Many people have amazing treasures in their possession and don’t even know it. Antiques handed down from relatives. Paintings hanging on the walls. A stack of old books in the basement. The most valuable wheat pennies have traveled great distances before finally being discovered.
Some of the most incredible collectible items sit undetected for decades as their owners simply don’t consider them to have much value.
Sometimes they might not even realize they own them at all. Even among the loose change in your desk drawer, an undiscovered nugget could be hiding.
It just might pay off to familiarize yourself with the most valuable wheat pennies. The facts are that many people have no idea an old penny could have much value.
If you find a wheat penny lying around, you might want to take a closer look. You could have a coin worth thousands of dollars right under your nose.
The wheat penny was minted at the Philadelphia Mint and San Francisco Mint from 1909 to 1956. At this time, the coin was mostly made from copper, with steel pennies minted only during World War II.
Coins minted at the Philadelphia mint were not marked in any way. The coins from the San Francisco mint facility were marked with an S.
Nearly 28 million wheat cents were struck in Philadelphia, making them fairly common. However, a version of the coin minted with Victor David Brenner’s initials called the 1909-S VDB, which is extremely rare.
Only about a half-million coins were produced with these markings showing the designer’s initials. In 1911, the Denver Mint began production of the wheat penny and a “D” mintmark.
Lincoln Wheat Cent Design
The design of the Lincoln cent came from Victor David Brenner, who emigrated to New York City from Lithuania.
He arrived in New York City with very little except skill in gem and seal engraving, a trade his father had taught him.
Brenner proposed a design for a coin that would later be known as the Lincoln coin or Lincoln cent. It featured Abraham Lincoln on one side and two wheat stalks on the reverse side.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt chose Brenner’s design and ordered it to begin production in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln.
Brenner worked with the Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, Charles E. Barber, to finalize the design. There was some modification to Brenner’s design, for example, the words “In God We Trust” over the top of Lincoln’s head by Barber.
He believed there was too much open space above Lincoln and insisted on improving the coin’s appearance.
In addition to the printed words on the front, the reverse of the coin featured the United States motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning “out of many, one.”
By 1917, circulation was still low for the wheat penny, and the older Indian head pennies were still in the majority.
The coin designed by Victor D. Brenner turned out to be the longest-running design in United States Mint history.
Many historians also believe the Brenner designed wheat penny to be the most reproduced piece of art in world history.
Lincoln wheat penny values are also a huge topic of conversation for coin collectors. From online forums to major coin shows, everyone wants to know the value of their newly discovered wheat penny.
Most Valuable Wheat Pennies
1944 Steel Wheat Penny – $500,000
1943 Copper Wheat Penny – $100,000
1914 D Wheat Penny – $10,000
1922 D Wheat Penny – $6,000
1926 Wheat Penny – $4,000
Condition of Valuable Pennies
Now that you’ve found a few Lincoln Wheat Pennies lying around the house, or in a handful of pocket change, it’s time to find out if they have any value.
The first step in evaluating your Lincoln penny value is to inspect the condition of the coin.
The highest valued coins are in excellent condition but don’t give up quite yet if your penny shows a little wear and tear.
Good condition or average condition Lincoln wheat cents can still be worth a pretty penny, depending on the rarity of the year produced.
The condition, along with the date of a Lincoln wheat penny, will be your first two places to examine.
Cleaning a Wheat Penny
Let’s say you uncovered a few old wheat pennies that need scrubbing. Rule number one is don’t wipe the dirt off.
A valuable wheat penny will scratch easily. One coin expert recommends using a brass brush for cleaning pennies because brass is softer than copper and won’t scratch the surface.
You can also soak poor condition wheat pennies in a vinegar solution. Most coin shops sell cleaning products such as Dellar’s Darkener.
The Value of a Wheat Penny
Values of wheat pennies vary depending on the year the coin was produced. But one overlooked segment of the collector coin market by newcomers is the error coins.
These can sometimes be far more valuable than mint condition coins because of their rarity.
As for the wheat pennies, the most valuable errors are the off-metal errors printed in 1943 and 1944 during World War II.
The steel planchets were sometimes struck, creating off-centered coins. A planchet is a blank coin ready to be struck by in the coin press.
More Key Dates for Lincoln Cents and Wheat Pennies
1909 S Wheat Penny – $400
1909 S VDB Wheat Penny – $2,300
An extremely low mintage year for the wheat penny. Only 484,000 U.S. coins were struck. Coins with low mintage years will command higher premiums in general.
Combine a low mintage year with mint condition old coins, and you have yourself a winning formula.
This particular coin is noteworthy because it includes Victor David Brenner, the coin designer’s initials, (VDB) along the bottom of the backside of the coin.
1914 D Wheat Penny – $3,500
Another low mintage year, with only 1,193,000 coins struck.
1922 Plain Wheat Penny (No D) – $1,500
1931 S Wheat Penny – $500
The 1931-S coin was low mintage with just 866,000 coins struck.
Valuable Lincoln Cent Mint Mark Errors
Wondering which wheat pennies are worth more than face value? There are several lincoln cent error coins worth a fortune.
But you need to know what common dates to look for, and how to identify them.
1922-D – $500 (no “D”) Wheat Penny
One of the most difficult wheat penny errors is the missing “D” mint mark on the 1922 penny.
Expert coin collectors call this error coin a “filled die” error because the grease from the press filled in the design element.
When the die was struck, it didn’t leave the “D” mint mark because of the filled grease.
The Missing Mint Mark
What resulted was a 1922 penny with no mint mark, meaning it was from Philadelphia. Coins from Philadelphia don’t have a mint mark.
But when the penny was closely examined without the D, records show that the Philadelphia mind didn’t strike any Lincoln cents in 1922.
The lack of a mintmark on the 1922 wheat penny could be worth several hundred dollars.
Other Valuable Wheat Penny Errors Worth Money
1943 Bronze – $100,000+
1944 Steel Cents- $75,000+
1955 Double Die Obverse – $1,000+
1969-S Doubled Die Obverse – $25,000+
1972 Doubled Die Obverse – $300+
1982-D Copper Small Date – $10,000+
1992 Close AM – $5,000+
1995 Doubled Die Obverse – $30+
1998 Wide AM – $20+
1999 Wide AM – $400+
2000 Wide AM – $20+
The Most Valuable Wheat Penny
The 1943 Copper pennies can be worth a fortune.
The front of the coin will not show a mint mark. Prices range from $60,000 to $250,000 because there are only a few known copper pennies to exist.
With the ongoing war effort in 1942 minting only steel pennies, some expert coin dealers speculate copper plates were mistakenly minted from the previous year for a short time, creating only a few 1943 copper pennies.
Use a Magnet to Test Your Wheat Penny
Warning, many 1943 copper pennies have been found to be fake. Scam artists file down the “8” from 1948 lincoln pennies to make the mint year appear to be “1943.”
A good rule of thumb is to use a magnet to be sure the coin is indeed a copper penny.
If it sticks to the magnet, it’s a copper-coated steel penny, and therefore a fake coin.
Read more about amazing rare coins –
The story of the valuable wheat penny.
Additional Resources –
The Lincoln Cent – Wikipedia
Lincoln Penny – United States Mint
Rare Coin Values – PCGS
10 Facts About the Penny – History.com
A Shortage of Pennies – Bank of New York
Tell Us What You Think –
What are your favorite collector coins?