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Did you know that some 1991 pennies are worth more than face value?…
In fact, there is a 1991 penny worth thousands of dollars!
So, how can you tell the rare and valuable 1991 pennies apart from those that are worth just a penny?
Here’s the scoop on which 1991 pennies are worth looking for… and why!
1991 Penny Facts & Values
The Lincoln Memorial cent was designed by two sculptor-engravers over the course of 50 years.
The obverse (head’s side) bears a portrait of Abraham Lincoln designed by Victor David Brenner — whose “VDB” initials can be seen in tiny letters just under the bust of the 16th president.
On the reverse (tail’s side), the Lincoln Memorial was artistically arranged on the coin by Frank Gasparro — whose “FG” initials are seen just to the right of the central design feature.
All 1991 pennies should weigh 2.5 grams. (Here’s the best scale for weighing coins.)
Pennies dated 1991 are made from a copper-coated zinc composition, in which a thin layer of copper was applied to a central core made from zinc.
If you see a silver 1991 penny, it’s usually because the copper coating was chemically stripped from the silver-colored zinc middle — these coins are worth face value. However, there have been some cases in which the copper was never applied to the zinc — these error coins are worth $50 or more. (More about 1991 error penny values below.)
1991 No Mintmark Penny Value
The 1991 penny from the Philadelphia Mint does not contain any letter under the date (known as a mintmark).
A total of 5,165,940,000 pennies were struck in 1991 — making this a common coin worth face value if worn.
While these 1991 pennies are not rare coins by any means, examples in top condition are worth much more than just one penny:
- Uncirculated 1991 Lincoln Memorial cents that have never been used as money and show no evidence of wear are usually worth 10 to 25 cents.
- The most valuable 1991 penny without a mintmark was graded MS68+RD by Professional Coin Grading Service and sold for $1,116.25 in 2017.
1991-D Penny Value
The 1991-D penny was struck at the Denver Mint — symbolized by the little “D” mintmark under the date.
Like the 1991 Lincoln cent from the Philadelphia Mint, the 1991-D penny is a common coin.
The 1991-D penny saw a mintage of 4,158,442,076 pieces — well more than 4 billion, for those who lost track of the zeroes!
- Unless your 1991-D penny has some kind of verifiable error or variety, any worn 1991 penny that can be found in pocket change is worth just face value: 1 cent.
- Any 1991-D pennies that have never been spent as money are worth much more than face value — usually 10 to 25 cents each.
- The most valuable 1991-D penny was graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as MS69RD and sold in 2010 for a whopping $5,405.
1991-S Proof Penny Value
The San Francisco Mint struck a small number of special 1991 pennies produced exclusively for coin collectors.
These 1991-S pennies, which bear an “S” mintmark, were struck using high-tonnage coin presses outfitted with specially prepared dies and made with highly polished planchets. The result? Beautiful coins with mirror-like surfaces, frosted designs and lettering, and exceptional detail.
These 1991-S proof pennies were sold in sets that contain other United States Mint coins and were never intended for circulation.
You’re not likely to find any 1991-S proof pennies in loose change — unless someone broke open a 1991 proof set and spent the coins. (Yes, it happens.) So, if you want to add a 1991-S proof penny to your coin collection, you’ll need to buy one from a coin dealer.
- The typical 1991-S proof penny is worth $2 to $5.
- The most valuable 1991-S penny ever sold at a public auction was graded PR70DCAM by Professional Coin Grading Service and fetched $661 in a 2003 auction.
Rare 1991 Error Pennies To Look For
Not all 1991 pennies are perfect. In fact, if you’ve been looking through your spare change and penny jars long enough, then you’ve probably already confirmed this fact for yourself.
Many 1991 pennies have some weird stuff going on with them — including odd stains and scratches, maybe partially missing letters or details, and other funky stuff. But how much of this is just normal wear and tear and which are true blue errors and varieties?
The reality is that most of the unusual 1991 pennies you find are not errors worth money — but simply damaged coins that can be safely spent at their face value.
But this doesn’t mean there aren’t 1991 pennies worth looking for!
Here are the most commonly encountered 1991 penny errors and varieties that you could find in loose change…
1991 Doubled Die Penny
If there’s one type of error that even new coin collectors know to look for, it’s the “double die” penny — more formally known as a doubled die. Why’s the distinction in the name important? Aside from informing collectors of the correct collecting parlance, there’s a perception that any doubling on a coin means it’s a doubled die. But that’s generally not the case.
Most times, the doubling that you find on the coins in your pocket change isn’t a doubled die, but rather something known as machine doubling. That’s when aging dies or other issues in the striking process causes the appearance of doubled lettering and design elements.
A legit doubled die is created when the hub, which imparts a design on the die (the device that imprints a design onto a blank coin), impresses the coin design onto a die twice and at slightly different angles or positions. This can leave lettering and other parts of the coin’s overall design doubled. Most doubled dies show pretty minor doubling, really…
It takes a 5X or 10X magnifying glass to find most doubled dies. And, since they’re not so obvious, they generally aren’t collected by too many folks outside of diehard error collectors or the most advanced of specialists who collect a certain type of coin — like Lincoln pennies or Jefferson nickels.
It’s only the drastic doubled dies that can be seen with the naked eye that tend to bring big bucks — like the 1955 doubled die penny that’s worth about $1,000… or more.
As far as we know at this point, there are no 1991 doubled die pennies as magnificent as that. But there are some with more modest doubling. Specifically, on a 1991 doubled die penny, the doubling can be seen in the lettering and some design details — such as Lincoln’s eye or bowtie and the columns of the Lincoln Memorial. These tend to bring $25 to $50 each… sometimes more.
Other 1991 Penny Errors
- 1991 Die Break Penny Error – Die break varieties occur when part of a coin die breaks — leaving a crack that, on the struck coin, appears as a raised line or bump. These die breaks, or die cracks, can range in size from tiny lines or pimples to full-on shatter marks that streak across one side of a coin. Die breaks are highly collectible and (depending on their size, magnitude, and position on a coin) can be worth anywhere from $3 to more than $150.
- 1991 BIE Penny Error – A very interesting type of die break that is unique to Lincoln Memorial cents (like the 1991 penny) is the BIE variety — which refers to the occurrence of a short, vertical die crack resembling the capital letter “I” between the “B” and “E” of “LIBERTY” on the obverse. BIE pennies are in high demand with error and variety collectors as well as Lincoln penny enthusiasts. These are usually worth $5 to $10 each.
- 1991 Off-Center Penny Error – Off-center coins are some of the most eye-catching errors — with some missing as much as 50% or even more of their designs. Minor off-center errors that are only 1% to 3% off-center are relatively common and have little if any additional collector value. But a 1991 penny that is 10% or more off-center can be worth $5 to $20 or more. The most valuable 1991 off-center penny errors are those missing about half of their design but still showing a complete date and mintmark (if applicable). These can fetch $50 or more.
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!