The 1921 penny is a classic example of a circulating George V coin with an instantly recognisable design.
It’s very difficult to give an exact value for one of these coins as it depends entirely on the grade of the coin. On eBay, you’re looking at an average of around £7, but the value can go as high as £50 and sometimes more at auction for graded examples.
If you want to learn more about the coin, including how many were minted and what versions are available, then keep reading this article.
How Rare Is A 1921 Penny?
When it comes to the rarity of older coins it’s worth looking at the mintage figures to understand how many of the coins were made, as well as whether the coin was in circulation or not.
In this case, the mintage for the 1921 penny was around 129 million – 129,717,693 to be exact – which is an exceptionally large amount. The coin did enter circulation, however, which means that the likelihood of encountering a highly graded version is significantly lower.
In fact, out of most of the pennies issued for circulation during King George V’s reign, the 1921 dated penny is one of the most common of them all.
The Infamous 1933 Penny
Whilst we’re on the topic of pennies minted during the reign of King George V, we have to mention the 1933 penny.
Due to the low demand for penny coins, there were no pennies issued for circulation in 1933. Instead, around 6 or 7 pennies were issued this year to be buried under the stones of new buildings.
One of these coins was stolen in 1970, another removed following this and a third is still in place to this day. The other coins are either in the Royal Mint collection or in private hands. There were also 4 pattern versions produced in 1933, and one of these sold for £75,000 in 2016.
Why Does The Value Change So Much?
The value of a 1921 penny depends entirely on the grade of the coin.
Grading is a process used to categorise coins based on the amount of wear they have received since being minted. In the UK, a coin’s grade ranges from Fine to Uncirculated, with each grade being split into divisions.
As the 1921 penny was issued for circulation it is only natural that some are in better condition than others, which is why the value can vary so much.
Design Of The 1921 Penny
The reverse design of the 1921 penny, shown below, features Britannia holding a trident in her left hand and resting her right hand on a shield bearing the combined crosses of the Union Flag.
The date can be seen at the bottom, with the denomination of ONE PENNY around the beaded edge. In the background, sea waves can be seen near the bottom.
The obverse features the bare head portrait of King George V that was designed by Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal, whose initials B.M are located on the design.
Around the edge the inscription ‘GEORGIVS V DEI GRA: BRITT: OMN: REX FID: DEF: IND: IMP:’ is seen which translates to George the Fifth, by the Grace of God, King of all the Britains, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.
If there is one thing to learn about George V pennies, it is that the specification of the coin changed quite frequently.
During his reign from 1910 to 1936, there were several different versions produced not only by different mints but also in varying metal compositions.
The Heaton Mint produced pennies in the years 1912, 1918 and 1919 and these pennies are inscribed with an H mark to the left of the date. Furthermore, in 1918 and 1919 some pennies were produced at Kings Norton Metal Co. LTD which had the hallmark KN to the left of the date. Pennies with the hallmark KN are considered to be much rare.
In terms of metal composition, the proportion of copper, zinc and tin was altered in 1926 in an attempt to combat ghosting. Ghosting is a term used for the effect caused when the amount of metal removed by the portrait is greater than that of the reverse design and causes a ‘halo-like’ effect around the design.
The composition changed from 95% copper, 4% tin and 1% zinc to 95.5% copper, 3% tin and 1.5% zinc – these specifications for the 1921 penny can be seen in the table below as well as the other important details:
The 1921 penny might not be the rarest George V penny, but it can still be quite valuable if you manage to find one that is able to grade highly.