For the first time in more than a decade, Lincoln Wheat Penny coins were made at just two Mints: Philadelphia and San Francisco. With only two Mints producing coins and neither issue a real scarcity, 1921 is, in many respects, a quiet year for the Lincoln Cent series. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still things to look for when buying either a 1921 or 1921-S Lincoln Cent.
Off the bat, 1921 Lincoln Cents, while not really “scarce,” per se, still require a good search to find just the right one, since many have been cleaned or otherwise damaged. Each Mint placed "mintmarks" on the obverse (front) side of the Pennies just below the date on the lower right-hand side. The San Francisco Mint used an "S". The main Mint in Philadelphia did not use a mintmark. There were 39,157,000 Lincoln Cents were made at the Philadelphia Mint and 15,274,000 made at the San Francisco Mint. So while the coins aren’t scarce in sheer number (plenty exist, especially in the lower grades), 1921 was indeed among the lowest mintage year of the decade for Pennies.
You can buy decent circulated examples of 1921 Wheat Penny coins for under $3, but prices begin to escalate significantly as you ascend into the realm of the uncirculated coins. A 1921 Lincoln Wheat Penny graded as Brilliant Uncirculated can set you back around $100, whereas the 1921-S in the same grade will empty your pocketbook of at least $250. Be choosy when buying any early Lincoln Cents in uncirculated grades, and avoid those that are spotted or discolored, as these pieces always perform more poorly in the investment game than those that are “red” colored and have clean, crisp surfaces.
Previous year: the 1920 Lincoln Wheat Penny
Following year: the 1922 Lincoln Wheat Penny