Most people think that old fashioned wheat-backed Lincoln cents (pennies) are very valuable. In fact, millions and millions of them were minted and all but a handful carry no significant value. When worn or in average circulated condition, most wheaties are worth a few cents each. Even in fully uncirculated condition, coins dated after 1933 are worth a few US dollars each. For most coins before 1934, here is how the catalog values run:
LINCOLN CENTS DATED BEFORE 1934 (except as noted below):
worn: less than $1 US dollar catalog value
average circulated: $2
well preserved: $4
fully uncirculated: $15
NEVER CLEAN A COIN. CLEANING RUINS VALUE.
Below are the valuable dates and mint marks for circulated wheaties. If you have one of these, you have a valuable coin. If your wheatie does not appear on this list, it is worth the values summarized above. The value after each date and mint mark gives approximate catalog value for problem-free coins in average circulated condition. Coins in better condition will be worth much more. Problems include cleaning, spots, scratches, stains, and similar damage. If problems are present, the values go WAY down.
KEY DATE LINCOLN CENTS (catalog values are for average circulated condition)
1955 doubled die: $1800 see this link
1914D: $350 (pictured)
1909S VDB: $700 see this link
1909 VDB: $11
If you have one of these, congratulations. Lincoln cents are aggressively collected by thousands of people. As such, valuable dates are often counterfeited. A few jeweler's tools and a steady hand can transform a 1914 cent into a 1914D cent, multiplying its value 100s of times. Be careful for fake wheaties. If you have doubts, contact CoinQuest and we can help. Never buy an expensive coin from someone you do not trust.
Use our Important Terminology page to convert these catalog values to actual buy and sell values. Actual values are substantially less than catalog values.
Lastly, there is a common-held misbelief that 1943 steel cents are valuable. This is not true. They, too, are worth a few cents each, like their copper cousins. It is a 1943 copper cent that is worth tens of thousands of dollars. For a picture of a steelie, check this CoinQuest link.