Wheat Penny Values
The "Wheat Cent" often referred to as the "Wheat Penny" is one of the more common, hard-to-find coins that may end up in your change. What do I mean by common, hard-to-find?
There are lots of rare coins out there and while many wheat cents aren't technically "rare," their age and composition has lent them to becoming more scarce. But due to the fact that they were minted in large quantities, and the fact that people tend to ignore pennies in the change, you can still find them in your change.
Years, Values, and Varieties
Wheat cents were minted from the years of 1909 - 1958. Throughout the run there were a couple of variations including some with the initials of V.D.B. in 1909 (discussed further below in "rare specimens") and steel versions in 1943 due to World War II. There are also a a good amount of error coins such as double dies on the obverse. To see a more complete list of the specific years and varieties click here.
Values are going to fluctuate anywhere from about 2.2 cents all the way into the thousands of dollars. 2-3 cents will represent the value of a very common date, or a cent in terrible condition. The value increases based on the rarity and the condition of the coin. An uncirculated 1909 S VDB has fetched upwards of $12,000.00! A good number of the wheat cents fall within the $1.00 - $20.00 range, again, based on their condition.
For a more complete list of values reference this article. Be sure to use that resource only as a rough estimate as coin values fluctuate drastically with trends. If you are serious about valuing coins then you may want to purchase The Official Blue Book of Coin Values to the right, as it is considered an authoritative pricing guide.
Most of the wheat cents are composed of 95% copper (2.95 grams) although the World War II steel cents were composed of steel. The remainder of the composition was either zinc, or tin & zinc. The composition basically remained unchanged until 1982 when the cents were created in both 95% Copper and 97.5% Zinc variations. Then, after 1982, the 97.5% Zinc variations remained. If you are interested in copper cents in general then you should check out our article dedicated to copper cents.
Without question, the 1909 V.D.B and S V.D.B. are the most rare of the wheat cent specimens. These were the first issued wheat cents which had the initials V.D.B. located on the reverse at the very bottom between the wheat stalks. V.D.B. are the initials of the artist Victor David Brenner.
There was a large controversy about this which lead to the initials finally being removed from the mint dies. The S V.D.B. is simply the San Francisco minted version of the coin, but worth far more because it was a lower mintage. If you are interested in the history of the V.D.B. cents then read this article, as it goes extremely in depth.