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A Collector Guide on What Year Wheat Penny Are Worth Money

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

If you are a coin collector, numismatist, hobbyist, or interested in purchasing coins and wondering what they are worth, this article is for you.


Introduced in 1909, wheat pennies are a symbol of strong cultural significance and hold a prominent place in American numismatics. Its launch marked Abraham Lincoln's 100th birthday.

What Year Wheat Penny Are Worth Money

The value of wheat pennies can vary, but certain years are often considered more valuable by collectors.


Generally, pre-1930 wheat pennies, especially those from the 1910s and 1920s, tend to be more valuable.


But wait, other factors, like rare minting errors or specific historical circumstances surrounding certain years, also contribute to increased value. We will discuss it in the later part of this article.


History of Wheat Penny

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Lincoln Wheat Cent is a symbol of historical and cultural importance and holds a special place in American numismatics.


Taking a look back in time

Until the Lincoln Wheat Cent was introduced in 1909, the coin in circulation was the Indian Head Cent, also known as an Indian Head penny, which was issued by the United States Bureau of the Mint between 1859 and 1909.


Following that, a Lithuanian-born American sculptor, engraver, and coin designer, Victor David Brenner, created the Lincoln cent. 


The coin displayed a picture of Lincoln on the front and two stalks of wheat on the reverse, hence its name, "Wheat Cent."


Abraham Lincoln's portrait on the cent emphasized his long-lasting legacy and the nation's admiration for the 16th president.


Over the years, the Lincoln Wheat Cent has undergone several design changes.


Did you Know, Brenner's original version of 1909 was removed as a result of a public outcry later that year?


People were upset because they thought the engraver's initials, "V.D.B.," on the 1909 Lincoln cent were too big and noticeable.


It seemed like the designer, Victor David Brenner, was showing off, so they removed the initials later that year. They put them back, but smaller, on the front of the coin.


The second change occurred in 1918, during World War I, due to a shortage of copper. Copper is a vital metal for various wartime uses, such as ammunition and other military equipment.


So it was decided to temporarily change the composition of the Lincoln cent from 95% copper to an alloy of bronze to save copper for the war effort.


As World War I came to an end in 1918, the need for copper conservation diminished. As a result, the U.S. Mint decided to return the Lincoln cent's composition to its original 95% copper content in 1919.


In some cases, it was believed that they returned to the copper element simply because the alloy that replaced copper had a rusting effect, which caused the coins to rust. Therefore, it became necessary to move back to copper.


In 1959, as part of a redesign initiative, the reverse design of the Lincoln cent was changed to that of the Lincoln Memorial. It replaced the Wheat Ears design.


The U.S. Mint wanted to commemorate Abraham Lincoln's 150th birthday by featuring the iconic Lincoln Memorial on the coin.


The new design featuring the Lincoln Memorial was well-received and continued until 2008, becoming one of the iconic representations of the Lincoln cent.


As part of the Lincoln Bicentennial One Cent Program, the United States Mint released 4 different pennies in 2009 in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth.


Factors Affecting the Value

History is what I really enjoy. I'm sorry if I took up your time in the last section talking about history if that's not your favorite topic.


We are supposed to discuss the years that make wheat pennies valuable, but it is equally important to consider the factors that impact their value. You may skip this section if you are already familiar with these factors.


Mintage Numbers

In order to determine how rare a coin is, it is important to know how many coins were made in a particular year. In general, when there are fewer coins produced (lower mintage), the coin becomes rarer, and collectors become more interested in it.


If a year has only a few coins made, those coins become harder to find, and collectors really like that. As a result, coins from years in which there were fewer coins made tend to be more expensive since they are somewhat rare.


Mint Marks

When determining the value of a coin, you often come across terms like 1943-D or 1926-S. While we know that 1943 and 1926 represent the year, what about the D and S?

In simple terms, the D and S are letters that indicate where the coin was minted.


The letter "D" stands for Denver, and the letter "S" stands for San Francisco. It was known as mint marks, and they are important in determining the origin of a coin, as well as its value.


Different places that make coins (mints) make different amounts, and collectors often look for coins from specific mints to finish their collections or because they're interested in certain regions.


Wheat pennies with specific mint marks are highly valuable. For example, the 1909-S VDB (from the San Francisco Mint) and the 1914-D (from the Denver Mint) wheat pennies are very popular due to their limited production numbers.


Condition and Grading

It is important to consider the condition of a coin when determining its value. If a coin is in really good shape, without much wear, scratches, or damage, it's usually worth more than one in not-so-great condition.


There's a grading system set up by professional grading services like the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Heritage Auctions.

It helps us figure out how good a coin looks, ranging from "poor" to "mint state" for coins that haven't been used much. 


We will consider these professional grading services in the next part of our article when determining the value of wheat pennies.


Five Valuable Wheat Pennies by Year

Here is the most awaited section, in which we examine the year when wheat pennies are worth money.


1. 1943 Cooper Wheat Penny 

Only a handful of these coins are known to exist. There is an interesting history related with these coins.


During World War II, the United States faced a copper shortage, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury replaced the usual bronze composition of pennies with zinc-coated steel in 1943.


There were, however, a small number of planchets (coin blanks) left in the coining presses from the previous year. Therefore, a limited number of 1943 pennies were mistakenly struck on bronze planchets rather than zinc-coated steel.


These 1943 bronze pennies are extremely rare and highly valued by collectors. Approximately 20 to 40 genuine examples are believed to exist, thus making them valuable due to their scarcity.


The value according to the pcgs ranges from $10,000 to 1 Million dollars.According to US Coins Value,It is estimated that the highest auction estimated for this coin are $840,000, $504,000, and $372,000 at Heritage Auctions.


2. 1909-S VDB Matte Proof Lincolin Penny 

The 1909-S VDB Matte Proof Lincoln Penny is an extremely rare numismatic coin. Victor David Brenner designed the coin, which initially bore his VDB initials on the reverse, but was removed due to public criticism.


In spite of its initial controversy, the coin is highly demanded by collectors due to its limited mintage and symbolic representation of an important event in the history of the Lincoln cent.


This auction recorded  for this rate coin is  $41,125


3. 1958-P DDO Wheat Penny

"Double Die" refers to a coin that exhibits doubling in the design elements as a result of a manufacturing error.


It is an extremely rare and valuable error coin. According to US Coins Value, there are only 3 of these coins are known to exist & Only one of them has ever been sold – $336,000 in 2018. 


4. 1917 DDO FS-101

 The 1917 DDO FS-101 contains 95% cooper & 5% tin & Zinc. "DDO" stands for "Doubled Die Obverse," referring to a coin variety that appears to have doubled design elements on its front (obverse).


The 1917 Lincoln cent DDO FS-101 is known for doubling on the letters of the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST," particularly prominent on the letters "WE" and "TRUST.


This coin is popular among collectors because of its clear and distinct doubling. The value of such coins can vary depending on factors like condition, rarity, and demand among collectors.


According to various sources, the most valuable variety sold for $120,000.


5. 1944 S Steel Penny

1944-S Steel Pennies are rare and valuable coins with an interesting history.

In order to preserve copper for use during World War II, this coin is composed of zinc-coated steel rather than copper.


"S" mint mark indicates that it was made in San Francisco.

It is estimated to be worth between $408,000 and $409,301 in circulated condition.


Conclusion

In order to determine how much a wheat penny is worth, we need to consider a number of factors. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a brief overview of its history and the factors that influence its value.


 Additionally, we discussed the high value of some very rare wheat pennies, but there are many others that are worth exploring as well.


To maximize the value of your wheat pennies, it is important to ensure that they are in excellent condition when you are collecting them. Additionally, the differences and mistakes in the coins make them extra valuable and interesting to collectors.



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