1931-S Lincoln Cent

The stock market crash of October 1929 plunged America into the Great Depression. Within a couple of years, the economic disaster had strengthened its grip on the nation.(1)

With business activity slumping badly, there was little demand for freshly minted cents in 1931. Only 866,000 cents were struck at San Francisco that year, the second lowest output in the entire run of “wheatback” pennies. Only the prized 1909-S VDB had a smaller mintage.(2)

Most of the 1931-S cents remained with the Treasury department until the mid-1930s, when the Mint offered them for sale to the public. Dealers and collectors knew of the relatively small mintage of the date and quickly exhausted the supply. Many examples were preserved, explaining why there are more survivors today in Mint State condition than might be expected, given its small mintage.

Although there was an ongoing major financial crisis, the 1930s saw significant growth in area of numismatics. The popularity of penny boards spread like wildfire, for it gave hobbyists a fashionable method to display their collections. Coin clubs sprung up everywhere. Numismatic publications became a mainstay in bookstores and mailboxes. The Gold Recall order of 1933 immensely raised the profile of rare United States gold coins. The U.S. Mint had a big hit on their hands with commemorative coinage.(3)

Thrown into the mix was the buzz over the 1931-S cent. Historians acknowledge the coin as a vital catalyst in the expansion of the collector base during the Great Depression years.

The 1931-S generally does not generate as much excitement as other key date Lincoln cent, but obviously, every Lincoln collector needs one to complete the set, and they are comparatively scarce. For that reason, prices have always been higher than all Lincolns, save for a few dates.

When this fact is combined with the important role of the 1931-S in the development of coin collecting in the United States, it’s easy to understand why this coin deserves inclusion in the Classic Rarities group.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 96,000
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 2.0
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
Click HERE to check for availability on eBay**

Preview of eBay selection:

1931-S Lincoln cent photos Long term value trends 1931-S Lincoln cent
Trendline Avg = 6.58 CLASSIC RARITY
Last updated 1-10-24
Shop Now ebay button
Return to Key Date Coin List
Compare to Common Date Coin of Same Type
Download Charts to Your Computer


1. Todd, Lewis P. and Curti, Merle.  Rise of the American Nation, 3rd ed.  New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1972.

2. NGC.  1931 S 1C.

3. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1931-S One Cent.  Jun 2006 Auction.

**Many very fine coin dealers sell on eBay. At any point in time, there may be over one million search results for United States coins. This includes quite a few of the recommendations on our Key Date Coin List.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

As is always, always the case, never buy a valuable coin from a seller whose trustworthiness cannot be verified. Learn more about this at our chapter Best Places to Buy Coins, which also has a section on doing business on eBay.

In the interest of full disclosure, Rare Coins 101 receives a small commission anytime someone connects to eBay from this site and purchases something.

Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.