1951 Wheat Penny: Huge Surviving Numbers Crash High-Grade Market
Wheat Penny Overview
Known as the most iconic and popular one cent coin ever made in the United States, the Wheat Penny enjoyed a long 49-year production period. This period of production started in 1909 when the Wheat Penny replaced the Indian Head Cent. Production ended in 1958 after the reverse was changed to include the new Lincoln monument.
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Victor D. Brenner was the designer for both the obverse and reverse of the coin. Brenner was the first designer to use the bust of a past president on one of the nation’s coins. The added bust of 16th President Abraham Lincoln to the penny resulted in great praise for Brenner and his design.
The obverse of the coin features a shoulder-high bust of President Lincoln facing right. Centered directly above the bust is the motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”. The word “LIBERTY” can be found in the left field and the date and mintmark (If minted somewhere other than Philadelphia) can be found in the right field.
Brenner used two wheat ears to make the simple design for the reverse of the coin. Found between the two wheat ears are the denomination of “ONE CENT” and the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”. At the very top of the reverse, the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” can be found.
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 1951 Wheat Penny
After the mid-1930s, wheat penny production was increased dramatically. The increase was based on the fact that more money was needed across the country to help support the growing post-war population.
Mintage figures released by the United States Mint show that 284,576,000 examples were produced at the Philadelphia mint in 1951. A total of 1.04 billion 1951 Wheat Pennies were produced across the three main mints.
Like all other wheat pennies except for those produced in 1943, the 1951 Wheat Penny was made with a composition of 95% copper and 5% zinc. Weighing 3.11 grams and having a diameter of 19.05mm, the Wheat Penny was the same as the previous Indian Head Penny.
Creating a Wheat Penny Collection
Collecting wheat pennies may be one of the simplest and most cost-effective collections that a beginning coin collector may choose to pursue. Because of high mintages for most dates after 1933, almost half the collection can easily be purchased for a small premium over face value.
Most collectors who start collecting wheat pennies need a way to store and protect their investment. One of the most cost efficient ways to store and protect them is to purchase a premade book meant to house a certain series of coin. These books hold, protect, and organize your collection for you.
Although protecting your collection is important, getting the coins to start or complete your collection is the most important part of the collecting process. Most common date Wheat Pennies can be found at dealers or online shops for a very small premium over face value. Harder to find wheat pennies, like semi-key and key dates, will cost much more and will most likely be more commonly found online.
Starting a collection of wheat pennies can be simple and relatively cheap compared to other coin series. Interestingly enough, most larger coin collectors first started collecting wheat pennies or other small denomination coinage.
Value of the 1951 Wheat Penny
Unlike Lincoln Memorial Pennies, most wheat pennies have some form of resale value in lower grades. This resale value is generally low because of the massive amounts that were produced and still survive to this day.
In Fine condition, a 1951 Wheat Penny is valued at $0.05, but in Extra Fine condition, the price increases to $0.10. Extremely Fine condition results in a jump to $0.25 per example.
Uncirculated examples that have a full red luster tend to have a slightly higher price as these coins are what most veteran collectors are looking for. MS-60 condition sees a low price of $1, while MS-63 examples make a quick jump to $10. MS-65 graded 1951 Wheat Pennies are valued at $25.
These slightly deflated prices for premium uncirculated 1951 Wheat Pennies can be attributed to the fact that PCGS estimates that 5,000 Full Red examples exist. Uncirculated coins that are not Full Red but Brown have an estimated survival of 28,000,000, which makes most valued at or near $1.