In a list of dates that never get any respect, the 1939-D is one Lincoln cent that gets essentially no attention. What makes it so ironic is that if the 1939-D had come along with its mintage a couple years later, the whole situation would be different.
By the 1950s, there were two Whitman holders for Lincoln cents. The first held dates from 1909 to 1940, while the second started in 1941 and had all the others. The 1939-D was in the first holder, which also held all the key dates such as the 1909-S VDB, 1909-S, 1914-D and 1931-S. With a mintage of 15,160,000, the 1939-D simply did not seem to be in the same league as the famous key dates.
That said, with its mintage the 1939-D was not a coin you could expect to see with any regularity. That fact was probably overlooked to a degree because it was from Denver, and back in the 1950s and early 1960s Denver coins did not get much respect. When it came to Lincoln cents, all the attention tended to center on San Francisco. If you had asked a young collector at the time if the 1939-D was tougher than the 1941-S, the response would probably have been, “no,” as San Francisco dates were seen as routinely better with the exception of the 1914-D.
Had the 1939-D come along a couple years later and been in the second book of Lincolns, however, it would have stood out and in a big way. Suddenly its mintage would not have been one of many totals under 20 million, but rather the only one. In fact, its mintage was so much lower than the dates in the second book that it would have received far more attention. There were not many dates in the second Lincoln holder with mintages below 100 million, much less below 20 million.
Over the years, the 1939-D has received a little more attention, but it still remains at very modest prices. In G-4 it is at just 35 cents, while an MS-60 is $2.50 and an MS-65 is $20. The prices are fair based on numbers available since by 1939 there was a good deal of saving of new cents as they would appear each year. That means there are supplies, although in this case we cannot really be sure just how strong supplies may be. The reason is that at its current prices, the 1939-D is not going to be sent to grading services with any regularity. The cost of having it graded is higher than the value of the coin.
Even though there are supplies of the 1939-D, its mintage raises doubts that the supplies are strong. There were too many other options, which means the 1939-D might still be better than we expect today, especially in Mint State. With additional demand, we might still learn a lot about the 1939-D.