Lincoln Wheat Pennies
were produced from 1909 to 1959. Sometimes referred to as a Straw Penny, Wheat Penny, Wheatback, Wheat Head or Wheatie,
this coin was designed by Victor David Brenner, a New York artist.
Wheat pennies have seen their share of controversy. Brenner's initials, V.D.B, appeared on the back of the coin below the two stalks of wheat. Unfortunately, negative public sentiment caused his initials to be removed from there and they were relocated to the face of the coin in 1918.
The original composition of wheat pennies was bronze. These were struck from 1909 to 1942. Starting in 1943 the metallic make up of wheat pennies was changed to zinc plated steel, to help with the conservation of metals for the war effort. From 1944 to 1946 they were made from shell casing bronze which was derived from leftover ammunition casings. Their composition was bronze again which continued until 1958, when wheat pennies were transformed to show the Lincoln Memorial instead, leading to their discontinuation.
Wheat pennies vary in value. The ones that were struck with 1909-S on them are worth far more than the ones that came from the Philadelphia Mint. Poor quality ones with 1909-S on them are worth hundreds of dollars, and those which are uncirculated and in mint condition have been known to be worth at least $26,000.
Wheat pennies shared an interesting place in the history of American currency and have been delighting both novice and avid coin collectors and historians for countless years.