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What Is a Wheat Penny and How Much Are They Worth?

The word penny has been around since medieval times, and the name of the U.S. penny comes from the British coin with the same name.

First minted in 1787, the U.S. penny has been one of the mainstays of American coinage. The official U.S. Mint name for the coin is the “cent,” and the official U.S. Treasury name for it is “one-cent piece.” 

Although pennies have been around since the late 1700s, the penny did not take its now-familiar form until 1909, when its design began featuring President Abraham Lincoln — to celebrate the centennial of his birth, replacing the Indian head pennies in production at the time.

The first Lincoln pennies released came to be known as the Lincoln wheat penny, or Lincoln wheat cent, which featured two wheat stalks framing the writing on the reverse side.

This article will answer the two key questions about the Lincoln wheat pennies: What are the most valuable wheat pennies to coin collectors (i.e. key dates, low mintage, minting errors), and what are the wheat pennies to look for in your pocket change?

What Is a Wheat Penny?

Wheat pennies refer specifically to Lincoln Cents produced from 1909 to 1958. The obverse featured the Lincoln head design, still present in the one-cent coins minted today, but the reverse portrayed wheat stalks, hence the moniker.

President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned a revamp in the American coinage at the time. And the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the one tasked with the redesigns. However, Saint-Gaudens fell gravely ill and passed away before finalizing the design for the penny. Litvak-American sculptor Victor David Brenner inherited the task.

The dies were prepared in the Philadelphia Mint and distributed to the other branches in June of 1909. That initial year had two versions. One version had the engraver's initials, Victor David Brenners (V.D.B.), on the reverse side, and the other did not. Brenner's initials would be brought back in 1918, but they were much smaller and were placed on the front of the coin near Lincoln's shoulder.

Although a wheat penny's face value is one cent, as a good rule of thumb, all wheat pennies, including common dates, are worth more than their face value. Even those in poor condition are worth at least 3 or 4 cents, and some can be worth six figures to coin collectors.

Most wheat pennies in good condition will be worth about $10 on average and are fairly easy to find and purchase. Of course, the rarest wheat pennies carry higher premiums and will cost you, well, a pretty penny.

Here are some of the most valuable wheat pennies updated as of July 2022.

Check out more: What are pennies made of

How Much is a Wheat Penny Worth?

The following list contains the most valuable wheat pennies that were issued into circulation. Their values are based on the latest deals and market updates. They are worth a considerable amount over their copper melt value due to their numismatic interest. Not unlike key dates from silver dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollar coins who are worth much more than what is called "junk silver".

1944 Steel Penny

Source: PCGS

In 1943, due to the United States' involvement in World War II, the United States Mint had to replace the use of copper for steel for the wheat cents. The change lasted only a year, and in 1944, the bronze alloy returned to the Lincoln wheat cents again. However, some leftover steel blanks ended up in the pressing machines, and these 1944 steel cents ended up in circulation.

The reason 1944 Steel Cents are so valuable is precisely because they are extremely rare coins. There are only around 30 samples known.

Value: In average condition, this coin is worth about $77,000 and as much as $110,000 if in certified mint state condition by a coin grading service.

1943 Copper Penny

Source: Gainesville Coins

Source: Gainesville Coins

As mentioned above, 1943 cents should have been minted with steel rather than copper due to the country's efforts in World War II. Numismatists believe some bronze planchets were used by mistake. Very few of these pennies were minted and released into circulation. In other words, this is actually an extremely rare error coin.

Value: In average condition, many collectors would be willing to pay about $60,000 and as much as $85,000 in mint condition.

1914 D Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

This year and mintage (Denver) is considered a key date and is the most valuable of the non-error Wheat pennies.

Value: The value ranges from $280 to as much as $5,500 in mint condition.

1922 D Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: This penny's value ranges from about $20 to as high as $5,000 if in mint condition.

1926 Wheat Penny

It has no mintmark.

Value: This coin ranges in value from about 35 cents to $3,000 if in mint condition.

1909 S VDB Penny

Source: PCGS

As previously mentioned, the debut year had V.D.B. and non V.D.B. versions. The VDB pennies minted in the San Francisco Mint are the rarest.

Value: In average condition, this penny will be worth around $950 and in mint condition around $2,200.

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: This Lincoln penny is worth around $1.50 and up to $1,800 if in mint condition.

1914 S Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: The 1914 S Lincoln wheat cent is worth an average of $28 and as high as $1,500.

1924 S Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: It is valued from $1.55 to as much as $1,500.

1915 S Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

It is worth significantly more than its face value in any condition.

Value: These valuable pennies are worth anywhere from $30 to as much as $1,200.

1924 D Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

This penny is also worth much more than face value.

Value: The value of this penny ranges from $35 to $1,200.

1923 Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

There is no mint mark on this penny.

Value: This Lincoln penny value varies from 75 cents up to $1,000.

1927 Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: Without a mint mark, it ranges in value from about 35 cents to $1,000.

1918 D Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: The value ranges from $1.25 to about $900.

1920 S Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: This penny is worth anywhere from 75 cents to as much as $900.

1921 S Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: The value of this penny ranges from $1.95 to around $850.

1916 S Wheat Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: It ranges in value from about $8 to $800.

1917 S Penny

Source: USA CoinBook

Value: The value of this coin ranges from 95 cents to as much as $700.

Other Wheat Pennies to Look For

In addition to the pennies mentioned above, keep an eye out for wheat pennies with double dies and other errors — they're rare coins worth a considerable sum in the coin collecting business.

Some of the error strikes in these old coins can only be identified with a magnifying glass, but some are quite visible. Here are five that are valuable due to these kinds of errors in the manufacturing process.

 

1909 S Over Horizontal S

Source: PCGS

Until recently, mint marks were punched by hand, and thus the position tended to vary slightly. Mistakes also happened, and rather than scrapping the coin, the coin was usually re-punched with the correct mark. With this coin, the S was originally punched horizontally and was re-punched vertically.

Value: The value of this coin ranges from $50 up to $240 for uncirculated coins.

1917 Double Die Obverse

Source: PCGS

Double die minting errors result from two impressions being made that are slightly offset from one another. The error can be seen in the word “Trust” and on the date.

Value: The value of a coin with this error can make for quite a few dollars, ranging from $80 to as much as $3,000 if uncirculated.

1922 No D

Source: PCGS

For some reason, the Denver Mint produced around 500,000 pennies without the “D” mint mark this mintage year.

Value: Values range from $350 to about $12,000 for this coin.

1944 D D Over S

Source: USA CoinBook

Another example of a re-punched coin, an S was originally punched and then covered up with a D.

Value: The value of this coin ranges from $40 to about $260.

1955 Doubled Die Obverse

Source: PCGS

These coins have been given the designation “King of Lincoln Cent Varieties” due to the doubling’s dramatic extent.

Value: The value ranges from $500 to around $1,900.

 

Most Valuable Wheat Pennies List

Below is a list of the top 15 most valuable wheat pennies ever sold at auctions, according to PCGS:

  1. 1943-D Bronze Wheat Penny MS64BN - Sold for $840,000 in January of 2021;

  2. 1943-S Bronze Wheat Penny MS63BN - Sold for $504,000 in November of 2020;

  3. 1944-S Steel Wheat Penny MS66 - Sold for $408,000 in August of 2021;

  4. 1943 Bronze Wheat Penny MS62BN - Sold for $372,000 in February of 2021;

  5. 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Wheat Penny MS64RD - Sold for $336,000 in March of 2018;

  6. 1909 VDB VDB Proof Wheat Penny PR67+ - Sold for $258,500 in August of 2014;

  7. 1943 Lincoln Cent (Wheat Reverse) AU58 - Sold for $218,500 in January of 2010;

  8. 1944 Steel Wheat Penny MS64 - Sold for $180,000 in June of 2021;

  9. 1909-S VDB Wheat Penny MS67RD - Sold for $168,000 in April of 2022;

  10. 1914-D Lincoln Cent (Wheat Reverse) MS66+RD - Sold for $158,625 in May 2018;

  11. 1926-S Lincoln Cent (Wheat Reverse) MS65 - Sold for $149,500 in January of 2006;

  12. 1943/2-S Lincoln Cent (Wheat Reverse) AU58 - Sold for $138,000 in March 2004;

  13. 1914 Lincoln Cent (Wheat Reverse) Proof PR68 - Sold for $126,500 in April of 2008;

  14. 1917 Doubled Die Obverse Wheat Penny MS67+RD - Sold for $120,000 in March of 2019;

  15. 1944-D Steel Wheat Penny MS63 - Sold for $115,000 in August of 2007.

Final Thoughts

While not all wheat pennies will fetch a high price tag, all wheat pennies are worth more than their face value and are thus a sought-after coin for collectors.

With this list of Lincoln wheat penny values in mind, you can now be on the lookout for wheat pennies to add to your collection or earn a few extra dollars in case you spotted one of these in your spare change.

Looking for more? See the 19 Most Valuable Pennies Ever Sold here.

FAQs

  • What years of Lincoln Wheat Pennies are valuable?

The value of a coin varies according to many factors: metal content, purity, rarity, etc. As the Lincoln Wheat Cents were produced for 50 years, some mintages and variations are rarer than others, therefore, extremely valuable to collectors. The most valuable Wheat Penny ever auctioned is a unique 1943-D Bronze Cent, sold for $840,000. Other examples of valuable wheat pennies include the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Wheat Penny, the 1944 Steel Penny, and other variations of the 1943 Bronze Penny. 

  • Where to sell Wheat Pennies?

You can sell wheat pennies to local or online coin dealers, in auction houses, online websites such as eBay, coin shows, or pawn shops. The most advisable way to sell them is to find a trustworthy dealer who can evaluate your coins appropriately and offer a fair deal.

  • When did they stop making Wheat Pennies?

The Wheat Penny debuted in 1909 and production ceased in 1958, during President Eisenhower’s term in office. He officially announced the change in design that same year. The new penny would have the Lincoln Memorial as a motif, substituting the popular wheat stalks. The United States Mint started its production in January of the following year.

  • How many Lincoln Wheat Pennies are there in a pound?

The usual 1 lb bags of Wheat Pennies include 148 coins, but it might vary. The metal composition of a coin directly affects its weight. The valuable 1944 Steel Wheat Penny, for example, is composed of 95% steel and weighs 2,7 grams. While Copper Pennies, for instance, weigh 3,11 grams.

  • How to clean Wheat Pennies?

The first thing is not to wipe the coin. The incorrect use of brushes or cloth can cause unwanted scratches or tears. Brass brushes would be an excellent option because they are softer. But it is advisable to use proper coin cleaners. Or, for simpler attempts, soaking the coins in a vinegar solution would be a safe way to clean Wheat Pennies.

  • What is the rarest penny?

The 1909-S VDB. Besides being the first strike dating back to 1909 for widespread circulation, the US Mint produced a limited edition of 484,000 units. These coins come from the San Francisco Mint and initially received the designer’s initials on the obverse of the coin, but after some review, they were repositioned to the reverse.

  • Is a used Lincoln Wheat Penny worth anything?

Coins are worth at least their face value. Other factors like the mint year, condition, and rarity greatly influence the value of a collectible coin. Lincoln Wheat Cents are legal tender. But even in poor condition, they may be worth at least 3 or 4 cents, and some may be worth a lot more to coin collectors.

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Michael Dinich
Michael Dinich
Contributing Author

Michael is a contributor to SD Bullion and the founder of Your Money Geek, where he is on a mission to make finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.

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