Wheat Penny Overview
Designed to commemorate the 100th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Wheat Penny became the first coin to feature the bust of a President. This unique feature led to the explosion of its popularity among consumers of the early 1900s.
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Victor Brenner was commissioned in 1909 to create the next US penny design to replace the long-lived Indian Head cent. Brenner chose a simple design that paid homage to both the nation’s humble beginnings and great leaders.
The obverse design features the bust of President Lincoln centered and facing right. “IN GOD WE TRUST” is centered directly above Lincoln’s bust. The date can be found in the right field and the word “LIBERTY” on the left.
For the reverse, Brenner chose to use two wheat stalks as the main design to commemorate the nation’s early reliance on farming. Between these two wheat ears is the denomination, “ONE CENT”, and the motto, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”. “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is centered around the top rim of the reverse.
If you want to learn more about the Lincoln penny or other rare and collectible cents, be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Pennies!
History of the 1940 Wheat Penny
The 1940 Wheat Penny was minted at the Philadelphia Mint and does not have a mint mark on the obverse. It is reported that 586,810,000 examples were minted in 1940. This is slightly more than the average minted in the previous years but consistent with the gradual increase in mintage numbers across the entire decade.
Some proof examples were minted in 1949 and were made using a special minting process. Just under 16,000 examples are known to have been produced.
All Lincoln Wheat cents, except for those minted in 1943, were made up of a 95% copper and 5% zinc composition. Each weighs 3.11 grams and has a 19 mm diameter. No reeding is present on the edge of the coin.
Proof 1940 Wheat Pennies
Early proof wheat pennies were never really minted consistently or in large quantities. This has resulted in certain years having proof varieties while others years do not. These years that did have proof coins minted were only intended to be distributed to collectors and were not put into circulation or directly offered to the public.
Normally, proof coins show shiny and almost mirror-like surfaces and sometimes a Cameo surface. The 1940 Proof Wheat Pennies were an exception, with many not exhibiting a Cameo surface. Only 5 coins have been graded with the Cameo designation by PCGS.
Even though 16,000 Proof 1940 Wheat Pennies were minted, a large number still exists today in high grades. This is because they were only offered to collectors who added them to their personal collections. PCGS estimates that 7,000 Proof 1940 Wheat Pennies still exist in Full Red Condition.
Value of the 1940 Wheat Penny
Wheat Pennies have always been a popular coin with collectors due to the low price and abundance of examples available. This causes a great demand for almost every date of wheat pennies.
Examples in Good 4 through Fine 12 have a price range of $0.15 to $0.20. A price jump to $0.60 occurs if the coin is in Extremely Fine 45 condition.
Higher-grade 1940 Wheat Pennies see a fair increase in price. MS-60 examples are available for around $3.00 while MS-63 condition has a price of $4.00. At MS-66, the 1940 Wheat Penny sees a pretty drastic jump in retail to $30.
Proof examples of the 1940 Wheat Penny see consistently higher prices than non-proof versions. Assuming that the coin is in its original red color, an MS-60 example has a going price of $27. MS-63 and MS-65 examples are valued at $72 and $125 respectively.