Lincoln Wheat Pennies (1909-1958)

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Rare Wheat Pennies

A major event in the life of Wheat Pennies is the alteration of its metal content made in 1942 and 1943. While all Americans generally think of Copper pennies and believe that pennies are made of pure Copper, that is not accurate now and has varied many times throughout history. During the conflicts of World War II, facing enemies on both the Eastern and the Western fronts, the government determined that it needed all the copper and tin in the country to put towards munitions for the war effort. In 1942, the United States Mint removed all but a trace of tin from the alloy used for the Wheat Cent, which technically speaking changed the metal from bronze to brass. Further, because the Mint had a supply of existing bronze coining strip already prepared, the Lincoln Cents of 1942 are made from both alloys.

Collect Lincoln Pennies

However, if you find a 1943 penny made out copper, it may be worth quite a bit of money—up to $10,000 or more. This is because any 1943 copper penny is a coin made in error; the Mint accidentally used the wrong planchets when striking the coin. Very, very few of these coins actually made it into circulation. Simply put, some copper planchets left over from previous years were left in the corners of the huge bins that transported the blank planchets around the mint. When they mixed in with the regular zinc plated steel planchets they were processed through the coining presses.

Another indication of a rarer Wheat Penny is a small “S” mintmark under the date of a Lincoln Wheat Penny. This indicates that the penny was minted at the San Francisco mint facility. Collectors fervently seek these particular pennies, and they may trade for higher premiums than common wheat cents. A “D” under the date indicates that the penny was minted in Denver, while lack of a mintmark indicates that the penny was minted in Philadelphia. Further, mint year 1909 also saw some wheat pennies struck with the designer’s initials, “VDB” for Victor D. Brenner, along the bottom rim of the coin just below the wheat stalks. Because fewer pennies were minted with the engraved initials, check your 1909 Lincoln Wheat Penny to see if it has the VDB engraving. This could enhance its value.

History of the Wheat Penny

The Lincoln Cent might never have existed but for the persistence of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. The President had an eye for beauty and believed that America's coins were uninspiring compared to those of European countries. His personal and professional acquaintance with renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens added to this conviction, and Roosevelt eventually commissioned Saint-Gaudens to begin redesigning all of the U.S. coinage. Sadly, Saint-Gaudens passed away before he fished the U.S. coins, or we would likely have had a Saint-Gaudens penny, showcasing his signature artistic flair. Instead, we have the familiar profile of President Abraham Lincoln designed by Victor Brenner. Before the Lincoln Wheat Cent, the United States mint refrained from placing the image of a real person, either living or dead, on circulating coins. It was considered undignified. However, slain President Abraham Lincoln was already thought of as an heroic American icon by the turn of the twentieth century, and Roosevelt conceived the idea of featuring Lincoln on an American coin as soon as he viewed sculptor Victor David Brenner's bronze plaque of Lincoln.
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