Wondering how can you tell a 1964 SMS penny from a regular 1964 penny?
First, it should be noted that 1964 SMS pennies have normally appeared only in 1964 SMS sets. Therefore, 1964 SMS pennies aren’t the types of coins you will find in ordinary pocket change.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t find these rare 1964 pennies — if you’re lucky, of course! 1964 SMS pennies have turned up before in estates and in other seemingly ordinary situations.
Here’s how to tell SMS pennies apart from regular 1964 pennies and 1964 proof pennies:
- 1964 SMS pennies have a satin finish and are not reflective (or mirror-like) — as 1964 proof pennies are.
- The overall strike and details on the 1964 SMS penny are much sharper than on a circulation strike.
- One of the areas where the strong details show really well on the 1964 SMS penny is its rim. The rims of the 1964 SMS penny are more square in profile — similar to a 1964 proof penny.
So now you know… a 1964 SMS penny isn’t really the type of coin that you just find one day in your grandmother’s attic drawer and then flip at your local coin dealer for $5,000 in cash.
If you think you have a 1964 SMS penny, you should have it certified by a reputable 3rd-party coin grading firm such as PCGS, NGC, ICG, or ANACS.
Then, if you wish to sell it, enter it in a coin auction or offer it to a coin dealer who can pay you what it’s really worth:
- Some 1964 SMS pennies are worth $1,500 or $3,000.
- Others are worth more than the $5,000 average value listed here.
- The record price for a 1964 SMS penny is $11,500 — paid at an auction in 2005 for a “Red” specimen in MS-67. (Talk about a pretty penny!)
What Else Happened When 1964 Pennies Were Made?
Whether yours is a common 1964 penny or a rare 1964 penny, there was a lot going on when your 1964 penny was struck! Here are a few of the many things that took place in 1964:
- The Vietnam War ramped up when 3 North Vietnamese boats sent torpedoes toward the U.S. Destroyer Maddox in the international waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.
- The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and became a global sensation.
- The Warren Commission declared that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.
- A powerful 9.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Alaska.
- The World’s Fair was held in New York City, where the first Ford Mustang car was unveiled at a base price of $2,320.
- The first Kennedy half dollars were made.
- The average home cost about $20,500.
- Top songs in 1964 included “Can’t Buy Me Love” by the Beatles, “Baby Love” by The Supremes, “I Get Around” by The Beach Boys, “Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups, and “The House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals.
- Popular TV shows in 1964 were “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Bewitched,” and “Gunsmoke.”
- The biggest movies of 1964 were “My Fair Lady,” “Mary Poppins,” “Goldfinger,” “Dr. Strangelove,” and “A Shot in the Dark.”
More Info About The 1964 Penny
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you learn more about your 1964 pennies:
- A Brief History Of The Penny
- Which Old Pennies Are The Most Valuable?
- Old Copper Pennies: Which Ones To Save & What They’re Worth
- 5 Rare Coins You’ll Find In The Lincoln Memorial Cent Series
- A List Of 43 U.S. Pennies Worth Holding On To
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!