On this page, I focus the discussion on wheat cents, referring to the reverse design during the first half century (1909 to 1958). Although Lincoln cents have been mintted for over a hundred years, the original design draws the most interest from collectors. Consider that all of the rare and scarce dates are wheat cents. All Lincoln cents with the Memorial or sheild reverse are so common they garner less interest from the collector. Many collectors choose to end their collection in 1958 with the end of the wheat cent.
How Common are Wheat cents?
A friend of mine (who is a copper cent hoarder) gathered statistics for me. He said that currenlty 0.8% of all Lincoln cents gathered in change are wheat cents. Therefore, it should still be possible (albeit unlikely) to find a scarce date in change.
Victor David Brenner, designer of the Lincoln CentVictor David Brenner was born in Lithuania in 1871 and emigrated to the US in 1890, where he became a New York area sculptor specializing in designs of medals. In 1907, Brennan produced a medal and plaque of Lincoln, which drew the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt. A great admirer of Lincoln, Roosevelt wanted to include Lincoln on a coin starting in 1909, the hundredth birthday of Lincoln's birth.
1909 VDB Lincoln cents
At the start of the first year, Brenner's initials, VDB, appeared prominently on the reverse of the coin. The public considered this arrogant, and the initials were removed shortly into the first year of production, creating two distinct varieties the first year. The San Francisco mint produced only 484,000 of the VDB versions of the penny, making the 1909 S VDB cent one of the classic rare coins. The Philadelphia mint produced nearly 28 million, many of which were carefully preserved by collectors. Brennan's initials re-appeared in the more subtle location of the base of Lincoln's bust in 1918.
1914 D Lincoln Cent
The 1914 D Lincoln cent is among the rarest in the series. Although 1.2 million were minted, most became thoroughly circulated and well worn. The 1914 D cent is particularly rare in higher grades
The 1922 plain Lincoln CentIn 1922, there were no Lincoln cents produced in Philadelphia. But some of the 7 million minted in Denver were produced without a mintmark due to a defect in the die.
The 1931 S Lincoln CentThe last scarce coin of the series was the 1931 S, with a mintage of 866,000.
During World War II, copper became a scarce commodity. In 1943, Lincoln cents were made out of steel. It remains the only American coin that can be picked up with a magnet. From 1944 to 1946, the Lincoln cents were made out of shell cases that were salvaged. These shell case copper cents look similar to other copper Lincoln cents.
1955 Double Die Lincoln Cent
The best-known Lincoln cent error iis the 1955 Double die, in which the date, In God We Trust and Liberty are clearly doubled. There are a few more subtle double die varieties that were produced in the Lincoln Memorial series.
The Lincoln cent story continues with the discussion of the Lincoln Memorial Cent.