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What’s the current 1974 penny value? What about the value of a 1974 silver penny?
As you’ll soon find out, some 1974 pennies are worth anywhere between 20 cents to possibly more than $200,000 — but that’s for the harder to find ones.
The good news for every single one of us who has a 1974 penny right now is they’re all worth at least 2 cents — double face value isn’t bad at all.
Oh, and those 1974 silver pennies? They’re not made from silver. If you’ve got one, it’s a 1974 aluminum penny and it’s got quite a story.
Here’s everything you want to know about your 1974 pennies…
1974 Penny Facts
Lincoln Memorial pennies were made from 1959 through 2008, and until 1982 they were made from a 95% copper composition.
That means 1974 pennies are made from copper, and due to the rising price of this valuable metal every 1974 penny is worth about 2 cents.
While 1974 pennies aren’t as valuable as silver coins, they should be saved for the same reason — because the metal is worth more than the coin’s face value!
What’s the catch? It’s presently illegal to melt pennies for their intrinsic copper value. However, some coin experts believe that law will change if and when the United States stops issuing one-cent coins.
In the meantime, many coin collectors and thousands of hoarders are already saving all pre-1982 copper pennies and many are even trading between coin collectors and coin dealers for 1.5 to 2.2 cents each.
While 99% of 1974 pennies were made from a copper-based alloy, there were more than 1 million 1974 aluminum pennies struck as trials.
Read on for more about 1974 aluminum pennies — or, as some call them, 1974 silver pennies.
Did You Know It’s Illegal To Own A 1974 Aluminum Penny?
Let’s talk about the so-called 1974 silver penny.
You’ve probably heard about 1974 silver pennies from family, friends, or other coin collectors. Some people use the term “silver penny” rather fancifully — perhaps suggesting Mint officials purposefully made rare silver pennies.
While there are some off-metal error coins involving silver dime planchets that found their way into the Lincoln cent presses (these errors are worth more than $100 each), there were no 1974 silver pennies ever intentionally made by the U.S. Mint.
Rather, the Mint struck aluminum cents in 1974 as test coins.
Why did the Mint bother making 1974 aluminum pennies?
They were designed to help reduce the cost of striking copper pennies, due to the rising cost of copper. In the early 1970s, the cost of copper had risen from about 50 cents per pound to nearly $1.
That meant that the melt value of the copper in a typical Lincoln penny was worth nearly as much as the face value of the coin!
That also means the cost of making a Lincoln cent was nearing actual the face value — a situation that occurs today when it costs about 1.5 cents to strike each penny, representing a loss to taxpayers with every 1-cent coin made.
The U.S. Mint began experimenting with different materials to help reduce the cost of making pennies. Eventually, aluminum was chosen by government officials as the solution, and the Mint struck more than 1 million 1974 aluminum pennies to test the new coin.
However, some pediatricians were concerned that swallowed aluminum pennies wouldn’t show up in x-rays, and folks from the vending machine industry protested the cost of updating their equipment to receive aluminum pennies (because in 1974 some vending machines still accepted pennies).
The controversy was solved when copper prices fell, taking pressure off the Mint to replace the copper-based alloy in the penny.
The 1974 aluminum penny was immediately recalled for melting, and more than 1 million pieces were destroyed — including hundreds given to members of Congress and other officials. But not all of the coins were returned, and there is an untold (small) number of unaccounted 1974 aluminum pennies still out there today.
Every now and then one turns up, such as was the case of the 1974-D aluminum penny found by the son of a former Mint employee.
All 1974 aluminum pennies are considered government property and are therefore illegal to own.
That’s the case with the 1974-D aluminum penny, which was confiscated by the government before it was sold at auction. Some experts believe if the coin had sold at auction, it would’ve fetched more than $200,000.
Of course, we’ll never know the real value of these rare pennies unless the 1974 aluminum penny becomes legal for private ownership.
If you have a 1974 silver penny — or one that appears to be made from silver — the first thing you need to do is check its weight:
- A 1974 aluminum penny weighs about 0.93 grams.
- If your 1974 penny weighs 3.11 grams (or more) you have a regular copper penny with some type of silvery metal plating. These are common and are simply novelty coins that were altered after they left the U.S. Mint.
What Are 1974 Pennies Worth?
Here’s a list to help you determine your 1974 penny value. This list includes each of the mintmark variations:
- 1974 No Mintmark (Philadelphia) — 4,103,183,000 minted, 20 to 25+ cents
- 1974 No Mintmark (West Point, indistinguishable from the Philadelphia 1974 penny) — 128,957,523 minted; 20 to 25+ cents
- 1974-D (Denver) — 4,235,098,000 minted; 20 to 25+ cents
- 1974-S (San Francisco) — 409,426,660 minted; 20 to 25+ cents
- 1974-S proof — 2,612,568 minted; $1+
- 1974 (Philadelphia) aluminum penny — unknown mintage of approximately 1.5 million, possibly worth $200,000+
- 1974-D aluminum penny — 1o to 12 minted (estimated); possibly worth $200,000+
*Values are for coins in uncirculated condition unless otherwise noted. Circulated 1974 pennies are worth about 2 cents each.
What Else Happened When Your 1974 Penny Was Made?
There was a lot happening when your 1974 penny was struck. Here’s a look at some of the main events in 1974:
- President Richard Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal (stemming from wiretapping of the Democratic National Headquarters office at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., in 1972). Vice-President Gerald Ford became president on August 9.
- An ongoing oil embargo made gas scarce and pushed gas prices through the roof in early 1974. Across the United States, lines formed at gas stations and people were paying a record 55 cents per gallon.
- The 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago became the world’s tallest building, surpassing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 1,450-foot-tall Sears Tower was renamed the Willis Tower in 2009.
- The famous “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match pitted heavyweight champions Muhammad Ali and George Foreman against each other in the African nation formerly known as Zaire. Ali won the historic bout.
- The United States Mint unveiled the 1776-1976 Bicentennial coins that were issued for circulation the following year. The Bicentennial coins include a special quarter, half dollar, and dollar coin.
- Top songs in 1974 included “Dancing Machine” by the Jackson 5, “The Streak” by Ray Stevens, “The Loco-Motion” by Grand Funk Railroad, “Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim, “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas, and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” by Steely Dan.
- Popular TV shows in 1974 were “All in the Family,” “The Waltons,” “Kojak,” “M*A*S*H,” “Maude,” “The Rockford Files,” and “Happy Days.”
- On the silver screen in 1974 were The Godfather Part II, The Towering Inferno, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blazing Saddles, and Chinatown.
More Info About 1974 Pennies
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you learn more about your 1974 pennies:
- Rare 1974 Penny Goes Back To Feds
- 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!