Lincoln Wheat Cent: 1909-1958


Quick Coinage Facts

Years Minted: 1909-1958
Number of Types: 2
Mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco
Composition Type 1: 0.950 copper, 0.050 tin and zinc
Composition Type 2: 0.999 steel, 0.001 zinc coating
Diameter: 19 mm
Weight: Type 1- 3.11 grams, Type 2- 2.7 grams
Type 1 Total Mintage: 24,723,317,823
Type 2 Total Mintage: 1,093,838,670
Edge: Smooth


The Lincoln cent (sometimes affectionately referred to as Wheaties) was introduced to mark the 100th birthday of our 16th President Abraham Lincoln and replaced the previous Indian Head Cent.

Designed by Victor D. Brenner, the Lincoln cent had a composition of 95% copper & 5% tin (referred to as Type 1) and for a brief period during 1943 the composition was changed to 99.9% steel and .1% zinc as copper was conserved to support World War II efforts (referred to as Type 2). The obverse features a portrait of Lincoln with the inscription LIBERTY to the left of the portrait and the date to the right. Above the portrait are the words "IN GOD WE TRUST" and finally below the date is a mint mark for Denver and San Francisco issues only.

On the reverse of the coin are the words "ONE CENT" and "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" encompassed with two wheat stalks. Above the overall design are the word "E PLURIBUS UNUM"

An Age of "Firsts"

The Lincoln cent coinage represented new directions the mint had begun taking. Of the most notable is that it was the first circulating coin to feature a portrait of an actual person and not that of lady liberty. This spelled the beginning of the end for lady liberty on other denominations in years to come.

Being the first coin to depict a real person is not the only "first" status that the cent can claim to. The Lincoln cent was also the first to:

  • first cent to bear the term "IN GOD WE TRUST"
  • first cent ever to be minted at the Denver mint
  • first (and only) U.S. circulating coin made of steel
Type 1 Wheat Cent
Type 2 Steel Wheat Cent

Major Varieties

Besides two type coins, the series also consists of three major varieties
Variety 1 coins were introduced in early 1909 during the first year of issue and depicted the initials V.D.B. (Victor David Brenner) at six oclock on the reverse.

The initials on the reverse were believed to be too conspicuous by some and due to a public outcry, were removed from coins struck later during 1909 by order of the secretary of the treasury creating Variety 2 coins or no V.D.B cents. That action resulted in the 1909 and 1909-S varieties, both with and without V.D.B. The coins with the initials are scarcer, with the 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent being a key coin in the series. (Its mintage, however, is still higher than the 1909-S Indian Head cent.)

The initials were restored to the coin in 1918, but were placed on the obverse at the left lower part of the truncation, where they appear on all Lincoln cents after that date creating Variety 3 coins.

Variety 1 reverse VDB initials Variety 3 obverse VDB Initials

General Market Notes

Mintages of the cent were in the billions and it's low denomination value made it an accessible and affordable coin to collectors of all ages making it one of, if not the. most collected U.S. coins. This high retention rate over the years mean an abundance for collectors today and BU examples can be acquired for as little as $1.

For those with more of an eye to value the key dates in the series are generally accepted to be the 1909-S V.D.B., 1909-S, 1914-D, 1922-D No D, 1924-D, 1931-S, and 1955 Doubled Die.

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