» 1920 Wheat Penny Error List & Value

1920 Wheat Penny Error List & Value

1920 wheat penny value

1920 was a historic year for America. For the first time in the country’s history, women were finally given their rightful voice in politics, being able to vote. Aside from that, the Great War (as it was called back then), ended and the country was healing from the rash aftermath of wartime. With such an important year, mementos of that year can still be found today, one of which is the 1920 wheat penny.

In this article, we will be talking about the 1920 wheat penny, its value, varieties, grading, errors, and frequently asked questions!

1920 Wheat Penny Value

Mintmark MS60BN MS63RB MS65RB MS66RD
1920 No Mint Mark P Wheat Penny Value $14 $34 $160 $935
1920 D Wheat Penny Value $80 $200 $700 $28,500
1920 S Wheat Penny Value $105 $375 $3,000 $55,000 (MS65RD)

1920 No Mint Mark P Wheat Penny Value

1920 No Mint Mark P Wheat Penny Value
Image Credit: USA Coin Book

Although the wheat penny was not directly modified by wartime, 1920 remained the last issue that wartime induced a high mintage for pennies from the Philadelphia Mint that we won’t see being surpassed until 20 years later. The 1920 issue minted over 310 million pieces, second only to the previous year at the time.

While generally reasonably well-struck, 1920 P pennies exhibit a lower quality found on earlier cents. The master hub deteriorated after being used to make so many dies for the production of so many coins over the course of wartime, and Lincoln’s portrait on the obverse of future Philadelphia cents would lose detail up until 1968.

The high mintage meant that quite a lot of those went into circulation, and many of them survived until the present day. Circulated brown coins are plentiful, although the population drops a notch on mint coins. Red-Brown and Red coins are considered to be easy to find, although gem specimens can get pricey.

Circulated 1920 P pennies start at $1, reaching $24 at uncirculated grades. Brown gems are only found at MS65, costing $130. Red-Brown coins start higher at $25 for MS65, then peak at $350 for an MS66 gem. Red coins also stay in the same price range, although gem coins can get very expensive. An MS62RD can cost $45, but MS67RD pieces reach $6,500 while finding an MS67+RD will set you back a whopping $16,000.

The current auction record price is $16,756 for an MS67RD piece.

1920 D Wheat Penny Value

1920 D Wheat Penny Value

Despite the First World War having ended two years prior, 1920 still suffered from the effects of the war. The Denver Mint was rife with issues like widespread budget cuts and staffing issues. Paired with the same die issues that the Philadelphia Mint also suffered from, the 1920 D pennies were mediocre at best. Cracks and distortions are common on many coins.

Despite a healthy mintage of over 49 million, not many of the 1920 D wheat penny coins survived in mint condition. In fact, these coins remain to be elusive, especially at gem conditions. Red-Brown and Red coins are also especially hard to find, and gem specimens will certainly fetch a hefty price for these varieties.

Circulated Brown coins are very common, reflected in their price range of $1 to $90. Mint Browns start at $95 and peak at the gem grade MS65 for $450. Red-Brown coins start at $100, then escalate to $700 for MS65 and peak at $2,650 for an MS66+ piece. Red coins start at $215, and gems jump straight to $2,250 and peak at $21,500 for an MS66 coin.

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The current auction record price is $31,050 for an MS66RD piece.

1920 S Wheat Penny Value

1920 S Wheat Penny Value

While the 1920 D wheat pennies did suffer from poor strikes and a reduced number of mint coins, the 1920 S coins have a more exacerbated case. They are sometimes considered a semi-key date, due to how few Red examples are available, especially gems. The Red specimens are also not as well-made as the P coins, but they still call for a significant amount of money.

Coins made from overused dies and hubs seem to be a recurring theme across all varieties of the 1920 wheat penny. The 1920 S coins were made with those kinds of dies, and its modestly high mintage of over 46 million cents would not help their case. Although circulated pieces are plentiful, choice collectors would be hard-pressed to find Red coins of good make.

Circulated Brown 1920 S cents start higher at $3 and peak at $1,700 for the highest gem grade available, MS65+. Red-Brown cents call for a slightly higher price, starting at $135 and peaking at $9,250 for an MS66 piece. Red coins, as mentioned above, command the highest premium due to their scarcity. They start steep at $950 and simply spike up to $20,000 for an MS65 piece. If you’re lucky enough to find someone who holds an MS65+RD coin, be prepared to shell out at least $50,000 for it.

The current auction record is an MS65RD specimen, which sold for $48,875.

1920 Red Wheat Penny Value

1920 Red Wheat Penny Value
Image Credit: PCGS

The 1920 wheat penny is part of the coin series called the Lincoln wheat cent series, which was in circulation from 1909 to 1958. This particular series produced cents with a composition of primarily copper (except the wartime pennies produced during World War II).

As cents fresh from the mint are released, they exhibit a luscious red color. Aside from a nice finish, the red color is effectively an indicator that the coin is new, or at least preserved well to have retained its mint color.

When a coin retains the red color on at least 90% of the surface, coin grading agencies designate it as a Red coin. Because the red color indicates a mint state coin, coins can only be provided this designation when they have a grade of MS60 or higher. Because of this, collectors often put the highest premium on these coins compared to the other varieties.

1920 Red-Brown Wheat Penny Value

1920 Red-Brown Wheat Penny Value

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As the coin gets exposed to the elements through circulation or imperfect storage, the copper on the surface starts to react with oxygen and water vapor. This reaction causes the copper to get a brown coloring.

As the coin slowly transitions at least 10% of its surface to brown but retains a bit of red, it is given the designation Red-Brown coin. Similar to the Red coin, only mint state coins are given this designation. Although they are not valued as much by collectors, they are still considered to be better and command a higher premium than most circulated coins.

1920 Brown Wheat Penny Value

1920 Brown Wheat Penny Value

Heavily circulated coins and coins that were not properly stored away from the atmosphere would have their entire surface turned into this chocolate brown color. Coins that have at least 90% of their surface oxidized into brown are given the designation Brown coins.

Brown coins exist across all grades, being at the lowest rung of the quality ladder. It also makes them the most common variety across all issues of copper coins, including wheat pennies. Mint State Brown coins are also available, although they don’t quite command the same premium as their Red-Brown and Red counterparts.

1920 Wheat Penny Grading

The 1920 wheat pennies are subject to a universal grading system called the Sheldon coin grading scale. This scale allows collectors and numismatics to agree on a standard for judging the quality of any given coin. The scale starts at 1, for the most circulated quality, and peaks at 70, for the perfect uncirculated coin.

Aside from that, the Lincoln wheat pennies are also given an extra designation based on the color of the coin. The coin changes color when the copper on their surface reacts with the atmosphere. There are three special designations, in ascending order of quality: Brown, Red-Brown, and Red.

Rare 1920 Wheat Penny Error List

1920 Wheat Penny Struck on a Cuban One-Cent Planchet

1920 Wheat Penny Struck on a Cuban One-Cent Planchet
Image Credit: Heritage Auctions

You might have heard that the US Mint has not only been producing US coins but has also minted coins for foreign countries. In total, the US Mint has minted 1,152 issues of coins for 42 countries. In 1920 alone, they minted over 99 million pieces of non-US coins.

In 1920, the US Mint produced the following coins, aside from US coins:

  • Argentinian 10C and 5C
  • Colombian 2C and 1C
  • Varieties of Cuban cents (40C to 1C)
  • El Salvadoran 5C and 1C
  • Varieties of Indo-Chinese cents (20C to 1C)
  • Nicaraguan 5C and 1C
  • Peruvian 20C and 10C
  • Philippine 1C

Most of these coins were minted in the Philadelphia Mint, while some were in the San Francisco Mint. Although the Mint maintains that these coins are produced separately, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few mismatches on the coins. In fact, the 1920 wheat penny is one such coin that had a mismatch.

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The obverse and reverse of a 1920 wheat penny coin were found on a Cuban 1C planchet. This error is obvious because there are two main differences between a Cuban 1C planchet and a 1920 wheat penny planchet: (1) the Cuban centavo was made of copper-nickel, and (2) the centavo planchet was smaller than the penny planchet.

This resulted in a 1920 wheat penny with peach and light nickel gray colors, and certain design elements found on the edge of both the obverse and reverse being omitted, such as IN GOD WE TRUST. There are only around 15 pieces of this error known to exist.

1920 Wheat Penny Lamination Error

1920 Wheat Penny Lamination Error
Image Credit: eBay

A lamination error is a kind of error unique to coins made from alloys. Lamination refers to the layering of the alloy used to make the planchet for the coin. If foreign materials get stuck under the surface layer of the planchet, the surface may break and flake away.

This is different from a die break; lamination errors are a type of planchet error (an error on the metal used to make the coin), while die breaks are a type of die error (an error on the die used to transfer the design to the planchet).

Several 1920 wheat pennies have been found to be sold on eBay and other platforms having the lamination error.

1920 Wheat Penny Off-Center Strike Error

1920 Wheat Penny Off-Center Strike Error

An off-center strike error refers to an error where the design of either the obverse or reverse is not properly aligned to the center of the planchet, causing certain design elements at the edge of the coin to not be present. This is a relatively common error, although mostly not in great magnitudes.

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Usually, only one side is off-center, and listings specify which side is off-center. Several listings on eBay can be found with off-center obverses of this coin.

1920 Wheat Penny FAQ

How much is a 1920 wheat penny worth today?

Depending on the variety you’re getting, a 1920 wheat penny may come cheap or expensive.

Almost all Brown coins, irrelevant of the variety, will be quite cheap. Circulated Browns will barely reach $100. Uncirculated 1920 P Brown coins are the cheapest among the mint state Brown coins, being significantly cheaper than the others at $14 to $60. Mint State 1920 D and 1920 S pennies can go from $90 to $2,050.

Red coins, especially gem specimens command a very high premium on the market. 1920 P RD coins, like their BN varieties, are significantly cheaper. 1920 D and S coins fetch a high price, especially the S coins since they are considered a semi-key date. 1920 D RD coins can go as high as $28,500, while 1920 S RD coins can go even higher at $55,000.

Is a 1920 wheat penny rare?

With a high mintage, the 1920 wheat pennies are not rare and they’re plentiful across all circulated grades. They significantly become harder to find, though, when looking for mint state coins. RD varieties are especially hard to find, and RD gems will cost quite a lot for cherry-picking collectors.

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