Coin collecting is becoming more popular in the USA. Coins are a snapshot of American history in many ways and a collection can take you through many varied eras of the country’s emergence. While not all old coins are worth money some are, but it’s not just the value that makes coin collecting an enjoyable and surprisingly affordable hobby.
In this article we’re talking about an iconic US coin – the Wheat penny – and we’ll also be looking at other coins that are very valuable indeed. Let’s begin by talking about why the Wheat penny has become an icon of US history.
Why is the 1952 Wheat Penny Important?
The Wheat penny is so called because of the twin ears of wheat that appear on one side. The first such penny was minted in 1909. It was the very first US coin to depict an individual person – in this case President Abraham Lincoln. This followed the tradition of monarchies such as the UK where the monarchs head is always portrayed on one side of the coin. These facts make the Wheat penny an important development not just in US coinage, but in US culture.
Also known as ‘Lincoln Cents’ the Wheat penny is often the starting point for collectors. Not all are worth a lot of money – indeed you can buy good examples of common mintings for a few cents – but as we will look at in the next section there are some that are worth a lot more than face value. Value is determined by conditioned and rarity, and unusual mistakes in the pressing of coins also add to the value.
For example, the 1952 penny value is often enquired about. It wasn’t the last year the Lincoln Cent was minted – that was 1959 precisely 50 years after the first – but it was an interesting year for coin collectors. While many 1952 Wheat pennies were produced and they can be bought for, well, pennies there are proof versions – effectively a prototype – that can fetch between $30 and $40. These are a good place to start a collection as they are not hard to find, inexpensive but still retain that sense of being special. Let’s now have a look at some of the Wheat pennies and other coins that have fetched high prices.
What is the Most Valuable US Penny?
The very rare Wheat pennies rank as very valuable coins yet we shall also see that they are eclipsed by other important US currency. We have already mentioned that coin in good condition that is unexceptional can be bought for a few cents. Yet, some Wheat pennies have made astonishing money.
For example, a 1943 ‘D’ Wheat penny – hat denotes a Denver minting – that has a unique error in its pressing is believed to be the only one in existence. It changed hands privately recently for a reported $1.7million. A small amount – around 20 – of the same year were produced without a mint mark. These are valued at around $1million. At the other end of the ‘big money’ scale an uncirculated example of the 1914 edition can be worth around $200,000.
An example of a collectable edition that is more affordable is the 1909 ‘VDB’ Wheat penny, the initials being those of designer Victor David Brenner, which in good condition can sell for around $250. This is the sort of coin that the average collector is looking for. There are other examples of rare Wheat pennies that are not exceptionally expensive. Let’s finish by looking at a coin that made simply incredible money.
Which US Coin Fetched the Most Money?
Perhaps the Holy Grail for US coin collectors is the 1933 Double Eagle 20 dollar coin. Although something like 450,000 were minted, the coin was never issued for circulation. According to records, all bar two examples were ordered to be melted down. An additional 20 were ‘rescued’ and while they went to collectors they were later seized as illegal goods. Now, just 13 remain, and only one of those is in private hands.
In June 2021, the sole privately owned 1933 Double Eagle sold at auction for an incredible $18.8million. Perhaps now is the time to start collecting coins!
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