Knowing which Lincoln Wheat pennies are key dates, rarities or varieties will help you appreciate that a small difference on a coin can mean significant differences in its value. You can learn how to identify these coins by studying the description of each variety of Lincoln cent paying particular attention to the photo of the coin. Many factors go into determining the value of a coin and some of them are quite valuable pennies while others are not.
You can also use the Lincoln Wheat Penny value and price guide to determine current market trends of these coins. Since Lincoln cent specialist and experts are usually the only people that collect the minor varieties, they are not listed here. Intermediate and advanced coin collectors actively seek out the types that are listed below.
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In 1909 the United States Mint stopped producing Indian Head pennies and started producing Lincoln cents. Victor David Brenner designed the new penny at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt. Brenner's redesign was met with some resistance, specifically from Chief Engraver Charles Barber.
Originally, the obverse of the coin contained Brenner's signature. This was removed at the request of Mint Director Frank A. Leech. Instead, Brenner added his initials "V.D.B." to the reverse of the coin at the bottom between the stalks of the wheat ears. Given the limited capacity of the San Francisco Mint in 1909, only 484,000 coins were produced. This coin is easily identified by the "S" under the date on the obverse and Brenner's initials "V.D.B." on the reverse.
Beware of counterfeit and altered coins. Unscrupulous individuals will try to add the mint mark "S" to the obverse of a Philadelphia minted 1909 VDB Lincoln penny. Given the high value of this coin, only certified coins from third-party grading services should be purchased.
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After the Mint's Chief Engraver Charles Barber saw that the new Lincoln cent had all three of Victor D. Brenner's initials on the reverse, he vehemently petitioned the Mint Director to have them removed. Since the late 1800s, only Barber's first initial of his last name ("B") appeared on the coins that he designed.
Mint engravers in Philadelphia manufactured new reverse coin dies and sent them to the San Francisco mint facility. Unfortunately, there was only enough time left in the year to mint 1,825,000 coins. Compared to the almost 73,000,000 coins minted in Philadelphia this amount is relatively small. Therefore, this coin carries a premium over the Philadelphia minted coins because of its low mintage.
- Estimated Average Value Circulated: $50
- Estimated Average Value Uncirculated: $210
- Estimated Average Price Circulated: $80
- Estimated Average Price Uncirculated: $320
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1909-S Over Horizontal S
Up until 1990, mint employees used a small letter punch to add the mint mark to the working die by hand. Although very precise in their work, the exact position of the mint Mark tended to vary. Additionally, sometimes employees punched the wrong letter or oriented the letter in the wrong place. Since coin die production was a very manual labor-intensive process, dies that had mintmark mistakes on them were not scrapped but fixed so that a proper mintmark would appear. Regrettably, the errors were not always entirely removed, and some remnants of the mistake remained underneath the new mintmark. This is numismatically referred to as a "re-punched mintmark" or RPM.
In this example, you can see the remnants of an "S" that was punched horizontally into the die instead of vertically. Look for the remnants of the previous mintmark near the upper loop of the S. This will be more difficult to see if the coin is well circulated and extremely worn.
- Estimated Average Value Circulated: $50
- Estimated Average Value Uncirculated: $240
- Estimated Average Price Circulated: $90
- Estimated Average Price Uncirculated: $350
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With a mintage of 1,193,000 coins, the 1914-D does not have the lowest mintage in the Lincoln cent series (the 1909-S VDB and 1931-S have lower mintages). But experts estimate that this issue has one of the lowest survival rates. Keep in mind, in 1909 one of the reasons that Lincoln was chosen to be the subject of a new small cent was that it was the 100th anniversary of his birth. A lot of publicity surrounded the launch of this new penny, and many people saved them. By 1914, enthusiasm for saving new Lincoln cents decreased and many of these coins ended up in circulation. This is another coin that is frequently counterfeited and altered.
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- Estimated Average Value Circulated: $90
- Estimated Average Value Uncirculated: $2,000
- Estimated Average Price Circulated: $170
- Estimated Average Price Uncirculated: $2,800
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1917 Doubled Die Obverse
Doubled die coins are not double struck and should not be confused with mechanical doubling. Due to a production error in the manufacturing of the working coin die, the mint craftsman made two impressions that were slightly offset from each other. Look for strong doubling on the obverse in the word "TRUST" and on the date. This coin is an extremely popular variety, and demand for it is continuously growing.
- Estimated Average Value Circulated: $80
- Estimated Average Value Uncirculated: $3,000
- Estimated Average Price Circulated: $140
- Estimated Average Price Uncirculated: $4,400
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1922 No "D" (No Mint Mark)
The 1922 No "D" Lincoln penny is another example of a manufacturing process at the U.S. Mint facility in Denver causing a unique error. If it were not for a fire at the U.S. Mint facility in Philadelphia, coin collectors would have never noticed this error. Because of the fire, no Lincoln cents were produced in Philadelphia (no mint mark) in 1922.
Researchers think that the Denver mint facility produced approximately 500,000 coins without the requisite "D" mint mark. The lack of a mintmark was either due to die abrasion in an attempt to fix a damaged die or a foreign substance clogging the area where the mint mark is supposed to be. Counterfeiters and unscrupulous people can easily remove the "D" mintmark from a genuine 1922-D Lincoln cent. Use caution when purchasing this coin.
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By 1931 the United States was in the middle of the Great Depression and the San Francisco mint only produced 866,000 Lincoln cents that year. Consequently, demand for pennies plummeted and most of them remained in bank vaults for a few years until demand caught up with the remaining supply. Numismatists realizing that this was a rarity in the making took every opportunity to buy bags and rolls of the 1931-S Lincoln cent and save them. Although this is the second lowest mintage in the Lincoln Wheat cent series, mint state coins, and circulated specimens are readily available to collectors today.
- Estimated Average Value Circulated: $40
- Estimated Average Value Uncirculated: $110
- Estimated Average Price Circulated: $80
- Estimated Average Price Uncirculated: $170
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1943, 1943-D, 1943-S Bronze
In 1943 the United States was gearing up to fight World War II. Copper is a critical war metal used in the production of ammunitions. To help the war effort, the United States Mint stopped making pennies using copper and started using planchets that were zinc coated steel. Unfortunately, a few leftover planchets from 1942 slipped through the process and resulted in 1943 pennies made on a bronze planchet. Beware of altered coins made by copper plating genuine 1943 steel cents or from 1948 Lincoln cents by removing the left side of the 8 to make it look like a 3. Learning how to authenticate a 1943 copper penny is a relatively easy task.
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- Estimated Average Value Circulated: $14,000 - $50,000
- Estimated Average Value Uncirculated: $90,000 - $210,000
- Estimated Average Price Circulated: $25,000 - $100,000
- Estimated Average Price Uncirculated: $120,000 - $300,000
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1944, 1944-D, 1944-S Steel
Due to problems with producing cents on steel planchets and rejection by the general public, the United States Mint reverted to the original bronze (copper and tin) alloy. Once again a few zinc plated steel planchets left over from the previous year slipped into the production process. Additionally, the mint was producing coins for Belgian at the time that use the same zinc plated steel planchets that were used the previous year. These two situations combined for a prime opportunity for the mint to produce an error.
- Estimated Average Value Circulated: $2,100
- Estimated Average Value Uncirculated: $70,000
- Estimated Average Price Circulated: $4,000
- Estimated Average Price Uncirculated: $100,000
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1944-D D Over S
As mentioned above with the "1909-S Over Horizontal S" mintmarks were added to working dies by manually punching the letter into the softened steel of the die. In this case, a mint employee punched an "S" into the die first. To correct his mistake, he tried to remove the "S" and then repunched a "D" over it. Remnants of the previous S mintmark remain and can be seen by looking at the upper portion of the D. A powerful magnifying glass or loupe will be required to view this variety.
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1955 Doubled Die Obverse
Most notably known as the "King of Lincoln Cent Varieties," the 1955 doubled die obverse earns its title by exhibiting the most dramatic doubling ever seen on a United States coin. There are also examples of less dramatic doubling that can be found, but these coins do not carry the premium value that the "King" has. Look for a very widespread of doubling on the date and the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST." Due to the popularity of this variety, beware of very deceptive counterfeits. Authentication is required before you purchase one of these coins.
- Estimated Average Value Circulated: $500
- Estimated Average Value Uncirculated: $1,900
- Estimated Average Price Circulated: $1,000
- Estimated Average Price Uncirculated: $2,600