Around 2.1 million wheat pennies were produced in 1944, more than any other year! The iconic portrait of Abraham Lincoln and the intriguing production story of this penny makes it one of the most famous pennies that every coin collection should hold.
1944 steel wheat pennies are the rarest kind of 1944 wheat penny, and can fetch an incredibly high price at auction. Technically, these coins were errors, produced mistakenly with a combination of leftover steel blanks and repurposed copper ammunition cases.
Watch out, because the 1944 steel wheat penny has been sold for over $1.11 million! The condition of the coin, the mint mark, and any other notable errors make it one of the most valuable coins on the market.
Here, we’ll reveal more about the fascinating, accidental background of these coins. We’ll help you to positively identify a 1944 steel wheat penny, provide a valuation guide and a buying guide.
What Is The 1944 Steel Wheat Penny?
During World War II, pennies were produced using steel with a zinc coating. Copper was in short supply because it was needed for ammunitions purposes during the war. However, people complained that these pennies were not strong enough to use as regular currency because they eroded quickly.
In 1944, copper became more readily available again, so the mints began produce copper wheat pennies. However, some of the new copper was mixed in with steel blanks that were left over from production during the war. This is why it is classed as one of the 1944 wheat error pennies.
There are perhaps only 20 or 30 1944 steel cents that were minted in Philadelphia, between 7 and 10 minted in Denver, and only 2 minted in San Francisco. The rarity of these pennies in good condition is partially due to their quick deterioration compared to pure copper coins. This makes the 1944 steel wheat penny incredibly rare and hence valuable.
The only other penny which was crafted using zinc-coated steel is the 1943 Lincoln penny. But these coins are much more common as bronze was being reserved for the war and hence no pennies were manufactured using copper during this time.
Abraham Lincoln’s portrait on the head side of the penny mean that pennies in this series are also called Lincoln pennies. Hence, when searching for this edition you may find it called the 1944 steel Lincoln penny instead.
How To Identify A 1944 Steel Wheat Penny
You might have inherited or found a 1944 wheat penny or become interested in adding this coin to your collection. Whether you want to sell it, buy it, or simply find out more you need to be able to tell if it’s the real deal or not. This will help you find out how you should price it, or whether you are paying the correct price for it. First, check the penny for the key features of a genuine 1944 wheat penny…
1. Lincoln Portrait
A genuine 1944 wheat penny will bear the portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the head (obverse) side of the coin. For this reason it is also known as the 1944 Lincoln penny.
To the right of Lincoln the year will be engraved, and to the left the word “liberty” will be engraved.
Above the portrait there is an inscription which says “in god we trust”.
2. Wheat Stalks
On the tail (reverse) side of the 1944 wheat penny there are two inscriptions which read “The United States of America” and “One Cent.”
The actual wheat stalks are positioned to the right and left sides edges of the coin. At the top of the coin the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” is inscribed.
3. Mint Mark
Genuine 1944 pennies without any mint mark were minted in the Philadelphia mint.
If you find a “D” beneath “1944” this is the mintmark of the Denver mint.
Likewise, if you find an “S” beneath “1944”, the penny was minted at the San Francisco mint.
4. Metal Type
The overwhelming majority of 1944 pennies were made from copper (around 95%) and zinc (around 5%). There are some very rare ones which were combined with steel. You can tell whether you penny is made from copper or steel by holding a magnet to it. If the penny is moved by a magnet, it has steel content, if not it is copper.
There are even some copper versions which may bear discoloration due to traces of gunpowder which was not removed during the metal refining process from when ammunition shells were melted down to make the coins.
5. Weight And Dimensions
Another way to tell if the coin in genuine is to measure and weigh it. It should weigh 2.7 grams. Using a sensitive mini scale is useful for accurate weighing.
The 1944 wheat penny diameter is 19 millimeters across.
6. Is It A Fake?
One of the key questions which comes up surrounding the 1944 steel wheat penny is how to tell a fake penny from a genuine penny. If you have verified the correct positioning of all the inscriptions and imagery, and used a magnet to confirm the composition is partially steel, how can you tell if it’s a fake or not?
First of all, any kind of misalignment in the numbers and letters is a giveaway sign of a fake, so make sure you compare your coin to images of certified 1944 steel wheat pennies to check its authenticity.
Look out for any kind of suspicious texture such as a bubbly look, or letters and numbers which looks slightly too rounded compared to an authentic coin.
If you are still unsure, you can try posting images of your coin on forums such as Coin Community. Here, other coin enthusiasts can help you out with their expertise and advice. They may be able to help you discern a fake from a genuine.
Otherwise you can get your coin authenticated by a Third Party Grader such as the PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service). Their site contains lots of helpful images and detailed information about different coins.
1944 Steel Wheat Penny Value
When it comes to valuing the 1944 steel wheat penny the mint mark, condition and rarity are the key factors which will dictate the overall value.
The market value of rare and collectible pennies fluctuates with changing interests and new entries to the market. Keep an eye on Coin Trackers, a site which tracks the value of different versions of coins and is updated regularly.
Here, we’ll list the average prices the 1944 steel wheat penny currently fetches from cheapest to most expensive…
|Extremely fine condition||$100,000|
When we say good, fine, extremely fine, and uncirculated condition, what do we mean? Here’a a quick guide:
- Good – lowest market value, heavy damage, difficult to make out the lettering and patterns
- Fine – typically in circulation a long time but without major damage, features mostly visible, higher market value.
- Extremely fine – close to perfect! Potentially a small flaw or scratch, but otherwise lettering and images totally clear, higher market value.
- Uncirculated – the best of the best! Basically in mint condition with only perhaps some natural discoloration, highest market value.
Mint Mark Value
Like other wheat pennies, the value of the 1944 steel wheat penny will vary depending on the mint mark. The 1944 D steel penny in average condition can be worth $34,000, while those with no mint mark in average condition are worth around $28,000.
The 1944 S steel penny, in average condition, can be worth around $400,000. These can make megabucks, fetching over $1.11 million when in top condition! The absolute top price one of these pennies has fetched at an auction was $115,000!
The popular pawn show Pawn Stars featured a rare 1944 steel wheat penny. Take a look at this video to find out more about the history of this incredible coin, and modern valuation when sold through a public auction.
Evaluating A Coin Yourself
It can be fairly easy to evaluate a coin yourself to get an idea of how much it is worth. This is technically called coin grading. To ascertain a coin’s market value it is important to focus on the quality of the coin – how well it was originally struck (made). Here, you can look for how well defined the inscriptions and images are. If everything can be seen clearly, and all marks including the mint mark are crisp, it means the coin is high quality. This will raise the price.
Next, you can evaluate the level of preservation. How much damage has the coin sustained over years of use? Are there signs of wearing where the words and images have been rubbed away? Are there any scratches or nicks present on the surface of the coin? A badly damaged and worn coin is lower quality and will lower the value.
Coin grading uses a 70 point scale, agreed upon and standardised by professional numismatists (coin experts). Find out more here.
1944 Wheat Penny Buying Guide
Buying rare and unusual pennies online is pretty easy as long as you know exactly what you are looking for. Ensure you thoroughly research the exact edition of the coin you would like. Equipping yourself with knowledge is the best way to identify fakes and become familiar with the key ID features of your chosen coin.
Always make sure you are buying pennies from a reputable seller. Usually reputable sellers include very detailed information and several photographs in the coin listing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to find out more – most coin enthusiasts are happy to share information and spread their knowledge. Also look out for valid certification in the listing from Third Party Graders like the PGCS.
Three sites you can try to buy coins from are:
- eBay – here you can search for the exact type of coin you are looking for, and get an idea of the kinds of prices they are sold for. You can filter by certification, grade, date, price, and more!
- PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Services) – here you can find a comprehensive list of Lincoln wheat coins, the value they have fetched so far, average market value, and current live auctions.
- USA Coin Book – here you can find all rare and collectible coins in circulation! This link takes you to a page listing all the Lincoln Wheat Cents under year, material, and mint mark. Simply select the right coin and scroll down to see live auctions and where it can be bought.