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1944 Wheat Penny: The Copper Returned, but Did It Affect Its Worth?
Launching your personal coin collection can be pleasurable, engaging and educational. But with the wide array of coins in the United States, you’ll be overwhelmed with where to begin.
Pennies are a great way to kick start collecting coins for beginners and for numismatists that already have other sets of coins.
Pennies are generally inexpensive, so it makes for a good startup collection. It may be a little tricky in the beginning, but educating yourself will help you jump-start this hobby.
Always take note of the important factors that will make or break your penny collection, such as the condition of the coin, rarity, and marketability.
One of the more inexpensive pennies is the 1944 Wheat Penny. It marks the comeback of Lincoln cents from the 1943 steelies to the standard copper wheaties. Let's delve deeper into this wheat head to know its real value.
The Nitty Gritty of the 1944 Wheatie
We know that wheat pennies were minted from 1909 to 1958. Since then, pennies were made from copper except the steel pennies of 1943 when copper was eliminated from the coin composition to aid in the United States’ war efforts in World War II.
But because of complaints in the steelies’ condition, the US mints decided to bring copper back in the penny’s mix. This and more make the 1944 wheat penny a coin worth holding onto.
These Lincoln cents weigh 3.11 grams, has a diameter of 19.05 mm, a thickness of 1.55 mm, with plain edges. The penny’s Victor David Brenner design is the same as that of the 1909 penny.
Its obverse features the bust of Abraham Lincoln and the reverse has two wheat horns, which is why it is also often called a wheat penny, wheat back, or a wheatie.
More than the Brass Tacks
While the wheat back is inexpensive, the 1944 steel penny costs a fortune. Around 30 steel pennies from 1944 exist with each piece amounting from $75,000 to more than $375,000 depending on its grade.
There are a total of about two billion Lincoln cents produced in 1944. Around 1,435,000,000 came from the Philadelphia Mint, 430,578,000 from the Denver Mint with a D mint mark, and 282,760,000 from the San Francisco Mint with an S mint mark. With a very high quantity of 1944 pennies, it is no surprise that these are common and are inexpensive.
1944 is when the US Mints learned their lesson from the 1943 steelies and returned the copper into the wheaties, though it is not exactly the same composite as the 1942 pennies. Unlike the bronze pennies of 1909 to 1942 that were made with 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc mix, the brass pennies of 1944 has no trace of tin because they were made from striking recycled ammunition shells.
The minor visual differences between the copper pennies of other years and the brass pennies of 1944 to 1946 are only distinguishable among the uncirculated coins and are negligible in heavily circulated wheaties. Majority of these pennies have no mint marks meaning they came from Philadelphia.
Pennies are generally inexpensive, so they make for good collection starters.
Boosting Your Wheat Penny’s Price
Wheat pennies are worth at least three times its face value, unless it is terribly worn out. Nowadays, the average estimated value of the 1944 Wheat Penny is 15 cents for average condition to $6 for mint state. The numismatic value of a penny depends on a couple of key factors:
Coin grading uses the Sheldon Scale with corresponding points awarded for the overall coin condition, luster, marks, and motif. This is the biggest indicator of a penny’s appraisal. Uncirculated pennies have an average worth of $5. Those in mint state can be appraised for a little more.
Rarity and Marketability
With a high figure production, these pennies are not really rare and lots are still in circulation. Since it is more available, there is no need to compete for demand, hence its low appraisal at 10 to 20 cents for the heavily circulated grade.
While these are not really uncommon, it is best to start rummaging through coin rolls to get your wheat pennies for free or for a cheap price.
Collect as much as you can and keep them in proper storage conditions so you can sell it for a price when there is a drop in supply followed by an increase in demand.