In the world of coin collections, many terms have been created to express the variations and rarity of certain types of coins. The term Key Date refers to a particular date in a series of coins that is more rare than other coins belonging to the same series. This may refer simply to the date, or to the date and the mint mark–which is the first letter of the city where the coin was minted. Even just a small difference or slight variation in a coin of a particular series may make a large difference in the value of a particular coin.
Because collecting coins involves such a wide array of subjects, many collectors want to compile pieces within a certain series of coin that they prefer. There are times when some of the specific coins within a series are more difficult to obtain because of various factors. This makes them Key Date coins. Some of the distinguishing elements which make a coin more rare to find in mint condition include poor striking of a certain year, lower mintages, variations of metals within the same grouping, or dates which may have been worn severely without many collectors to protect those coins. The more uncommon a particular year in a series, the more valuable it is.
As for coins with Key Dates, Wheat Pennies circulated in the United States are no exception. All of the pennies with the wheat symbol were minted from 1909 until 1958. These US pennies may also be known as the wheat back penny or the Lincoln Wheat Cent. These pennies were produced beginning in 1909 to honor the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday. This was the first coin minted in the United States that contained the representation of a real person’s image.
One Key Date Wheat Penny is from this era is the 1909-S. It contains the uncommon marking of the letters V.D.B between the stems of the wheat at the bottom of the back side of the penny. This marking was a tribute to Victor David Brenner, the artist whose work was responsible for the base design of the Lincoln head penny. This design is a significant recognizable symbol for the United States, however most Americans do not know who created it. Brenner was commissioned by Theodore Roosevelt following an artist’s sitting with him.
A 1922 Wheat Penny is rare because it doesn’t contain the mint mark set with the date, rendering it a Key Date piece. It was standard at the time for a lowercase letter to sit below the date to indicate the mint from which it came. These 1922 pennies struck in Denver are missing this information and therefore are considered rare among US Penny collectors. Now a capital letter representing the mint location is stamped to the right of the date.
Some of the most uncommon and most valuable US coins ever sold are the 1943 US Wheat Pennies which were erroneously minted on bronze planchets instead of the steel blanks of that year. Because of World War II, the United States had decided that the 1943 pennies would be minted on zinc plated steel in order to save the precious copper for ammunition use for the war. A handful of pennies, however, were mistakenly minted on leftover copper planchets from 1942, making them very rare and valuable today. These pennies have sold for up to $1.7 million and are now part of Robert Simpson’s collection of three “Copper Lincolns,” one from each mint in production during during 1943.
A List of Key Date Wheat Pennies:
1922 (No D)
1955/55 Double Die
A double die coin is considered a Key Date coin. Double die coins are unique because there was a mistake in the die hubbing process which caused a shadow or another full imprint of an image. In the case of the 1955 Wheat Pennies, the numeral fives were noticeably struck with a double die. Other US Lincoln pennies with this same issue are from the years 1972 and 1995, though these are not wheat pennies they are still Key Dates from their particular series.
If you happen to find a Wheat Penny in your possession, it would be worth checking the date against the list before spending it. If you find a 1943 or 1944 Wheat Penny, using a magnet to check its metal content is easy. Steel will stick to the magnet, but copper will not. The value of those particular coins are almost priceless. If your coin does turn out to be a Key Date penny, it could be valuable and is definitely worth taking to a local coin shop to have it viewed by a professional.
Rumors go round and round about the future of the US penny. Nostalgics hate the idea that there would be no new pennies put into circulation. Practical people love the idea of streamlining the cash process by ridding their pockets of the annoying “worthless” coins. Vending machines, parking meters, and most toll booths will not accept pennies because it is not worth the hassle. Even military bases outside of the United States discontinued using pennies several decades ago citing that they are too heavy to ship.
With Canada, New Zealand, and Australia having already phased out use of their one cent coins without significant adverse effects to their economies, many believe it is only a matter of time until the Lincoln head coin will see its final days. Ultimately, however, to end the minting of the United States’ smallest valued coin, it would take an act of Congress. Literally. And so far the bills that have been presented to the branches of government have not passed.
President Obama rides on the practical side of the fence, believing that the penny is not used enough to be worth the effort and cost of making it. He also realizes, however, that Americans are attached to the US penny and some of the decision may simply be based upon that. The President has conceded that if such a bill to discontinue production of the penny was passed, he would agree to its implementation.
The decision to end use of the US penny would be based upon more than just a question of convenience. There are many economic, logistical, and political considerations for those defending or debunking the use of the penny. The mint in Denver produces most of the pennies that are being made currently, and discontinuing that would certainly have a negative impact on the economy of the city. It would take a great deal of adjustment to balance out the effect that ceasing penny production might have.
Some people who believe the penny should be discontinued realize that its worth has dwindled rapidly. Even in 1857 when the 1/2 cent was discontinued in the US, it was worth at least ten times what the penny is worth to the average consumer today. In circulation, a nickel is now worth about what a penny was over 40 years ago. The fact that it costs more to produce a penny (over 2 cents) than a penny is actually worth indicates the rate of inflation over many years. Until the mid 1980s pennies were actually made from mostly copper, but since then they have been minted from zinc plated with copper in order to keep costs down.
Organizations and lobbyists have been active in an effort to draw attention to this issue, either for or against the penny. While some people believe that charities who collect pennies will be adversely affected, others claim that the charities will simply move to collecting nickels instead.
Most people think it would just be easier to create a system to round cash purchases up or down and give change in multiples of five with nickels, dimes, or quarters. That creates the concern, in some opinions, that there will be a higher demand for nickels; nickels also currently cost more than double their actual value to produce. There are also those who believe that rounding purchases out would mean more cost for consumers, but countries who have done this in the past have been able to implement systems fair for both consumers and businesses. Other people worry that the practical side of removing the penny from circulation would create accounting and bookkeeping difficulties related to computer software.
Many coin collectors seem to be of the opinion that the decision to remove the US penny is not far off and they are anticipating what this could mean for the coin collection industry. Recently a coin collector paid $1 million for the purchase of one erroneously minted penny from 1943. Discontinuing pennies completely would certainly impact US coin collectors by creating a whole new set of coins that are no longer in production. This doesn’t immediately render them rare or valuable, but it could change the rate at which pennies are circulated therefore decreasing the wear and tear on the coins simply from daily use.
So far, however, there are no immediate plans in the works to end the use of this beloved, collectible, American icon. And with the red tape that Congress requires in order to get something of this magnitude passed, it could be many years before Honest Abe’s face disappears from our pocket change. But, if the penny does go, Mr. Lincoln will still be honored on the more valuable (and less costly to produce in relation to its value) $5 bill.
Prior to being known as the co-chairman of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team, Bob Simpson of Fort Worth Texas had already begun to earn his status as a legendary coin collector. Though he has only seriously been in the coin collecting arena for about the last 10 or so years, Simpson started his great love of coins when he was merely a youngster.
Reportedly, as a boy Simpson was fooled when he found a 1943 wheat penny which he expected would be quite valuable. He had hoped it would be one of the rare bronze-planchet errors which should have been minted on steel blanks because of wartime efforts to conserve copper for the use of ammunition. Disappointingly, it was just a typical zinc-coated steel penny like all of the rest that were commonly held onto from that era. He kept it, though, and still has it in his desk as a poignant reminder of his teenage collection dream of having an actual 1943 Copper Lincoln.
Finally, that dream has come to fruition for Mr. Simpson. Not only does he have one, but he has a collection of the three best wheat pennies from that era. Bob Simpson’s recent purchases of the $1 million 1943-S and $1.7 million 1943-D bronze pennies completed this collection. Negotiations for the purchase of the 1943-D penny by Simpson for $1.7 million apparently lasted for a few years. The anonymous East Coast previous owner of that famous Copper Lincoln reportedly donated the entirety of the proceeds from the $1.7 million sale to charity.
The $1 million 1943-S, purchased by Simpson in the latter part of 2012, completes his collection of the best bronze-planchet pennies struck erroneously in 1943. The three coins represent one from each mint that was functioning during World War II when copper was in high demand. The third is a 1943-P from the mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Simpson’s collection is the first one to ever have these three rare coins from each mint assembled together for display.
Simpson’s coin collection has gained so much attention that it prompted the launch of a new Plus (+) designation in the numismatic ranking system offered by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. The plus sign is added to a number to indicate that a coin is at the high end of its numeric grade on the ranking system. This reflects premium value and indicates not just aesthetic appeal but also the coin’s marketable value as a collector’s item.
In addition to his 1943 bronze penny collection, Bob Simpson has been collecting 1944 steel-planchet wheat pennies for years. Although that year designated the return to copper minted pennies, a few leftover steel blanks were made into pennies in error during 1944. Though not as rare as the copper Lincolns, these off-metal steel cents from 1944 are representative of the war time production of coins transitioning back to normal.
Mostly enamored by United States coins, Simpson has an unparalleled collection of coins spanning over a century–from the late 1700s to the mid 1900s. Many of Simpson’s coins are patterns and trials, which were the first test coins prior to the minting of larger batches. This massive collection sets a supreme standard for the authoritative grading of coins. His activities as a collection connoisseur has also allowed for new research to be conducted on his coins leading to, among other things, discoveries of varying metal composition in coins previously believed to be the same.
Simpson’s epic collections are sometimes shared with other interested parties at coin collection exhibits in various places in the United States. His USA Penny collection of off-metals from 1943 and 1944 are ranks among the Hall of Fame registry among PCGS sets (Professional Coin Grading Service). Also included in Simpson’s collection are a 184-piece complete set of the David Hall $10 Liberty Collection, which was valued approximately at $4 million at the time of purchase. This particular collection took David Hall seven years to gather together prior to its purchase by Legend Numismatics, the company representing and purchasing on behalf of Bob Simpson.
Bob Simpson’s contributions to the coin collecting industry have opened up many new avenues of coin trading, particularly in consideration of internet trading. Simpson has also contributed to new forms of establishing more reliable forms of grading coins and collections. His exacting orientation to detail has created a new level of standards in the world of coin collections. Because of Simpson’s fame within the baseball segment, his engagement in the coin industry has brought coin collecting back to the forefront of the news in some of its lesser-known arenas. Plus, for him, it’s a deep passion that comes from the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
It’s incredible how costly a mistake can be–especially when it means that a penny sells for $1 million. In late 2012, Bob Simpson, of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers, bought a Lincoln Head Wheat Penny, which was made as a mistake. Cast out of bronze instead of zinc covered steel as it should have been that year, this coin is believed to be exceptionally rare. And Mr. Simpson paid a pretty penny for it–one million dollars worth, to be exact.
History of the 1943 Penny
World War II efforts in 1943 caused a short supply of copper, which was the main ingredient in the penny at the time. Instead, it was decided that pennies that year would be made out of steel and covered in zinc in order to preserve the more important copper for manufacturing ammunition and parts for military use. The new composite pennies were sometimes known as the “white penny”. Many of these pennies may show a silver color peeping through from behind the zinc covering. It can easily be distinguished as a steel penny with a quick magnet check. Steel is attracted to magnets–copper is not.
In 1943, when the composition of pennies was changed to zinc covered steel, just a few of them were erroneously minted on copper planchets, presumably left over from the previous year. These rare pennies have the standard Lincoln head on the front and ONE CENT on the back, flanked by wheat sheafs. Some reports may also refer to these mistake pennies as bronze, as they were technically an alloy of copper mixed with 5% tin and zinc. The error in minting this particular coin purchase by Simpson was made at the San Francisco Mint, and experts believe there were less than twenty of these mistake coins ever made. Only four of them of the 1943-S error pennies are accounted for today, and Mr. Simpson owns the best of them.
Popular Wheat Pennies
Because of the first mistake penny that showed up in 1947, wheat pennies from 1943 quickly became items people thought might be valuable one day. This meant that many people saved the wheat pennies instead of spending them, just in case they were truly copper. For the steel pennies covered in zinc, the collection of wheat pennies didn’t do much to add to their value. They are now worth about fifteen cents each because of their novelty.
The wheat pennies that were worth saving were the few bronze mistakes that made their way out of the mint into circulation. Once it was known that these bronze 1943 pennies existed, people began trying to replicate them. Thefore, many fakes exist which people hoped to pass off as a rare and valuable Lincoln copper. For instance, after 1943 pennies were again minted out of bronze. Some folks took this opportunity to try to forge duplicates of the 1943 bronze pennies. Attempting to increase the value of the 1948 wheat pennies, they cut the 8 in half to make a 3. These fakes are fairly obvious, however, and will only fool novices. Avid collectors are fully aware of these schemes to create false value in the 1943 wheat pennies and this just enhances the rarity of the actual Lincoln coppers from that year.
A Complete Collection
The Professional Coin Grading Service attests to the authenticity of this rare Lincoln copper purchased by Simpson from a coin dealer in New Jersey. PCGS has a grading scale from 1 to 70 for coins, and this 1943-S penny ranked as Secure Plus Mint State 62. It was in fairly good shape without much damage, so it likely was held by someone for some time rather than in circulation for all of those years.
When Simpson was a child, he ran across one of these fakes and was quite disappointed to discover it was lacking in value. Now, it seems, he has made up for it.
Simpson has been an avid coin collector for many years. One of his other 1943 Lincoln coppers was purchased at a record $1.7 million. That wheat penny was minted in Denver, and Simpson was in negotiations with the previous owner for several years before finally agreeing on the purchase. The anonymous previous owner of the 1943-D apparently donated all of the profits from the sale of that coin to charity.
Simpson added this most recent $1 million coin to two other rare wheat pennies minted in Denver (the $1.7 million coin) and Philadelphia as mistakes in 1943, each with their own stories behind the rare finds. This San Francisco version of the 1943 Lincoln copper wheat penny serves to complete Simpson’s collection. He now has three of the rarest pennies struck in the 20th century, one from each mint that was in production during 1943.
So, the time has come to sell the collection. Whether you are an experienced collector with an extensive collection or an beginner looking to specialize in a new series, you will want to get the best price you can, without spending months doing it. To do that, you may need some luck, good coins, or just follow these simple methods to maximize your coin collection’s value.
To start, you will need to evaluate just how much your collection is worth based on the average buying price for coins of comparable condition to yours. The best resource for this would be a nationally available annual numismatic publication, “The Official Blue Book” (this is the companion to “The Official Red Book” which gives the average dealer selling price for a coin), or “The Black Book of U.S. Coins” are good examples of places to give you an accurate estimation of what your coins are worth, now to get as close to that value as possible.
The highest coin prices are usually only realized through auctions, and there is proper reason for that. By selling your coins with the other items up for sale in an auction, you dramatically increase the number of potential buyers that may be interested in your coin. Be aware though, that the best collections for sale are generally sieries specific. It is much easier to find an interested buyer for a complete series collection, than one or two issues from multiple coin sets.
Online auctions also provide a certain measure of exposure useful when selling your coins. Be sure to specify a reserve price only if you absolutely need to have one. Potential buyers may be turned off by the wrong coin with a reserve price. Generally, a coin with an expected sale value of 10.00 dollars or less will not be sold under a reserve price auction. There is a general perception that “no reserve” auctions contain the best deals in the marketplace, so use that to your advantage and offer those sales on items that you can risk taking whatever the market will bring you.
Whatever the venue, there are also some things you can do to the display, description, and presentation of your coin to maximize your value. A coin album or similar permanent easily displayed set generally sells better than the same set packaged individually. Also, the cheaper forms of coin preservation will conversely affect the price, so put coins of high value in secure holders, as the extra cost paid will not only yield a better preserved coin, but a higher resale value as well. In the description, be sure to include only your honest opinion of the coin, and no filler describing the condition of the coin. Adding the relevant history and mintage information is advised, however, as this will help the potential buyer grow interested in the coin you have. Post pictures that are clear and show very fine detail on the coin, and be sure to answer any questions buyers have promptly and accurately. Be proud of the coins you are selling and the person who buys them will have the same pride in them as you.
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