One of the most common questions in coin collecting is, what are the top 10 most valuable wheat pennies? Many people have unique treasures 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 and rare coins sit undetected for decades as their owners don’t consider them to have much value.
An undiscovered valuable penny could be hiding even among the loose change in your desk drawer, uncirculated for years.
It might pay off to familiarize yourself with the most valuable wheat pennies. The facts are that many people have yet to learn an old penny could have much value.
If you find a wheat penny lying around, look closer. You could have a coin worth thousands of dollars right under your nose.
Production of the Wheat Penny
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 San Francisco mint facility coins 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, the 1909-S VDB, 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 with 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. Barber modified Brenner’s design slightly, for example, adding the words “In God We Trust” over the top of Lincoln’s head.
Barber 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 coin’s reverse 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 worth money.
Most Valuable Wheat Pennies
1944-S Steel Wheat Penny – $500,000
1943-D Copper $100,000
1926-S Wheat Cent $4,000
Condition of Valuable Wheat 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 coin’s condition.
The highest coin values are the rarest and in excellent condition. But keep going even if your penny shows slight 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 and the date of a Lincoln wheat penny will be your first two places to examine.
Cleaning a Wheat Cent
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 to clean 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 Lincoln
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.
Because of their rarity, these can sometimes be far more valuable than mint-condition coins.
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 in the coin press.
Some 1944 error one-cent coins have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions.
More Key Dates for Lincoln Cents and Wheat Pennies
1909-S Wheat Penny $400
1909-S VDB – $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 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 coin’s backside.
1914-D Cent $3,500
Another low mintage year, with only 1,193,000 coins struck.
1922 Plain Wheatie (No D) – $1,500
1931-S Lincoln Cent – $500
The 1931-S coin was low mintage with just 866,000 coins struck.
Valuable Lincoln Cent Mint Mark Errors
Which wheat pennies are worth more than face value? There are several Lincoln cent error coins worth a fortune.
You don’t need to be a pro numismatic; know what common dates to look for and how to identify them.
1922-D – $500 (no “D”) Penny
One of the most challenging wheat penny errors to find 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.
Wheat Penny Missing Mint Mark
A 1922 penny with no mint mark resulted, 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.
Wheat Penny Minting Errors – Horizontal S
The Lincoln wheat penny horizontal S mintmark error is worth about $400 in MS-60 graded condition. The “S” mint mark is slightly under-stamped and sticks out on the right side of the primary mintmark.
Other Valuable Penny Errors Worth Money
1943 Bronze Cent – $100,000+
1944 Steel Cents- $75,000+
1955 Double Die Obverse – $1,000+
1969-S Doubled Die Obverse Penny – $25,000+
1972 Doubled Die Obverse – $300+
1982-D Copper Small Date – $10,000+
1992 Close AM Penny – $5,000+
1995 Doubled Die Obverse – $30+
1998 Wide AM Penny – $20+
1999 Wide AM Penny – $400+
2000 Wide AM Penny – $20+
The Most Valuable Lincoln Cent
The 1943-S 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 only a few known copper pennies 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 are fake. Scam artists file down the “8” from 1948 Lincoln pennies to make the mint year appear “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.
If you need more clarification on the authenticity of your copper penny, have a professional coin grading service like PCGS or NGS take a closer look, don’t rely on comparable sales from eBay. They have seasoned numismatists who can give proper coin-collecting advice.
Whether it’s collector half dollars, dimes, silver dollars, or Lincoln Memorial pennies, always be on the lookout for fake coins.
The story of the valuable wheat penny.
Going Deeper on the Most Valuable Lincoln Cents –
We Now Know –
- The top 10 most valuable wheat pennies, and the worth of each one.
- Excitement by the public was intense for the newly designed penny, lines formed outside the Treasury building in August of 1909 to buy freshly minted Lincoln cents.
- Victor David Brenner’s design for the Lincoln cent is the longest-running U.S. Mint design in history.
But, There’s Even More to the Wheat Penny –
- George Washington insisted no U.S. President should be on the face of currency, for fear of turning toward monarchy rule, this changed in 1909 with the Lincoln cent.
- Theodore Roosevelt choose Lithuanian immigrant Victor David Brenner for the new penny design after the two met for Roosevelt’s Panama Canal Service medal.
- The earliest Lincoln cents from 1909 included Brenner’s initials ‘V.D.B.’ which were quickly removed after public disapproval. 484,000 1909 ‘VDB’ cents were minted before the change, and are now among the most valued of all Lincoln cents.
- One billion Lincoln pennies were minted in one single year, 1941.
- Most coin collectors know the significance of the 1909 VDB cent, but some coin experts argue for another key date as equally or more important. Only 1,350 MS60 or better 1926-S Lincoln Cents exist, and some numismatists insist the 1926-S is the key date for the wheat cent.
More About Coin Collecting –
- Where can I sell my coins? Online, of course!
- I want to know how much my coins are worth.
- A basic guide to all U.S. coins for new collectors.
Additional Resources –
The Lincoln Cent – Wikipedia
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?
Attic Capital – Writer, Editor, and Lifelong Collector
I would love to connect with you, so don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know more about your passion for collecting.