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Most Valuable Wheat Pennies: Based on Rarity and Key Dates

Wheat Pennies, officially known as the Lincoln Wheat Cents, were made between 1909 and 1958. They are high-production coins available in circulation by the millions.

Most of them typically trade for their face value or for about three to five cents. However, there are a few coins in the series that have sold for more than $100,000. These are rare coins with unique metal composition, rare mint errors, highest grades, historical significance, or produced on Key Dates.

Those rare wheat pennies consist of some of the most popular 20th-century U.S. coins sought after by millions of Americans since their production. Examples include the 1943 Bronze cents that have sold for more than $800,000 and the 1944 steel cents sold for more than $100,000.

Read on to learn of the most valuable wheat pennies, what makes them valuable, and how to know what your pocket change wheat pennies are worth.

Most Valuable Wheat Pennies – Overview

Wheat Pennies

Below is the summary list of the 25 most valuable wheat pennies – based on the highest prices realized at auctions:

Wheat Penny Highest Auction Price
Rare Wheat Pennies
1. 1943 Bronze Pennies (also known as 1943 Copper Wheat Penny) $840,000
2. 1958-P DDO $336,000
3. 1944 Steel Wheat Penny $408,000
4. 1955-P DDO $114,000
5. 1917 DDO FS-101 $120,000
6. 1922 No D Strong Reverse $82,250
7. 1925-D Lincoln Cent $74,750
8. 1925-S Lincoln Cent – S/S $54,625
9. 1921 Lincoln Cent $55,200
10. 1944 D/S Wheat Penny $49,937.50.
Key Date Wheat Pennies
1. 1931 S $18,600
2. 1926 S $149,500
3. 1924 S and D $45, 600
4. 1923 S $67,562.50
5. 1922 D $19,975
6. 1922 (No D) $82,250
7. 1915 S $48,000
8. 1914 S and D $158,625
9. 1913 S and D $63,250
10. 1912 S and D $34,500
11. 1911 S and D $66,000
12. 1910 S $43,125
13. 1909 VDB $56,400
14. 1909 S VDB $168,000
15. 1909 S $69,000

Are Any Wheat Pennies Worth Anything?

There are so many valuable features on the long-running Lincoln Wheat Penny series. Some will fetch you a couple of hundred, and only a few can fetch several tens or hundreds of thousand dollars.

Therefore, you do not want to look for everything, only a few key markers of the most valuable wheat pennies.

Several factors contribute to the value of these wheat pennies, turning ordinary coins into valuable collectibles. Understanding the few valuable factors is crucial for collectors to help evaluate and identify the value of various wheat pennies on the market:

1. Rarity

The rarity of a wheat penny is a significant determinant of its value. Coins that feature unique characteristics tend to be more valuable. Variations in mint marks and errors during production can all contribute to the rarity.

Most rare wheat pennies have rare mint errors like DDO, Over Mint Mark (OMM), and Re-punched mintmarks (RPM). They also include dramatic errors like ‘Wrong Planchet’/’Wrong Metal.’

Any wheat penny with a common error like ‘Die Chips’ isn’t valuable.

Coins can also be rare and valuable if produced in smaller quantities. These are called Key Date Wheat Pennies – Key Date is a numismatic term that refers to lower mintage coins that are more valuable because they were made in very few production numbers and, hence, harder to find.

2. Condition

Wheat pennies that have never been in circulation and exhibit minimal wear and damage are more valuable. Numismatists use a grading system, such as the Sheldon Scale, to assess a coin’s condition, with higher grades indicating better preservation.

3. Historical Significance

Wheat pennies spanned nearly five decades, encompassing various historical events. Some pennies may carry added value due to their association with specific historical moments or figures. For instance, collectors often seek pennies minted during wartime or with unique designs.

4. Demand

The demand for specific wheat pennies can fluctuate over time. Coins that collectors highly seek tend to command higher prices. Collector interest can be influenced by various factors, including popular trends, historical anniversaries, or the discovery of previously unknown varieties.

5. Authentication and Certification

Collectors often seek certification from reputable numismatic organizations like the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) to ensure the authenticity and grade of valuable wheat pennies.

Below is a list of the 25 most valuable wheat pennies divided into two sections – most valuable by rarity or uniqueness and most valuable based on Key Dates:

Most Valuable Wheat Pennies – Based on Rarity & Uniqueness

So, what are the top 10 rarest wheat pennies you should look for:

1. 1943 Bronze Pennies

1943 Bronze Penny

If you have ever heard of the $1 million penny, then this is what people were talking about.

It is a famous coin, and only a handful are known to exist. The highest auction prices realized for this coin are $840,000, $504,000, and $372,000 at Heritage Auctions.

1943 bronze pennies are also sometimes referred to as 1943 copper pennies. This is because the mint error that led to their production was the ‘Struck on a Bronze Planchet’ error.

This error affected all three mints used in the production of the 1943 pennies: Denver, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Therefore, there are 1943-D, 1943-S, and 1943-P (No Mint Mark) bronze pennies.

Amid World War II preparations in 1943, the United States was faced with a crucial need for copper, a vital metal essential for ammunition production.

In a patriotic effort to support the war, the U.S. Mint significantly changed the composition of pennies. Instead of using copper-nickel planchets, they began producing pennies with planchets made of zinc-coated steel.

However, despite this transition, a few leftover planchets from 1942 inadvertently found their way into the production process, giving rise to a limited run of 1943 pennies minted on bronze planchets.

The higher the grade, the higher the price goes. MS63 is the highest recorded grade of the 1943 Bronze pennies, but others from that year have been found in better conditions – MS66 and MS67.

Other valuable mint errors on the 1943 Wheat Penny include:

  • 1943 Wheat Penny ‘Struck on a Netherlands 25 Cent Planchet’ – $24,000
  • 1943 D/D Wheat Penny – $21,275 (MS67 grade)

2. 1958-P DDO Wheat Penny

1958-P DDO Wheat Penny

Only three of these coins are known to exist, all graded by PCGS – one in MS65RD and two at MS64RD.

Officially known as the 1958 DDO Lincoln Cent FS-101, this coin features a Doubled Die Obverse (DDO) error. It is an error with pronounced doubling on the letters in “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST,” and less prominent doubling on the date digits, especially the 8.

Only one of them has ever been sold – $336,000 in 2018.

3. 1944 Steel Pennies

1944 Steel Penny

These are 1944 pennies made from zinc-coated steel planchets instead of copper-nickel planchets used that year. Only less than ten of these coins are known to exist.

As seen earlier in the 1943 pennies, World War II led to the use of steel in making pennies instead of using the usual copper nickel. However, after a whole year of making steel coins, the U.S. Mint realized that steel was less durable than copper-nickel because it was prone to rust and degraded faster when exposed to moisture.

Therefore, in 1944, the U.S. Mint returned to using copper-nickel planchets. As with most transitions, production errors happened, causing the ‘Struck on Steel Planchet’ error – 1944 steel cents were created unintentionally as leftover steel planchets from the previous year found their way into the coin production process.

This mistake happened in the Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco mints – producing the 1944-P, 1944-D, and 1944-S Steel pennies.

Below are the highest auction records for this variety:

4. 1955 DDO Wheat Penny

1955 DDO Wheat Penny

The 1955 Double Die Obverse (DDO) Lincoln penny was produced in the Philadelphia Mint. In this case, the DDO error features a noticeable doubling of the date and inscriptions.

The most valuable one sold for $114,000 at Stack’s Bower auctions in 2018. This particular one sold for over $100,000 because it is the finest grade of the 1955 DDO penny error ever found at MS65+RD.

Others have sold for as high as $17,400 & $22,000 in 2023 and $15,600 in 2022.

5. 1917 DDO FS-101

1917 DDO FS-101

The most valuable in this variety sold for $120,000 and $84,000 in 2018 at Stack’s Bowers. These MS67+ and MS67 coins are the finest grades of the 1917 DDO FS 101 variety ever recorded.

In this case, the doubling effect is a sharp doubling in the date and the motto “GOD WE TRUST.” Please remember that the doubling is very clear, and if your coin does not look exactly like these two examples, then it is not part of the variety.

6. 1922 No D Wheat Penny – Strong Reverse

1922 No D Wheat Penny – Strong Reverse

The highest grade in this variety is MS65, sold for $82,250 in 2013 and $49,450 in 2001. Another in MS63RD grade sold for $48,000 in 2018.

Officially known as 1922 NO D Penny, Strong Reverse, FS 401, this coin was minted in the Denver Mint but did not have the usual ‘D’ mint mark. It is a unique aspect of the coin that makes it a highly collectible piece.

On top of the ‘No D’ aspect, the coin also has a ‘Strong Reverse’ look with sharp and well-defined features on the reverse side. The wheat ears, stalks, and lettering on the reverse are notably bold and crisp, making this variety distinctive.

7. 1925-D Lincoln Cent

1925-D Lincoln Cent

There is no error on this coin. Instead, these 1925-D Wheat Pennies are valuable if they are in their finest Mint State (M.S.) grades. 1925-D MS+ grade coins are a rarity since most pennies from that era are in very poor condition.

The most valuable is an MS65RD coin that went for $74,750 in 2009 at Heritage Auctions. Only two of these MS65RD coins are known to exist; none are finer.

8. 1925-S Lincoln Cent – S/S Mint Mark Error

1925-S Lincoln Cent – SS Mint Mark Error

It is estimated that only 10 in 65 of these coins exist in the 1925-S Wheat Penny lineup. The most valuable is an MS65RD coin that sold for $54,625 in 2005.

This S/S mint mark error occurred when the initial mint mark ‘S’ (for San Francisco Mint) was punched onto the coin’s die, and then a second “S” was inadvertently punched over the original mint mark. This resulted in a visible double mint mark, where one “S” appears slightly offset from the other.

9. 1921 and 1921-S Lincoln Cent

1921 and 1921-S Lincoln Cent

This includes the 1921 wheat penny from the Philadelphia Mint and the 1921-S Lincoln wheat penny from the San Francisco Mint.

The highest auction records for both are $55,200 and $27,600 respectively. These coins do not have any errors. They are valuable because of their fine high-grade condition, which is rare in the 1921 coins -both are above MS65.

10. 1944 D/S Wheat Penny

1944 DS Wheat Penny

Officially known as the 1944-D/S Penny OMM FS-511, this wheat penny features an OMM (Over Mint Mark) error with the highest auction record set at $49,937.50. The error is popular, but this variety is valuable because of the MS67+RD grade – a rarity in this class.

In this case, the OMM error shows an ‘S’ mint mark above the primary ‘D’ mint mark. You may need to use a magnifying lens to properly authenticate this error since it might sometimes be too faint to see.

Most Valuable Wheat Pennies – Based on Key Dates

As stated earlier, Key Date is a term used to refer to coins made in lower mintage numbers and, therefore, are harder to find. This lower mintage makes them more valuable and worthy of being included in our top 25 list.

Look out for these coins because any Key Date Wheat Penny will cost a lot of money. You won’t have to look for mint errors, varieties, or higher grades. Also, you do not need to have them graded.

So long as you have a Key Date Wheat penny, you are guaranteed a good payday. Below are the top 14 most valuable wheat pennies based on key dates:

  1. 1931 S Wheat Penny
  2. 1926 S Wheat Penny
  3. 1924 D Wheat Penny
  4. 1923 S Wheat Penny
  5. 1922 Weak D Wheat Penny
  6. 1922 (NO D) Wheat Penny
  7. 1915 S Wheat Penny
  8. 1914-S and D Wheat Penny
  9. 1913 S and D Wheat Penny
  10. 1912 S and D Wheat Penny
  11. 1911 S and D Wheat Penny
  12. 1910 S Wheat Penny
  13. 1909 VDB Wheat Penny
  14. 1909 S VDB Wheat Penny
  15. 1909 S Wheat Penny

How To Tell If A Wheat Penny Is Worth Money – in 5 Easy Steps

Determining whether a wheat penny is worth money requires knowledge, observation, and careful evaluation. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you assess the value of a wheat penny:

1. Examine the Date and Mint Mark

The first step is to identify the coin’s date and mint mark. Different mint marks represent different mints; some may be rarer than others, affecting the coin’s value.

For example, dates between 1941 and 1945 are World War II pennies that bear great historical significance, and hence, their unique minting errors are more valuable.

2. Check for Errors

Inspect the coin closely for any errors or anomalies. These can include doubled die varieties, re-punched mint marks, and off-center strikes. Error coins are often more valuable to collectors.

The most valuable mint errors on Lincoln Wheat Pennies are over mint marks (OMM), Double Die Obverse, Wrong Planchet, and Re-punched Mint Marks (RPM).

3. Assess the Condition

Use a grading scale, such as the Sheldon Scale, to assess the condition of the coin. Look for signs of wear, scratches, or discoloration. Coins in mint state (uncirculated) condition are generally worth more.

You may also submit your coin to coin-grading professionals for better grading and valuation.

4. Consider Authentication and Certification

For precious coins or if you’re unsure about a coin’s authenticity, consider getting it authenticated and certified by a reputable numismatic organization like PCGS or NGC. Certification provides assurance of authenticity and grade, boosting the coin’s market value.

5. Consult Reference Materials

Reference books, websites, or experts can provide valuable information about specific wheat penny varieties and their values. Online coin databases and price guides can also be helpful.

Keep an eye on the coin-collecting market to gauge current demand and prices for specific wheat pennies. Online coin marketplaces and auction sites like Heritage Auctions and Stack’s Bowers are good sources.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Wheat Pennies Are Worth $1,000,000?

1943-S Bronze Wheat Penny

The 1943-S Bronze Wheat Penny is known as the One Million Dollar coin since it was reportedly sold for $1 million in 2012 from Legend Numismatics.

Texas Rangers co-chairman Bob R. Simpson reportedly bought it to complete the Simpson Collection, a set of the finest 1943 bronze cents. Obtaining the 1943-S Bronze penny completed the set, meaning only the Simpson Collection has the finest 1943-D, 1943-S, and 1943-P bronze pennies.

Also, its highest known grade, MS63, is valued by PCGS at $1,000,000.

What Is the Most Valuable Penny 2023?

1943 Bronze Wheat Penny

In 2023, the most valuable penny sold at an auction was the 1943 Bronze Wheat Penny – sold for $240,000 in January 2023 at Heritage Auctions.

This golden-tan and light brown coin features the ‘Struck on a Bronze Planchet’ error, is in AU50 grade, and has a strong design with sharp details on both sides.

Conclusion

If you are looking for the most valuable wheat pennies, your number one pick should be the 1943 Lincoln cent – valued at $1,000,000. It is the rarest and hardest coin to find in the series.

However, if you want more options and a higher chance of finding valuable wheat pennies, going for Key Dates (sold for over $31,000) is the way to go.

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