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What’s a 1986 penny worth? Is it worth more than face value? Are 1986 pennies rare?
These are all questions that many folks ask when they find a 1986 penny in their spare change.
Believe it or not, some 1986 pennies are worth more than $3,000!
So, which 1986 pennies are rare and valuable? And which ones are safe to spend?
Here’s everything you want to know about 1986 pennies and their current value…
1986 No Mintmark Penny Value
You’ll be able to tell when you’ve found a 1986 penny that was struck at the Philadelphia Mint, because 1986 Philly pennies don’t have a mintmark under the date. In other words, if you find a 1986 Lincoln cent without a letter under the year, it’s totally normal.
The 1986 Lincoln penny saw a mintage of more than 4,491,395,493 — that’s nearly 4.5 billion pennies. More than 4 BILLION! Bear in mind, not all these billions of 1986 pennies still exist. Many have been damaged beyond recognition or otherwise lost to the hands of the elements and time. But even still, the 1986 penny is a common coin.
You may have heard that old copper pennies are worth more money than one cent. However, 1986 pennies are made from a mostly zinc core and layered in a thin coat of copper. There really isn’t enough copper in a 1986 penny to give it any significant intrinsic value — so 1986 pennies aren’t worth more than face value on the basis of their copper content alone.
While circulated 1986 pennies aren’t worth more than face value, uncirculated pieces are!
An unworn 1986 penny is usually worth around 10 to 20 cents.
Furthermore, exceptionally nice 1986 Lincoln cents that have superior surfaces and are virtually flawless are worth much more. For example, the record price for a 1986 penny was paid in 2019 for a specimen that was graded MS68+RD by Professional Coin Grading Service and sold for $2,400.
1986-D Penny Value
Like the 1986 penny from Philly without a mintmark, the 1986-D penny that was struck at the Denver Mint has a little “D” mintmark under the date and is also common.
A total of 4,442,866,698 were made, and plenty survive to this day.
Being so common, 1986-D pennies are worth their face value if worn. So, if you find a 1986-D penny in your spare change, it’s safe to spend.
However, uncirculated 1986-D pennies are a different story. These mint-condition Lincoln cents are typically worth 10 to 20 cents.
In fact, some of the nicest specimens are worth much more. The record price for a 1986-D penny is $1,800. That’s the amount that was paid in 2020 for a specimen that was graded MS69 by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
1986-S Proof Penny Value
The United States Mint makes a limited number of collector coins each year that aren’t distributed by the government into circulation, where you’d find coins in pocket change.
Among these are proof coins — which are made with polished blanks that are struck on high-tonnage presses using specially prepared dies.
The U.S. Mint made a relatively small number of 1986 pennies at the San Francisco Mint with this special proof method of manufacture. In all, 3,792,233 proof pennies were made in 1986, and most are worth $1 to $3.
However, some are in better condition than others and, therefore, worth more money.
One of the nicest 1986-S proof pennies was graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as PR70DCAM and achieved a record price in 2003 when it sold for $3,450.
IMPORTANT: Do You Know The Grade Of Your Penny?
To determine the true value of your 1986 penny, you first need to know what condition (or grade) your coin is in.
A List Of 1986 Penny Errors To Watch For
Nobody’s perfect, and even the United States Mint — one of the finest and most advanced mints in the world — has made some mistakes on its coins over the years.
A few of these U.S. Mint mistakes can be found on 1986 pennies — some of which field a stunning array of errors and varieties.
Keep in mind, not every weird 1986 penny you find is an error coin! In fact, most odd-looking 1986 pennies that you find aren’t errors but rather just show various kinds of post-mint damage (or “PMD”).
However, there are plenty of real errors you can find among coins in circulation, including these 1986 penny errors…
1986 Doubled Die Penny Error
There are some 1986 pennies with relatively minor doubling on the obverse and reverse. These are identified by looking for doubling in details such as the inscriptions, dates, Lincoln’s eye and bowtie, as well as among the columns of the Lincoln Memorial.
Most 1986 doubled die pennies are worth in the neighborhood of $25 to $50 apiece — though specimens with dramatic doubling and in top condition can be worth much more.
1986 BIE Penny Error
There’s a kind of 1986 penny error that’s really neat, and it’s called a BIE variety.
What does that mean?
Over the course of striking thousands upon thousands of Lincoln pennies, dies will begin to wear and crack. When these cracks occur on an operating die, the result is usually a coin that shows a raised line or bump directly corresponding to the crack on the die that struck the coin.
Die cracks and die breaks create very collectible types of varieties, and one that’s unique to the Lincoln cent is the “BIE” variety. It’s created when a small, vertical die crack appears between the “B” and “E” of the word “LIBERTY.” These specific die cracks look something like a capital letter “I,” giving rise to the so-called “BIE” variety.
These typically trade for $5 to $15 — depending on the magnitude of the “I” die crack and the condition of the coin.
1986 Off Center Penny Error
When pennies aren’t perfectly centered on the press or the dies are slightly misaligned, they can create a type of error known as an off-center coin.
Off-center error coins can be particularly drastic-looking, and they range from being only 1% or 2% off center to as much as 99%. The most valuable types of off-center errors are those in which about half of the design is missing but the full date of the coin is visible.
Find a 1986 off-center penny? It may be worth some big money!
If it’s only a few percent off-center, it won’t really be worth very much over face value because these types of minor off-center strikes are relatively common. But if you find one with 50% or 60% of the design missing and a complete date (and mintmark, if applicable) present, then you’ve struck proverbial gold.
A minor 1986 off-center penny — one that’s 10% off center — is worth around $5 to $15. But a 1986 penny that’s missing half of its design yet shows a full and clear date can bring anywhere from $50 to $100.
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. 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 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 authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!