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.

The first Lincoln head pennies debuted what became known as the Lincoln wheat penny, which featured two wheat stalks framing the writing on the reverse side.

This article will answer the two key questions about the wheat pennies: What are the most valuable wheat pennies, and what are the wheat pennies to look for?

What Is a Wheat Penny?

Wheat pennies made their debut at the same time as the Lincoln head design. However, although the Lincoln head remains the obverse side’s design, wheat pennies were only produced from 1909 to 1958.

The initial year, 1909, 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. The 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, all wheat pennies 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.

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 will cost you, well, a pretty penny.

Here are some of the most valuable wheat pennies in order from most valuable to least.

Check out more: What are pennies made of

How Much is a Wheat Penny Worth?

The following list of most valuable wheat pennies were issued into circulation, so their values are not based on minting errors.

1944 Steel Penny

                                               Source: PCGS

Only a few 1944 Steel pennies were minted, and those released into circulation were done in error.

Value: In average condition, this coin is worth about $77,000 and as much as $110,000 if in certified mint state condition at the auction.

1943 Copper Penny

                                          Source: Gainesville Coins

Very few of these pennies were minted and would have been released into circulation by error. Due to supply, pennies of this year were supposed to be steel or war pennies.

Value: In average condition, this would be worth 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 penny 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 San Francisco are the rarest.

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

1925 S Wheat Penny

                                          Source: USA CoinBook

Value: It 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   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: 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 penny is worth anywhere 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.

Here are five that are valuable due to errors in manufacturing.

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 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 ranges 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.

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 the most valuable wheat pennies in mind, you can now be on the lookout for wheat pennies to add to your collection.

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

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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

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