Wheat Penny Overview
Famously known as the coin that has Abraham Lincoln on the front and wheat ears on the back, the Lincoln Cent is a favorite of collectors and non-collectors alike. The pleasing and simple obverse and reverse are what draws most collectors to the coin.
Victor D. Brenner was the designer of the Lincoln cent that replaced the Indian Head Penny in 1909. Although officially called the Lincoln cent, Brenner’s wheat ear reverse led to the coin obtaining the common name of “Wheat Penny”. The Wheat Penny would continue to be in production until 1959 when the reverse would be updated to include the Lincoln Monument.
Brenner’s obverse design was unique and was the first time that a US President was featured on a coin. The design was made up of a bust of President Abraham Lincoln centered and facing right with “IN GOD WE TRUST” above. “LIBERTY” can be found to the left of the bust and the date of mintage is to the right.
On the reverse, the denomination, “ONE CENT”, and the motto “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” are centered and surrounded by two wheat ears on each side. “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is centered along the top of the coin near the rim. Victor Brenner’s initials, “V.D.B.”, can be found on the bottom of the coin.
If you want to learn more about the Lincoln Cent or other rare and collectible cents, be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Pennies.
History Of The 1934 D Wheat Penny
Since there is the inclusion of a “D” mint mark (found below the date), this signifies that this coin was minted in Denver. Philadelphia was the main branch of the mint that produced the most Wheat Pennies, with Denver producing far less.
The Mint at Denver reports minting 28,446,000 examples bearing the date 1934. This is a much smaller mintage than the 219,000,000 Wheat Pennies struck at Philadelphia that same year.
Not specific to the year, but rather the entire decade of the 1930s, mintages would be lower than in the upcoming 1940s and 1950s. The Great Depression is the main reason for the much lower mintage figures in the early and mid-1930s.
Denver As A Secondary Mint For Wheat Penny
Any collector who looks over the mintages for the entire Wheat Penny series will quickly realize that for almost every year, the Denver Mint produced far fewer coins than the Philadelphia Mint. This is due to Philadelphia being the “main” Mint and Denver being the “secondary Mint”.
Philadelphia also had the task of supplying the entire east coast and part of the midwest with Wheat Pennies and other coins. This effectively made the Philadelphia Mint produce more coins as they were servicing a much larger number of people than the Denver or San Francisco Mints.
Denver, on the other hand, had only part of the midwest and west coast to supply, which had a much smaller population. Fewer Denver minted coins made their way to the east coast while vice versa is true for the Philadelphia Mint and the west coast.
As the end of the 1940s started, the Denver Mint was beginning to create a similar amount of Wheat Pennies as the Philadelphia Mint. A growing population and need for hard currency are what led to this great increase.
By the end of the 1950s, the torch would be passed from the Philadelphia Mint to the Denver Mint as to who was the main producer of Wheat Pennies. Denver would continue to create the most pennies even into the Lincoln Memorial years.
Valuing the 1934 D Wheat Penny
Since older wheat pennies are highly collected and normally in demand, the prices even for lower grade examples can be slightly higher than Wheat Pennies minted in the 1940s and 50s.
Good 4 condition 1934 D Wheat Pennies are currently valued at $0.20 per coin. The price doubles to $0.50 if the coin is in Fine 12 condition. Very Fine 20 examples see a rise to $0.75 and Extremely Fine 40 examples have a huge jump to $2.28.
Uncirculated coins are worth much more than circulated examples as fewer have survived to this day.
Ms-60 examples retail for about $11 while MS-63 examples command $26 each. Premium uncirculated coins in MS-65 condition have a price tag of $85. MS-67 examples, which few coins have achieved, is a grade that has an estimated price of $3,000!PCGS believes that only 4,600 examples of the 1934 D Wheat Penny still exist in red MS-65 or higher grade. Coins that are not in original red condition are not valued as highly those that are. All prices given are for coins that have an average strike and have full red luster.