How to Find Out How Much Wheat Pennies Are Worth

By Johnny Kampis
The reverse, the penny, the Lincoln Memorial
five wheat pennies image by Sean Arenas from Fotolia.com

The American one-cent piece changed designs in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. This new penny, that was minted until 1958, featured a profile of Lincoln on the front and two wheat heads on the reverse framing the words "ONE CENT." Designed by Victor D. Brenner, it comprised 95 percent copper and 5 percent tin and zinc. U.S. mints in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco struck the coin.

Determine the grade of the coin. Generally, a wheat penny that retains a nice luster, with a full reddish color and almost no noticeable blemishes, will grade in the uncirculated range. Coins in gem uncirculated grade (MS-65) should be almost perfect. Wheat pennies with light blemishes and discoloration tend to grade as uncirculated (MS-60). If there is wear on Lincoln's face, but not on the wheat heads the coin would grade as very fine (VF-20). If the wheat lines are worn, but still visible, the coin would grade as fine (F-12). If the wheat head lines are well worn, grade the coin as good (G-4).

Find a reliable price guide. Internet websites have up-to-date pricing for many coins, including wheat pennies. "Whitman's Red Book" publishes annually to update the prices of coins with useful historical information about American coins.

Check for rare coins. Some wheat pennies feature rare dates, mintmarks or minting errors. The date is double stamped on some issues of the 1955 penny, for example. This rare coin can be worth thousands of dollars. Examine your price guide for information about rarities.

Protect your coin if you have a wheat penny with some value. While most pennies tend to be worth less than $1 because they are common, highly-graded and rare coins are worth saving. The most common method for sealing and protecting coins for numismatists is to use cardboard sleeves that fold over an opening with a cellophane cover, that both prevents the coin from being damaged and allows collectors to easily view the coin.