Lincoln Wheat Small Coins

The United States Congress authorized the first Lincoln penny to be made in 1909. They continued to be made at various mints until 1958. If you are thinking of starting a collection of Lincoln wheat small cents, often called wheat pennies, then you may have many questions.

What does a wheat penny look like?

The wheat penny has a profile of President Lincoln on its obverse facing to the left. Above his head are the words "In God we trust," behind him is the word "liberty," and in front of him is the year the coin was minted. On the reverse, there are two wheat shafts and the words "E Pluribus Unum" around the upper edge, the words "One Cent" in the middle, and the words "United States of America" below.

What are wheat pennies made of?

The composition of a wheat penny has changed over time. Most wheat pennies were made of 95% copper mixed with 5% tin. In 1943, however, the government ran short of copper because it was needed for the war, so they made the coins of steel. They also mistakenly made a very few pennies of bronze that same year. Most returned to their former material in 1944, but a very few were still struck of steel covered with zinc.

Are there any unusual Lincoln wheat cents?

Some Lincoln wheat coins are extremely rare. These traditionally are series that have a small error in them. Here is a look at some of these error pennies that had a very limited run. In addition to the ones made of steel and bronze, these include:

  • 1909 S VDB: Victor David Brenner wanted credit for designing the coin, so he placed his signature below the wheat shafts on the reverse. Soon, public outcry forced the signature to be removed, but there were approximately 484,000 of these coins that were released.
  • 1909 S Cent: Some of these coins minted in San Francisco have the mint mark twice. Collectors can see this oddity by closely looking for the bottom part of the "S" on the right side of the top mint mark.
  • 1914 D: While these coins look normal, the fact that very few of them were made makes them unusual.
  • 1922 D: Every Lincoln cent has a letter below the year showing where it was made except for a few made in Denver in 1922. Collectors know these came from Denver because it was the only place pennies were made that year.
  • 1931 S: There were very few pennies made in San Francisco during 1931, making them harder to find.
  • 1941 Double Die: Examining these coins carefully results in seeing the "1" in 1941, the "In God We Trust," and the "Liberty" doubled.
  • 1943 D/D: Look closely at the mint mark on this coin, and some will appear to have the number 6 beside the letter D.
  • 1955 Double Die: These cent pieces accidentally had their obverse struck twice. Collectors often look at the last digit in the year to see this effect.