Wheat pennies were made from the years 1909-1958.
In early 1909, the American sculptor, engravor and medalist, Victor David Brenner, was asked to design a new penny after the Indian cent had circulated for 50 years. After a while he chose the Lincoln head and the wheat back. His initials VDB were prominently placed under the wheat symbol in the back. There was instant public complaint about the initials being so big, so after only a month of minting, they took out the initials. in total there were only 484,000 1909-S VDBs and 27,000,000 1909 VDBs made. The 1909-S VDB is by far the most valuable Lincoln penny in existence other than specific error coins. In 1918, they put the much smaller initials VDB under the shoulder on the obverse side.
The steel penny:
In 1943, as with nickel, there was a shortness in copper, because the military needed the copper for ammunition and other military equipment. So the mint tried using plastics and other metals but they decided to use steel coated zinc alloy for pennies. The steel penny is the only US coin to be magnetic. The steel penny was minted in all three mints ( Denver, San Francisco, and Philadelphia). In a vending machine there is a magnet that pulls out steel objects that clog the machine, so the steel penny stuck to the machine. This created problems, so in 1944 the mint reverted the composition back to the original copper alloy. Then in the 1960s the mint collected large numbers of the steel pennies and destroyed them.
The 1955 double die:
The 1955 double die was only minted in Philadelphia. There was a time when on accident the die moved a little before it struck again. This made a double image. There where 24,000 1955 double dies made. The 1955 "poor man's double die" was from eroded and distorted dies to make part of the date look doubled. The 1955 double die penny is very valuable
Key dates are rare coins. There are many key and semi-key dates to look for. Here is a list of them: the 1909-S with 1.8 million made, the 1914-D with 1.2 million made, the 1931-S with 866,000 made. The semi-key dates are: 1910-S with 6,045,000 made, 1911-S with 4,026,000 made, 1912-S with 4,431,000 made, 1913-S with 6,101,000 made, the 1914-S with 4,137,000 made, 1915-S with 4,883,000 made, 1924-D with 2,052,000 made. There is also, of course, the 1909-S VDB and the 1909 VDB mentioned above. It is rare that you will ever find a key date or a semi-key date in circulation. If you want one, you will have to buy it from eBay or somewhere else.
There are a lot of error pennies there are off-centered. These are not very valuable because most of them are not very off centered.
Another error is where the penny was struck through cloth, and these are very rare and are worth a lot. On eBay they can sell for at least $600. There is also struck through grease or wire or any foreign object in the mint but they are not as rare.
The die clash error is where the dies clash to make you see the back of the coin from the front, It is a result of the two dies colliding to make part of the die have the design of the back. It is very rare. On eBay it has a average cost of $8 or more.
The rotated die error is where one or both of the dies are rotated. The back is the part that looks rotated. Pennies have to be rotated at least 15 degrees before it is collectible. You can find pennies with less than 15 degrees in circulation. If it is more than 90 degrees it is worth a lot. On eBay it is worth on average $50 or more if it is more than 90 degrees.
The cheapest way to find wheat pennies is to look through rolls of pennies. A box ($25 of pennies) will on average get you 10 wheat pennies, although they will be mostly from the 1940s-1950s some are from the 1930s or 1920s. Still, coin roll hunting is a great way to start your wheat penny collection.
Do you have children in your life? A really fun treasure hunt penny roll can be bought from us for $15, which includes a wide variety of interesting pennies.
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