1946 was the last year that Lincoln Wheat Penny coins were made from a metallic composition deriving from expired ammunition shell casings used during World War II. These so-called “shell case pennies,” which are 95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc differ from the usual 95 percent copper, 5 percent tin and zinc composition used for most years of the Lincoln cent series. These slight metallic differences are only visually noticeable among uncirculated pennies.
Outside of the different metal composition among 1944, 1945, and 1946 Lincoln Wheat Cents, there are few variations to speak of regarding Lincoln Pennies from that era. As was the case throughout the 1940s, mintage figures were quite high in 1946, with more than one billion Pennies struck across all three U.S. Mint locations operating during that year. 991,655,000 one-cent coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, 315,690,000 were produced at the Denver Mint (D), and 181,770,000 were minted at the San Francisco Mint (S).
These highly common Lincoln Wheat Penny coins are readily available in nearly all grades, with specimens in the upper circulated grades and lower Mint State grades especially plentiful. Expect to pay around 20 cents for a decent, circulated example from any of the three mints; less than $5 will purchase a lustrous, Mint State specimen from the Philadelphia, Denver, or San Francisco mint. No proof coins were made in 1946, as all extraneous minting efforts beyond striking circulating coinage were concentrated on producing medals for soldiers returning home from combat in World War II.
Previous year: the 1945 Lincoln Wheat Penny
Following year: the 1947 Lincoln Wheat Penny