Struck from 1909 to 1958, the Lincoln Wheat Penny was created after President Theodore Roosevelt felt all U.S. coinage needed an artistic makeover. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was originally chosen to redesign the Penny, but he sadly passed away before completing his work. In 1909, the same year as the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, New York medalist and mint engraver Victor David Brenner was asked to design a Penny honoring the late President Lincoln.
The obverse depicts a right-facing Lincoln, with LIBERTY inscribed on the left and the date featured on the right. Interestingly, the Lincoln Wheat Penny was the first cent coin to display the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, which can be found above Lincoln’s head. On the reverse are two wheat stalks, both of which frame the coin’s ONE CENT value. Above the denomination is E PLURIBUS UNUM and below is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
When the Lincoln Wheat Penny first entered circulation, Brenner’s initials V.D.B. were engraved on the reverse. However, they were removed a few days later as many people complained that the initials were too prominently visible.
Never afraid to speak his mind, President Theodore Roosevelt grew tired of U.S. coinage and suggested new designs should be created in 1904. He didn’t even have to seek approval from Congress because the Indian Head design had been in production for more than the required 25 years. Roosevelt didn’t waste any time in asking sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to prepare sketches for the four gold coins in circulation at the time.
Once Saint-Gaudens finished his designs for the four other coins, he turned his attention to the Cent. He came up with a number of designs including Liberty and a flying eagle. By 1907, Saint-Gaudens was battling with cancer but he still managed to prepare sketches for Roosevelt. Sadly, he died in August that year without settling on an appropriate design for the Cent.
In 1908, Roosevelt and the Treasury Department began receiving requests for a coin featuring the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln to honor the centennial of his birth, an event due to occur in 1909. Roosevelt thought it was a brilliant idea and suggested the talent of Victor David Brenner, an artist known by the president and who had already created a medal for Lincoln’s centennial.
Brenner quickly starting developing his Lincoln design, creating the first ever regular issue U.S. coin to feature an actual human. While the general public knew about the coin, no images were published prior to its release, and excitement began to build around the country. When it was eventually released in August 1909, the Lincoln Wheat Penny was greeted with approval, but many Americans disliked the fact that Brenner had put his initials on the reverse.
Much to Brenner’s surprise, the population took issue with his prominent initials V.D.B. on the reverse of the Lincoln Wheat Penny. Just three days after the coin first entered circulation, the initials were removed from the coin, against Brenner’s will. Because of this, only 484,000 coins were struck at the San Francisco Mint with the initials and a major rarity was created. The 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Wheat Penny has become the most sought-after coin from the entire series. Around 28 million Lincoln Wheat Pennies dated 1909 with Brenner’s initials were also produced at the Philadelphia Mint but are much easier to locate. Brenner did get his way eventually when his initials reappeared on the coin in 1918, only this time they were less visible and placed on Lincoln’s shoulder on the obverse.
Lincoln Wheat Pennies were struck at three mint facilities including Philadelphia (no mintmark), San Francisco (S) and Denver (D). The Denver Mint first produced the coins in 1911. In addition to the 1909-S V.D.B. issue, the 1914-D and 1924-D are also key dates. Most issues from the San Francisco Mint have relatively low mintages, and those struck from 1910 to 1915 with an S mintmark are the rarest. There are also many errors in the series, such as doubled-dates and doubled-inscriptions, with the most elusive being the Philadelphia 1955 and 1936 issues. An interesting key date is the 1922 “Plain” coin which was made at the Denver Mint but does not display a mintmark.
If you want to get your hands on genuine Lincoln Wheat Pennies, making a purchase from Capital Gold Group is a smart choice. We handpick all of the rare and valuable coins we have to offer our clients and check each piece for its authenticity. Our knowledgeable experts can even source some of the rarest issues from the Lincoln Wheat Penny series or any other issue that interests you.
For answers to questions or to discuss how you can purchase Lincoln Wheat Pennies from our vault, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Capital Gold Group. Our experts are available on the phone, as well as via email and the online form on our Contact page.