The wheat cent was a one-cent coin produced by the US Mint from 1909 to 1958, featuring a bundle of wheat on the reverse and a likeness of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse. The controversy arose over the initials VDB, which were removed, and the coin’s composition changed during World War II. The wheat sheaves were replaced by the Lincoln Memorial in 1959, and the coin’s dimensions are 0.75 inches in diameter and approximately 0.06 inches thick.
A wheat cent is a one-cent coin that was produced by the United States Mint from 1909 to 1958. Its name comes from the design on the reverse of the coin, which featured a bundle of wheat on each side and the phrases “ONE CENT ” and “USA” in the middle. At the top was the Latin phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, which means “among many, one” and has been considered an unofficial motto of the United States. The obverse, or front, of the coin featured a likeness of former US President Abraham Lincoln, the phrase “IN GOD WE TRUST,” the word “LIBERTY,” and the year the coin was produced. Also known as the Lincoln Grain Penny or the Grain Penny, the Grain Penny is a long-admired collector’s item with rich historical value.
First issued in 1909
Wheat cents were produced starting in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. They were first issued on August 2, 1909 and were the first US coins to feature a real person. As the coins began circulating, controversy soon arose over the initials VDB, which appeared on the bottom of the reverse of the coins and referred to the designer of the wheat penny, Victor David Brenner. Many people felt that the New York sculptor’s initials didn’t need to be on the coin and were too prominent. Other people have not understood the meaning behind the initials or their purpose.
In response to the controversy, US Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh quickly ordered the removal of Brenner’s initials. About 28 million initial wheat cents were produced by the US Mint in Philadelphia in 1909. Only about 484,000 were produced by the US Mint in San Francisco, which added a small “S” to the coin, below the year. Known as the 1909-S VDB Pennies, the rarity of the coins minted in San Francisco has made them one of the most popular U.S. coins among collectors.
A 50 year run
The dime continued to be produced until 1958, with some modifications. In 1918 the initial disputes were restored. This time, however, they were on the front side of the coin, just below Lincoln’s shoulder. In 1959, 50 years after the wheat cent was first issued, the familiar wheat sheaves on the reverse were replaced by a depiction of the Lincoln Memorial, officially ending the wheat cent run. This change was made to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.
Corn cents were made of different metals at different times, with the main reason for the changes being the need to use copper for other purposes from 1943 to 1946, during World War II. Originally, pennies were made of bronze, an alloy made up of 95% copper, with the remaining 5% being an alloy of tin and zinc. In 1943, the composition was changed to galvanized steel, which resulted in silver-colored coins that were often mistaken for dimes, the United States 10-cent coins. A year later, the United States Mint abandoned production of the steel pennies and began smelting used shell cases to produce brass grain pennies that were 95% copper, with most of the remaining 5% zinc. Beginning in 1946, after World War II, the original metallic composition for grain cents was used again and continued until their run ended in 1958.
Like more recently produced US pennies, wheat pennies are 0.75 inches (19.05 mm) in diameter. They are approximately 0.06 inch (1.5 mm) thick. The weight of a hundredth of a grain depends on its metallic composition. Those that are mostly copper weigh about 0.11 ounces (3.1 g). Wheat cents which are mostly steel weigh about 0.095 ounces (2.7 g).