Wheat Penny Overview
The Lincoln Cent, more commonly known as the Lincoln Wheat Penny, is one of the most popular coins for today’s collectors. It was America’s first coin to feature the bust of a president. This concept was so widely enjoyed by consumers that all future coin designs would feature different presidential busts.
Sculptor and artist, Victor Brenner was chosen as the designer for America’s new one cent coin in 1909. Brenner’s design was meant to pay tribute to 16th president Abraham Lincoln's 100th birthday as well as the nation’s farming background. The design was accepted as the new one cent design, retiring the Indian Head Penny version.
On the obverse of the coin, a bust of President Lincoln is centered facing right. The well-known motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, can be found centered directly above the bust of Lincoln. “LIBERTY” can be found in the left field and the date of mintage is found to the right.
Brenner’s reverse design was meant to be very simplistic with the words “ONE CENT” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” centered between two large wheat stalks. The wheat stalks were a tribute to America’s humble beginnings as a farm-based country, which later progressed into an industrial power. “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is also present and centered at the top 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 1955 Wheat Penny
Of all the coins in the Wheat Penny series, the 1955 Wheat Penny might be one of the most well known. Its prominence as the most well-known doubled die is what makes its history so interesting.
Mintage numbers released by the Philadelphia Mint show that 390,958,000 examples were minted. Like all other wheat pennies except for those produced in 1943, the 1955 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 had the same physical properties as the previous Indian Head Penny.
The Legendary 1955 Doubled Die Wheat Penny
During minting of the 1955 Wheat Penny, one of the most remarkable errors in numismatics occurred. By far the most well-known double die error coin, the 1955 DDO Wheat Penny is sought after by coin collectors all across the country. With its unmistakable doubled image on the obverse of the coin, it is one of the easiest errors to see.
The error was produced when a hub and working die were struck together at a rotated angle and this caused the image to be rotated and heavily doubled. The die was then used to strike 1955 Wheat Pennies, making the entire obverse design appear doubled.
It was only after 20,000 to 24,000 error coins were produced that the error was found by mint employees, who chose not to find the error pennies and melt them to keep them out of circulation. These doubled 1955 Wheat Pennies were then distributed into public circulation, where it didn’t take long for consumers to start noticing the error.
Since most people found and kept the Doubled Die 1955 Wheat Penny within the first year they were in circulation, many examples are in near uncirculated or uncirculated condition.
Significant doubling can be seen on the date and in the mottos, “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST”. Some doubled dies do not have as significant doubling, making them worth less and referred to as the “poor man’s doubled die”. All examples should be authenticated through a top tier third-party grading company as counterfeits do exist.
Value of the 1955 Wheat Penny
As far as regular 1955 Wheat Pennies that exhibit no signs of doubling, the value is non-existent or really low.
Only uncirculated examples in MS-63 or higher condition have any type of real value. MS-63 has a retail value of $1 and MS-65 examples have a larger jump to $16. A very quick rise to $55 can be seen with a one-point increase to MS-66.
For the much sought after 1955 Doubled Die, the prices are significantly higher compared to regular strike examples. Even in the lowest grade of Good 4, the retail price is just under $1000. A value of $1,450 is given for examples in Very Fine 20.
Uncirculated examples are where the largest jump in price occurs. MS-60 has a value of $2,050 and in MS-63 examples are worth $2,800. Only 12 coins have been graded MS-65 by PCGS, and are valued at $7,600!
Although 20,000 to 24,000 1955 Doubled Die Wheat Pennies were minted, PCGS estimates that only 15,000 still survive today. With this small surviving number, fewer collectors will be able to get their hands on the most sought after doubled die coins ever minted.