By Bullion Shark LLC ……
 

The Lincoln cent has been issued continuously since 1909, longer than any other coin currently produced by the United States. It has seen three different reverse subtypes during that period while retaining the same obverse (apart from slight modifications) and it is a coin that has long appealed to both beginning and advanced collectors. Many collectors got started with these coins at a young age.

Wheat Penny

Of the three reverses used on the coin, the original wheat stalk reverse used from the coin’s debut through 1959 (when it was replaced with a design of the Lincoln Memorial) is the one most beloved to collectors. That has a lot to do with the fact that most of the rarer issues are from this period, including the series key, the 1909-S VDB. The wheat reverse was intended to symbolize prosperity.

The origins of the coin lie with President Theodore Roosevelt, who met in 1905 with famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens when the two discussed the artistic state of American coinage. Roosevelt later commissioned Saint-Gaudens to redesign the entire gamut of U.S. coins from the cent through the double eagle. Saint-Gaudens produced arguably the most beloved designs of all time for the $10 and $20 gold coins and prepared sketches for a new cent featuring Liberty on it, but the design was never used. Saint-Gaudens passed away in 1907, a year before the commercial debut of his gold coin masterpieces.

Roosevelt’s vision was eventually carried out from this time through 1921 by several different artists and this period is known as the renaissance of American coinage.

Roosevelt considered President Abraham Lincoln the greatest Republican president and saw himself as Lincoln’s political heir. He thought that a new cent timed to commemorate the upcoming centennial of the slain president’s birth in 1809 would be merited. He admired a plaque that had been created by Lithuanian immigrant and sculptor with a numismatic focus Victor David Brenner that featured a right-facing side profile of Lincoln, making him an ideal candidate to design the new coin.

The Mint Director of the period commissioned Brenner to redesign the cent that had been using the Indian Head design since 1859. Brenner submitted his Lincoln and wheat penny designs, which saw some modifications, including some he did not approve of such a lowering of the bust from extending to the top edge of the coin as he prepared it, which was likely done to add the inscription, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, which was also not on his original design.

VDB: The “Scandalous” Initials

But the biggest controversy surrounds the artist’s efforts to give himself credit on the coin as its designer – something that is commonly done on U.S. coins with some form of the artist’s initials. The artist’s design originally included his entire last name on the reverse. When told by the Mint that his name would be obtrusive there, he changed it to his three initials, “VDB”, which then appeared on the first coins struck — 1909 and 1909-S cents released on August 2, 1909. The coins were greeted with a remarkable degree of interest that many called a frenzy.

But within three days the Mint stopped producing those coins and removed the initials after 484,000 of the original version had been made. There had been discussion of replacing Brenner’s full name with the first letter of his last name, but that was not done because Charles Barber, the Mint’s chief engraver at the time, did not want it to be confused with the “B” that appears on the silver coins he designed.

Many have suggested there was public outcry about the use of the “VDB” initials as advertising for the artist, but researchers like Q. David Bowers note that they found no press reports of the time, nor Treasury records, that corroborate that view, which he considers to be folklore.

Moreover, the numismatic community objected to the removal of the initials, noting that it was inconsistent with past practice since coins like the gold ones designed by Saint-Gaudens featured three initials while others used just one. They and Brenner compared it to an artist’s signature on a painting.

In 1918, not long after Charles Barber’s passing in 1917, a smaller set of initials was added to obverse under Lincoln’s shoulder.

How Much Are They Worth?

At the time of publication, a wheat penny is worth at least 1.85 cents based on its 95% copper content at current spot values. This is the value for circulated examples of the most common coins. Such cans are readily available in rolls and in bags of 5,000 coins.

At the other end of the spectrum are the rarest and most valuable coins like the 1909-S VDB and popular variety coins like the 1955 Doubled Die.

Wheat Penny Values

Mint State examples of common-date wheat pennies can be worth about $5 in MS65 Brown, $10 in MS66BN and $30 in MS67BN, while Red examples in the same grade can command $14, $18 and $80. But a top-graded MS68RD is seldom encountered and worth a whopping $3,150!

Individual dates can be worth anywhere from those values to tens of thousands for the rarest dates in top condition.

Keep in mind that because copper oxidizes over time, it is very important to store your valuable cents properly as they could change color and lose value if not stored in as airtight an environment as possible.

1944 Wheat Penny

1944 Wheat pennies are common in all grades–which is not surprising since 1,435,400,000 were struck–with values similar to those for a type coin. However, an estimated 25-30 were made on 1943 zinc-coated steel planchets. Those coins are very rare and have sold for from $30,000 in MS61 to a record of $158,000 for an MS64 example.

Mintages were high during this period due to increased demand for coins in circulation during World War II.

1945 Wheat Penny

1945 Wheat pennies are also common with a little over one billion made and values again similar to type coins, but many have blotchy surfaces, so care should be taken to find a nice example.

1946 Wheat Penny

1946 is another common date with close to a billion made and similar values as the 1944 and 1945 coins. Strike and sharpness vary for this date, but it should not be difficult to find examples with fully struck details on them.

Collecting Lincoln Wheat pennies can be done in endless ways and on every budget depending on your goals as a collector of this hugely popular series.
 

87 COMMENTS

  1. My mother had a 1943 copper penny that she found when I was a small child and she had it incased in plastic I dont remember if it had a mint stamp on it or not but how much is it worth now

    • El valor de la moneda es de aproximadamente $2 a 3 centavos cada una pero si hay fechas especiales podrían valer más pero para ello contacta a un dealer de confianza o contáctame si lo deseas.

  2. Each cent weighs 3.11 grams
    Each cent is 95% copper which is 2.9545 grams of copper. As of 10:00 cdst copper is 3.0560 per pound, approx. .0067per gram
    The result is the value of a wheat cent is .0198 ea. Not 18.5 ea. as stated in the article which was otherwise very well written.

    • I’m impressed with your research and knew the 18.5 estimate was off. I’ve even seen them supposedly valued at 9 cents, but us coin value guides-The Spruce crafts suggests the ones from the 1940 value anywhere from 5cents to $72,000(for the steel 1943s). I’m betting 5 to 6 cents to a collector which would be a better bet than simply for the copper value as calculated by Mr. Weiss. The other years have values all over the spectrum so I’d recommend this website to get a ball pari figure of what you’re working with. Remember, don’t get too excited on some because it has to do with the condition of the coins which need to be professionally graded. Don’t clean your coins either since it devalues it. As far as the steel penny is concerned, i believe that i once heard the expensive penny can’t be picked up with a magnet, so i hope this helps!

  3. I think the decimal point for the melt value is off. Current spot price for copper is only approximately $3/lb. or about .19 per ounce. With roughly 9 copper pennies per ounce that would put the melt value at less than 2 cents each.

    Just trying to prevent people from melting these gems expecting a 1000% return on their money. :)

  4. I have been collecting coins for some time as well. I have a 1930 D penny, in good condition. I’m surprised, the other ones are 1950 vintage. My Father and I enjoyed that hobby together. S.Munoz

  5. I have a 19 56 wheat penny with with Denver mint how much is it worth we Abraham Lincoln wheat penny 1956 how much is it worth

  6. I literally have thousands of wheat ear pennies including the steel coins. I would like to pass them on to a collector. How do I do that?

    • ill by them for a good price I’m trying to get my two sons and collecting coins and kind of need something to jump start that I can pay for the shipping and as long as your price is reasonable I’m not looking for anything in particular do something to get my kids involved in it’s not filled with hate anger or violence and something they can learn about American history

  7. How do i find out if my penny are worth any money i have a 1910-1916-1923-1930 please let me know thanks for your assistance

  8. Notice how almost every response is simply wanting to know how much XYZ cent is worth? Do you think the author is going to take the time to tell you your common coin is worth $0.04? Plenty of tools to look up values online. Maybe cultivate something other than being people who (want to) know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  9. 1943 steel pennys are only worth 10-13 cents in circulated condition. And sometimes different color 43s can mean they were reprocessed and are considered damaged coins at that point. Even in uncirculated, not worth that much.

      • Couldn’t that “plate” be a blank planchett? They are worth a few bucks anyways. Thats what my redbook says. If you didn’t actually see Arthur’s coin, how can you possibly know exactly what he has? If you get any redbook, check the errors section toward the back…..it will tell you about blank planchets and have a picture of one.

  10. I was collecting pennies and I have a good amount that I know are worth alot I wanted to pass them to My Grandkids but They are not intrested, I am willing to pass them on for a donation to start up My New Scared Straight Program that I am starting up here in Harlem.

  11. I also have a indeanhead penny I’ve hung onto it for a while now but it was suposingly
    Graded. Menu years ago like 40 or 50 years ago.

  12. Is it possible to have a 1865/5 indian head penny? If so, what is the value? I’m lost and confused about this penny. Thanks alex

  13. I have a 1910 wheat penny 1943 wheat penny I have a 1946 wheat penny 1945 wheat penny 1995 wheat penny 1940 wheat penny have a 19 steel 44 wheat penny in the 1934 steel wheat penny

  14. I have all of the books that have the years marked and you fill the books. Almost all slots are filled. I also have a jar full of the steel pennies. My dad left them to me when he passed away.

  15. I was doing my cash deposits from the day when I came across a1944 steal penny in excellent condition. I work at a California university and figured some kids probably Inherited a drive old coins from his grandfather not knowing what they were worth used him to purchase some snacks during finals week didn’t know what the penny was worth at the time made the mistake of pulling it out and showing my boss who does collect coins he looked at it for quite a while and then stuck it in his pocket and I Said oh that’s nice can I have my penny back weapon he said well at that time I I had to leave to go take my deposit over to the bank came back he was gone ask him for it Monday morning and that was a Friday asking for it Monday morning he says he thought I gave it back to me no he didn’t never did it just disappeared when I found out what it was worth I cried and he told me well I guess we just have to chalk this up as a loss unfortunately it is my loss not his.

  16. Please excuse my mistakes I was doing speech to Tex due To arthritis I should’ve proofread it before hitting send my mistake couple of the mistakes I made was when he said white penny it came out as a weapon also I figured the kid must’ve inherited a jar of old coins not a drive anyways I’m sure you can figure the rest of them out thanks for your time

  17. I have four Indian pennys 1886,1903,1907,1909.What are they worth.I also have a larg asortment of wheat pennys.Would some one help me.thank you.and every one please be safe.

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