Those Old Wheat Cents in Your Dresser Might Be Worth a Fortune


By Matt Draiss

Everybody has found an old coin in their change or inherited something they just do not know about. From wheat pennies right on up to $20 gold pieces, old coins are worth money. Sometimes they can be worth a fortune.

The Wheat cent is one of the most famous coins to ever be made in the United States. The coin was designed by Victor David Brenner in honor of Lincoln’s 100th birthday in 1909. The coin had a long run from 1909 through 1958. The obverse or front of the coin has remained relatively the same since its inception, and the designs on the reverse or back of the coin have changed only seven times in the last 104 years. Five of those eight changes happened during the last four years, but more on that later. The Wheat cent is the longest running coin in American history to have the same Presidential figure on the obverse.

What are those Wheat cents worth? Almost everybody has found one in their change and thrown it to the side. Some people have only one or two, but I have a client mine who is trying to amass 1,000,000 coins! The Wheat cent has a number of rare “key” dates and varieties that can be worth anywhere from $50 to over $1,000!

In the year 1909, there were 4 different varieties of the Wheat cent made. The coin was minted in Philadelphia and San Francisco. The coins were made both with and without the initials of the designer, Victor Brenner, on the reverse of the coin near the bottom. The initials V.D.B. stood out on the bottom, and they were quickly removed from the design after only a short time because the designers of U.S. coins did not generally make their initials stand out like that. Philadelphia and San Francisco both struck coins with the initials and without the initials. The way to tell the difference between a V.D.B. and a non-V.D.B. is to simply look at the reverse for the initials. The way to tell where the coin was made is to look under the date and see if there is a letter. If it was from Philadelphia, there will be no letter, however, if it is from San Francisco, it will have the letter “S” under the date.

Philadelphia coins with the V.D.B. initials are very common and trade generally for less than ten dollars per coin. The Philadelphia coins without the V.D.B. are even more common, and these trade at less than five dollars per coin. San Francisco coins are the ones worth more money. A San Fran V.D.B. can command anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over one thousand! A coin from San Francisco without the V.D.B. is still worth $50 to $150 depending upon the condition. If you have ever discovered one of these two coins from San Francisco or plan to buy one, I highly recommend getting it authenticated by a professional rare coin dealer. Counterfeit coins are much more likely to exist when a coin has a high value like one of these.

The other dates to look for in the Wheat cent series are the following: 1914-D, 1931-S, 1955 doubled-die variety, and the 1922 No Mintmark Variety. The 1914-D and 1931-S coins are worth $50 to $200 in most cases depending upon the condition. The 1914-D coin was minted in Denver. The 1922 coin was minted in Denver as well, but there is an error where the D was left off the coin and these are rare items. The 1955 doubled-die is one of the most famous Wheat cents out there. This coin shows two dates instead of just one! The 1955 doubled die is worth anywhere from $500 to $2,000 in most cases. As with the above mentioned rare dates, all of these should be professionally authenticated.

Quick Facts:

-          Do NOT clean coins! This hurts the value tremendously and cleaning/conservation must be done by a professional.

-          Wheat cents generally trade anywhere from two cents to twenty dollars for the most common dates.

-          Wheat cents in Uncirculated or “brand new” looking condition from the 1940’s and ‘50s are not rare by any stretch.

Next month, I am going to delve into the fascinating story of World War II coinage. This includes nickels made out of silver, the steel cent, the 1943 copper that everybody hopes to find(yes, this is real, I have held them before), and shell case cents. If you have question on coins, paper money, medals, or tokens, please send me an email or call me because future additions of this column will be question and answer sessions if there is enough demand.

* Want to know what YOUR coin is worth?  Check out Heritage’s FREE coin price guide for quick answers on what your item could be worth:

Matt Draiss is an internationally known rare coin dealer from Athens. Matt buys, sells, and appraises all coins, paper money, medals, and tokens. Matt is an award winning speaker and writer in the field and belongs to numerous trade organizations. He can be reached anytime at 518-653-3424 or by email at
This article may not be reprinted without permission of Matt Draiss, Matt Draiss Numismatics & Galleries, or Midnight Media.
Copyright 2013 Midnight Media

158 comments to Those Old Wheat Cents in Your Dresser Might Be Worth a Fortune

  1. Michelle Mays says:

    I have a 1971 silver dollar is it worth any thing?

    • To see how much your item is worth, visit for a FREE auction evaluation. You can also call us at 1-800-872-6467.

    • james williamson says:

      I have all kinds of silver dollars the 1971 ike dollar was stamped i nickle clad a P OR D MINT a S mint is stamped in silver clad some were put in mint sets there were a few silver .800 silver .200 copper about 24.6 grams where in proof sets . all other 1971 where melted to be put in proof sets most of the 1971 coins go for about if they are nice 8 to 10 dollars

    • Wesley says:

      Value of coins are like any other item that is deemed collectible. Ever herd the phrase. “if its rare it pays”? Many items are flooding the market called “collectible’s”. Caution is always on the side of a smart buyer/seller of collectible’s. reproductions/counterfeit are flooding the market. If you don’t believe me sit up late one night and watch T.V. The best way to value a coin or any other collectible is to do research. The internet is your best tool.Way back in the day before internet existence we had to buy books and hope for the best, right? Not anymore. There is this thing called “google”. Know your coin or collectible. Buy a magnify glass, gloves and do the research to find your coin. When you have a coin that you believe is valuable after your research,take it to someone locally who can verify your findings. I have bought,sold all types of coins,collectibles, name it. How i find the “value” of a coin or items i have is RESEARCH,RESEARCH,RESEARCH!
      finding the value of a coin would be hard right? Nope.. To find a true value, you must know the coin is correctly marked and a grade in your research first. The value is easy. In your “google search you will be able to find auction values of similar items you have such as coins and collectibles. “Ebay” is usually the first for me. Truthfully all our collectibles are worth what someone will be willing to pay. Not what a seller list an item do not look at listings that have no bids or “buy now” attached to items. You must look at the true bid patterns to figure out a value. If an item has a bid on it..well then, you’ve figured it out my friend. Only items sold,or have bids can give you a value of what the public will pay.( hence the true value) unfortunately in this day and time all collectibles have lost value unless it is extremely rare or a one of a kind. Books can give you some sort of idea but rarely can give you a true value. If you have items that have gold or silver in them don’t be fooled by a buyer( wholesaler).If the market is hot on gold and silver your beat up,smashed coin may still be worth good money. Yes you can “google” how much silver or gold is in your particular coin. You can also use the internet to find what gold and silver values are for today. Most coins can be worth 15-20 times face value if silver(1964 or earlier). Always keep in mind dealers will offer you much less for your collectibles. Do the research yourself, find the value and attempt to move any item you have for sale first before going to a dealer. If your patient and know how to list an item ( willing to learn) for auction or for sale,you can cut the middle man out and collect more profit on your own for a very small auction fee or free listings sites. Try to sell local on free sites such as craigslist,facebook groups, local listings, ebay, many other online free sites or classified. Remember the key word is “research”. Most dealers will offer you 30-50% less than what an item is presently worth. Why? To protect their investment. They have to make a profit and hold items for a long period of time depending on the buyers market. Dealer’s also have to be concerned when the market goes down or goes up on items. Most of the time they come out smelling like roses$$ and can thrive off an economy that is hurting due to living cost and the job market. The majority of America is in money trouble,yet there are plenty that is loaded with money and willing to buy your collectibles,antiques, coins at a premium price! Question is are you willing to take time out and do research and put that profit in your wallet or give it to someone else?

    • robert says:

      only if it a s-mint coin, a p or d mint coin may bring you $1.05 or $1.10 at coin store, I have been told they are a favorite with the tooth fairy.

    • jimmy says:

      i have a 1936 s wheat is it any good and a 1945 1946 1940

    • Kraig says:

      Yes. $1

  2. Mary Mckenzie says:

    I have a 1944 s no V.D.B. what’s it’s worth?
    Also a 1928 no initial. No V.D.B. and a few other wheat pennies

  3. Mary Mckenzie says:

    I replied earlier that I have a 1928 no letter might be a 1922.

  4. muy interesante su pagina me gustaria contactarme con usted tengo una buena cantidad de monedas especial mente de estados unidos gracias por sus notas que este bien

  5. Mark says:

    I have a 2013 dollar bill, which, from what I heard is worth about 75 cents.

  6. David Goist says:

    I’ve got lots of old wheat, buffalos and silver halves n dollars. I haven’t checked what their worth in years. I sold some when silver was up and I was told silver value was worth more than coin value. I think I got screwed cause when the metal a coin goes up, so does the coin ! Tell me about it OK ???

  7. Kim says:

    I have a 1918 wheat penny with an s under the date is it worth anything?

  8. Andrew bedient says:

    I am atempting to find a fair value for a mint flaw on a state quarter the coin is in nm condition except it says w Jersey the ew are just not their LOL any idea or suggestions would be great thank you.

  9. Edward Lemelin says:

    so if I had a giant jug of the pennies it would potentially be a gold mine??? I prob have over 4 or 5 million of these pennies I have been collecting them for years

  10. pat says:

    I have a 1943 D Steel Penny & a 1943 Steel Penny

  11. Desterann Sonnier says:

    I have a worn wheat penny 1918 d. I don’t think there is vdb

  12. Brian Lauckner says:

    I have 53 wheat pennys

  13. gene says:

    i have a 1985 penny that is silver in color have you came across or herd of this

    • Venus says:

      When I was a kid, I had a D battery explode on the cement from being run over by a truck, just so happened a penny was nearby, I think the acid ate the copper coating off, and I was left with a silver looking penny. It’s a possibility you have one as a result of an experiment. :)

  14. Jim says:

    What are Indian Head Pennies worth. I have quite a collection of them. My father was a collector in the 30′s when his father owned a Drugstore. He kept almost any Indian Head penny he found.

  15. Hazel Grubbs says:

    What is the value of uncirculated Kennedy half dollars?

  16. christopher shafer says:

    IVE GOT SOME PENNIES OF INTEREST FOR YOU. ill start with the newer and go to the older. three 1957, two have a d the other no initial. two 1956 no initials. one 1953 D. one 1952 D. one 1949 D. two 1948 D. five 1946, two with a D, three no initials. one 1945 D. ONE 1943 no initial. one 1942 D. one 1941 no initial. one 1940 no initial. one 1937 D. one 1930 1909 no initial. I also have one 1949 quarter and one 1946 nickel. anything you could divulge would be appreciated. thanks

  17. I F. Smith says:

    I am wondering if you might know of a reputable dealer for OLD stock certificates ? I have several inherited from my late father from the early 1900′s and would like to find out if they have any value. thank you.

  18. Amy Welch says:

    I have a Morgan Silver Dollar, from the 1890′s. Are any of those worth much if the quality is good?

  19. Caeleigh says:

    I have a 1955 double wheat with no double date or initials. Does that have any worth? My daughter found it and I’d like to know.

  20. David Pemberton says:


  21. Brenda Ray says:

    I have a 1889 silver dollar,1911 v cent piece,Neither in great shape .What would they be worth?

  22. Deb Kammeyer says:

    I have a Lincoln head Cent collection starting in 1941. Missing the 1965D. I also have a 1906 penny. What is this worth

  23. Debbie Graham says:

    I have thousands of pennies. I am going to start going thru them asap. I have been saving them for 30 years.

  24. richard says:

    I have about 5 to 10 pounds of wheat pennies. I would like to think i was rich

  25. Jo says:


  26. Ron Koller says:

    My father collected a couple hundred 1960
    pennies. To this day, I still don’t know why
    he did this. Is there something that I’m
    missing here?
    Thanks, Ron

  27. Jeanie S. says:

    1942 -D wheat back?

    Any worth?

  28. regina valdez says:

    I have a 1946 D no initials and a 1930 no initials

  29. Vincent J.Saladino says:

    i have been coins since i was a kid n the wheat pennies i have about $10.00 worth n plenty of the 58s will check out the site thank u Vincent

  30. sandra bryant says:

    i have a 1928 wheat coin with s stamped on it. is it worth anything

  31. melinda says:

    I have a bunch of steel pennies, what would the worth of those be!?

  32. Shanna Thompson says:

    I have a whole series of wheat pennies from 1904 to 1940 plus about 50 extra. Where do I go to get a value.

  33. Harry B. Shaffer says:

    I have a 1900 wheat head penny with a Indian head on it with ceremonial feathers on it’s head. This article stated the coin had a long run from 1909 through 1958. It appears I have a coin dated before that date. What would my coin be worth?

  34. Jeff Wolf says:

    Have several pennies from 1920 – 1957. Some have S’s and some have D’s and some without any markings. Should I get these checked out. Have a 1935D and later yrs with S’s and D’s.

  35. julia lee says:

    I have about 200 wheat back pennies. the furthest one I have is a 1912 and its in a case. id gladly sell any or all. that’s me on facebook if interested.

  36. Maria says:

    I love knowing about coins and bills. My son loves to collect too. He was recently given a $5.00 bill that looked odd. Ill have to ask him year but think he said it was 1963.

  37. Cindy Farmer says:

    I have old silver dollars from the 1800s and wheat pennies and buffalo buckles but what I am most curious about is a $10 bill that says”Marine National Exchange Bank of Milwaukee” on it and “series of 1929″ Why were these made and is it still worth $10?

  38. Jeff Turner says:

    I have hundreds of them wheat pennies and steel ones 3 generations of coin collections love them all!!!!

  39. Melissa Kennedy says:

    I have 2 1835 Buffalo Nickels. Are they worth anything?

  40. Devon dodd says:

    I found a 1897 Indian head Pennie at work one time still have it for good luck… pretty good shape too not sure how Much it’s worth

  41. Paul DeGrey says:

    So how come no mention of the 1943 steel pennies due to the copper shortage during WW2? Somewhat rare and quite different.

  42. Dee Dee Smith says:

    I have several old and rare coins that my grandmother left me just curious about some of them! Thanks dd

  43. Tammie Hammett says:

    I have several WWII coins and som made from shells and also the silver pennies, I think. Are they worth anything?

  44. Where would a person sell their coins (wheat pennies)? I have a 5 gallon bucket, full of these things and would like to sell them for what they’re worth.

  45. John M. says:

    I have 4 .50 Franklins, all FBL’s.

    -1962, MS66
    -1963, MS66 (x2)
    -1948, MS67

    The top 3 are graded from Gallery Coin Company and the last is from Numistrust Corp.

    I also have a 1955-S Penny, MS68 Red, also from Gallery Coin Company.

    And, one coin Morgon Silver Dollar, MS64/65 which is an error coin that has the “S” on wings side towards bottom… Not graded with any of the above…

    With the exception of the last coin, all of the other coins really look great! I did a search on prices several years ago and some of these were between $15-$20k or more. Is this possible even though it’s not graded via PCGS or similar? How can I determine if the MS66 or MS67 is that high?

  46. tom says:

    i have two 54 wheatback one is a s and the other is a d and a 42 no marking what the price

  47. Rebie Caldwell says:

    I have some 5.00 & others that says Silver ertificate at the top.Also some bills with red serial numbers.Are they worth anything?

  48. Ward Correll says:

    I have an 1858 penny with a flying eagle on the front and what looks like a wreath on the back..any value?

  49. jane j willis says:

    Ihave wheet penny,s from 1912 to1939 from1950to1953 to1961

  50. katie says:

    I have a dollar bill from 1935 is it worth anything?

  51. Rick Schultz says:

    I have 2 steel pennies. These unusual coins are dated; 1982 D, and 1986 D, both have the Lincoln Memorial on the back. The only steel pennies I know of before these were Wheat backs and dated in the early 40′s. Can you tell me any information about my coins? Could they be aluminum they are not attracted to magnets.

  52. Rob Donnelly says:

    I just found a 1919 S wheat penny in my change from the gas station last week. I don’t see VDM on the back. It is wore down a bit, but it still has some detail. Anyone know what it might be worth?

  53. Lisa says:

    What is an 1898 wheat penny worth ?

    • george says:

      starting 1 dollar to 28 dollars.. i recommend you tak it to a coin collector and let him price it. or research ebay and go with the prices you see

  54. Marcia Wamack says:

    Going though the wheat cent found 4-1955D mint and a1955 mint they look to be in really good condition what are they worth?

  55. SarahCake says:

    I have 2 1943 pennies are they considered wheat pennies? If so how much could they be worth?

  56. Sarah Franks says:

    What does the green star on paper money mean?

  57. angela ragusa says:

    I have a 1834 silver dollar liberty how much is that worth?

  58. RANDY TEEL says:


  59. Barbara Fochtman says:

    I have I think may be a copper token, it looks like a penny, The date is 1863, I believe the face of Liberty, Liberty and no Slavery printed on it. The back side says Union for Ever. Can you tell me anything about it?

  60. Lillian says:

    I have a 1957 silver Town dollar in mint condition could you tell me what it’s worth

  61. Pat McBride says:

    I have a lot of old coins I would like for you to sent me the site that I can check to see what they are worth or where I can order a book to look at to see what they are worth

    Thank you,

  62. myka says:

    I have 2 silver wheat back pennies from 1943 are they worth anything?

  63. Jackie Haywood says:

    I have a 1904 Indian head penny, I was just wondering the value. I also have 1943 silver pennies and wondering their value?

  64. dalton says:

    i have a 1946 with a S under it is it worth any thing

  65. Donna Jean Goode Crawford says:

    I have a bronze 1848 penny that is about the size a quarter…is it worth anything?

  66. Bridget Del. says:

    I have two one with D and one without. What and Where do I go?

  67. catherine says:

    I have a lot of pennies now I will have to see what I have, thanks for the info.

  68. Rob says:

    I have a series of (4) uncut uncuirrulated $2 bills, is there any value to these?

  69. Terri says:

    I have 1944 with nothing on it. no d or so it

  70. Sarah Potapova says:

    I have alot of coins and I would like to find someone to go through them and give them a value and find a buyer. All are finds except about 6 which were bought. Boxes , jars and containers full.

  71. I have a 1928 silver dollar and a 1936 liberty half dollar. R these worth any thing ?

  72. charie turner says:

    i have a 1956 wheat pennie and it was minted in denver i do believe at least it has a d on it and am wondering what it might be worth

  73. Amanda says:

    I have an old mate coin of a very high value

  74. Nicole says:

    Have confederate money… Would you be able to work with me?

  75. Jim says:

    What values do u have on the Indian head pennies? I have several that are pre 1900 I think and post 1900. Ie. 1903,04,05,06 etc.

  76. Kim Bright says:

    Matt Draiss, you stated that you have a client that is trying to amass a million coins. My dad has 1513 wheat pennies with 9 of them being steel pennies and several that are 100 to 103 years old. If your client is interested, please contact me.

  77. shelly dartt says:

    I have some old paper money I think from world war 1 or2 but they are from other countries, I even have some paper coins, how do I find out what they are worth

  78. sue r says:

    I just found a 1895 quarter. Date is clear as is some other writings but is pretty rubbed down. Is this coin just worth the history behind it or a value. I am a cashier in a cafe and a lot of old money seems to be coming thru. I have kept it for the history behind it and wonder where and who has handled this coin.

  79. Cheryl P says:

    I have a roll of 30 that I have never opened….and don’t intend to. I’ve never thought to take them to a professional. I looked at the one reverse side of the end penny in the roll & it is a 1922.

  80. Jim Harrier says:

    I was stationed in Denver during 1966-1967. I went to the Denver mint and watched them stamp out the pennies. Try to find one now. 1966,67,68 had no D mint marks on them in order to stop collector’s from hoarding them. it didn’t work very well.

  81. michael croce says:

    I have a 1944 s- wheat penny. is it worth anything?

  82. kimberly smith says:

    I have these wheat pennies, do I have any worth anything?
    A steel 1943 wheat penny
    1945 no letter wheat penny
    1953 d wheat penny
    1914 no letter wheat penny
    1953 d wheat penny
    1957 d wheat penny

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