The year 1944 was a time of war and change for America. While soldiers fought overseas, civilians at home faced rationing, shortages, and uncertainty. One of the things that changed was the penny — that humble copper coin that had been around since 1909 with Abraham Lincoln’s portrait on one side and two stalks of wheat on the other.
In 1944, after a brief experiment with steel in 1943 to save copper for ammunition shells, the penny returned to its original metal. The copper used for the 1944 wheat pennies came from recycled shell casings fired in battle. These pennies have a slightly different color and composition than their pre-war counterparts, but they still bear the familiar design millions of Americans cherished.
The 1944 wheat penny is one of the most common coins in circulation today, but it also has some hidden secrets and surprises. Some of them are made of steel — rare errors that occurred when some leftover steel planchets from 1943 were accidentally struck with 1944 dies. These silver-colored oddities are worth a fortune to collectors who can spot them among the sea of copper cents. Other 1944 wheat pennies have unusual mint marks, overdates, or different varieties, making them more valuable than their face value. These silver-colored oddities are worth a fortune to collectors who can spot them among the sea of copper cents.
In this article, we will explore the history and value of these fascinating coins that tell a story of a nation at war and its resilience in times of crisis. Whether you have a handful or a hoard of these coins, you will discover why they are more than pocket change – they are pieces of history.
The History of the 1944 Wheat Penny
The history of the 1944 wheat penny is a tale of war and change. It began in 1909 when the U. mints first made wheat pennies to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The coin bore his likeness on one side and two ears of wheat on the other, symbolizing peace and prosperity. For over three decades, these bronze coins circulated among millions of Americans.
But then came the Second World War, the government made pennies out of steel. These silver-colored coins looked strange and felt cold in people’s hands. Some thought they were dimes or foreign money.
In 1944, the government devised a new plan: the copper for pennies should come from recycled ammunition casings fired in battle. These pennies had a slightly different color and composition than their pre-war cousins, but they still had Lincoln’s face and the wheat stalks on them. They were a reminder of the courage and resilience of a warring nation. And hope for a better future.
Evaluating a 1944 Wheat Penny
If you’re in the market for a 1944 wheat penny and want to assess the worth of an old penny, you must arm yourself with a few essential tools:
- A magnifying glass to scrutinize the minutiae of the coin’s design, such as the face of the president, the year of issue, the letter of the mint, and any blunders or peculiarities.
- A scale to weigh the coin and ascertain its metal composition. A 1944 wheat penny should tip the scale at 3.11 grams if it’s a copper coin or 2.7 grams if it’s made of steel.
- A caliper or a ruler to measure the coin’s diameter. A 1944 wheat penny’s diameter should measure 19 millimeters.
- A coin value guide, such as this one, to gauge the condition and scarcity of the coin against other specimens and appraise its market price.
With these 3, you can roughly estimate the penny’s value. And — most importantly — you will be able to spot whether the coin you’re holding in your hand is fake. If the weight or diameter doesn’t match the official specifications of the coin, then it’s most definitely a counterfeit.
Once you’ve established the coin’s authenticity, set your eyes on a few factors to select its value.
Factors to Examine when Evaluating a 1944 Wheat Penny
Whether you inherited 1944 wheat pennies from your grandma or found them in a garage sale, you might be sitting on a treasure trove.
But you need to know their worth before you cash in your coins. And that depends on several factors:
- Rarity: How many coins like yours were made? And how many are still around today? Does it tell a story or have historical significance? The fewer there are, the more valuable they are. You can use online catalogs to identify its known surviving population.
- Demand: How popular is your coin? How easy or hard is it to find? You can check online platforms like eBay or PCGS to see what others pay for your coin.
- Condition: How well-preserved is your coin? Does it have any scratches, dents, stains, or damage? The better it looks, the more it sells for. You can use a grading system like the American Numismatic Association to rate your coin from mint (perfect) to poor (bad).
- Mint mark: A mint mark is like a birth certificate for your coin. It shows which branch of the U.S. Mint produced it, and when. There are several mint branches across the country, and 1944 wheat pennies come from three of them: Philadelphia (no mint mark), Denver (D), and San Francisco (S).
- Aesthetic value. How beautiful is your coin? Does it have a pretty luster or unique color? Does it tell a story or have historical significance? The more appealing it is to the eye and the mind, the more collectors will want it, increasing its price.
So there you have it! Now you can go ahead and appraise your coins like a pro. If you want to know more about evaluating coins, here’s a video that showcases the process:
Now that you know how to evaluate a coin let’s see how much they sell for on the market.
The Market Value of 1944 Wheat Pennies
Before heading to the closest shop to buy your 1944 wheat penny, pick one of the three main avenues where you can buy an antique coin:
- eBay is a place where you could find anything you wanted if you had the patience and the luck to bid for it. It is like a giant flea market on the internet, where people sell their old stuff, their new stuff, or their fake stuff. Be careful when shopping on eBay; you never know who you are dealing with or what you will get. But often, you find treasures hidden among the junk.
- Auction houses are more formal and more expensive. They deal with the rarest and most valuable coins. They have experts who appraise the items, catalog them, and display them in fancy rooms. They hold auctions where people raise their paddles and compete with each other to buy things they want but don’t really need.
- Antique coin shops have coins from all over the world and from all kinds of times. They hold coins that are shiny and coins that are worn out. They have common and rare coins Antique coin shops are your best bet when you’re not in the mood for sifting through endless online listings or fighting to the last bid with others.
Let’s now get into the actual market value of 1944 wheat pennies.
Editor’s note: we divided the list by categories for easy browsing.
1944 Wheat Penny – Poor to Fine (Grades 0 to 15)
The humble copper coins in this category have seen it all: war and peace, boom and bust, rust and shine. And it shows on its face – or rather, on Lincoln’s face, to the point Honest Abe’s mug might not even show for the lowest graded coins.
Prices start at $6:
- Ths genuine coin sold for $6
- This genuine-D coin sold for $6
- This NG0-S coin sold for $6
- This NG0-D/D coin sold for $10
- This F15-D/S coin sold for $66
- This NG0 coin sold for $2,820
Note that there haven’t been many sales of coins in these categories.
Steel coins already start showing how valuable they are:
- This Steel NGC Genuine coin sold for $6,325
- This Steel AU Details coin sold for $16,200
- This Steel ANACS Genuine-D coin sold for $28,750
1944 Wheat Penny – Very Fine to About Uncirculated (Grades 20 to 58)
If you are looking for a coin that has seen some history, but not too much wear and tear, you might want to consider antique coins with a grade from 20 to 58. These coins have been circulated enough to acquire some character and charm, but not enough to lose their details and value.
Prices in this category start at $6:
The next big price point sits at around $150-300:
- This AU50BN-D/D coin sold for $106
- This AU55-D/S coin sold for $173
- This AU50-D coin sold for $229
- This AU53-D/S coin sold for $357
A couple non-steel coins breach the thousand dollars mark:
Steel coins easily go for tens of thousands of dollars:
- This Steel AU50 coin sold for $17,250
- This Steel AU58-D coin sold for $30,550
- This Steel AU53 coin sold for $30,550
- This Steel AU55-D coin sold for $69,000
1944 Wheat Penny – Uncirculated to Select Uncirculated (Grades 60 to 63)
If you are looking for a coin that has been preserved in near-mint condition, but not too pristine and flawless, you might want to consider antique coins with a grade from 60 to 63. These coins have been handled very carefully and minimally, but not enough to avoid some minor marks and abrasions. They range from mint state (MS-60) to choice uncirculated (MS-63), meaning they have almost all of their original luster and design features intact.
Prices in this category start at $7:
- This MS63-S coin sold for $7
- This MS62 coin sold for $10
- This MS60-S coin sold for $13
- This MS60-D/D coin sold for $20
- This MS63-D coin sold for $29
A bunch of coins here go for a few hundred dollars:
- This MS63RB-D/S coin sold for $188
- This MS63-D coin sold for $345
- This MS63 coin sold for $748
- This MS63-D/S coin sold for $1,035
The record auction for a non-steel coin in this category belongs to this CH BU coin that went for an astounding $22,000.
Steel coins in this category sell for tens of thousands of dollars:
- This Steel MS61 coin sold for $30,550
- This Steel MS63 coin sold for $48,000
- This Steel MS62-D coin sold for $52,800
- This Steel MS62-D coin sold for $92,000
- This Steel MS63-D coin sold for $115,000
1944 Wheat Penny – Choice & Gem Uncirculated (64 to 66)
If you are looking for a coin that has been minted with exceptional quality and beauty, but not quite perfect yet, you might want to consider antique coins with a grade from 64 to 66. These coins have been struck with sharp and clear details, but not enough to avoid tiny flaws and imperfections.
Prices in this category start at around $5:
- This MS65 coin sold for $5
- This MS64-D coin sold for $6
- This MS65-S coin sold for $7
- This MS64-D/D coin sold for $25
- This MS65-D/S coin sold for $31
The next big price point sits at around $250-$500:
- This MS66-D/D coin sold for $276
- This MS66-S coin sold for $300
- This MS64-D/S coin sold for $382
- This MS66 coin sold for $462
- This MS65-D coin sold for $546
A few coins breached the thousand dollars mark:
- This MS66RD-D/D coin sold for $1,320
- This MS65-D/S coin sold for $4,830
- This MS66-D coin sold for $2,255
The price for non-steel coins caps at $10-$20,000:
- This MS66+RD-D/S coin sold for $12,338
- This MS66-D/S coin sold for $16,100
- This MS66+-D/S coin sold for $21,150
As for steel coins, only 3 sales happened in the past decades, all for 6 figures:
- This Steel MS64 coin sold for $108,000
- This Steel MS64 coin sold for $158,625
- This Steel MS64 coin sold for $180,000
The absolutely most valuable wheat penny is this Steel MS66–S coin that sold for $408,000.
1944 Wheat Penny – Superb & Perfect Uncirculated (Grades 67 to 70)
If you are looking for a coin that has been preserved in perfect or near-perfect condition, here’s where you should look. These coins have been struck with flawless or nearly flawless details, but not enough to lose their charm and personality. They range from superb gem uncirculated (MS-67) to perfect uncirculated (MS-70), meaning they have all of their original luster and design features intact.
Editor’s note: No steel coins have ever been sold in this category.
Prices in this category start at $8:
- This MS67 coin sold for $8
- This MS67-D coin sold for $13
- This MS67-S coin sold for $19
- This MS67-D coin sold for $26
The next big price point sits at a few hundreds of dollars:
- This MS67-D coin sold for $236
- This MS67-D/S coin sold for $374
- This MS67RD-D/D coin sold for $432
- This MS67+ coin sold for $517
Going up in price, we find a few coins that sold for thousands of dollars:
- This MS67+ coin sold for $2,468
- This MS67+RD-S coin sold for $3,290
- This MS67+RD-D coin sold for $8,400
A few coins sold went for over $10,000:
- This MS68RD coin sold for $11,400
- This MS67RD-D/S coin sold for $15,600
- This MS67+RD-D/S coin sold for $49,938
FAQs about 1944 Wheat Pennies
How many wheat cents were made in 1944?
Just a little over 2.1 billions cents were minted in 1944.
Why are steel pennies so much more valuable?
Steel pennies are so much more valuable because of their rarity, as they were made with a leftover steel planchet from 1943.
What makes a 1944 wheat penny so rare?
1944 wheat pennies are not rare per se, with their over 2 billions mintage. The most expensive ones you’ve seen on this list are the exceptionally rare ones.
As we have seen, the value of a 1944 wheat penny depends on many factors, such as its condition, rarity, and mint mark.
Some of these coins can fetch thousands of dollars at auctions, while others are worth only a few dollars. This makes them excellent for any collection.
But regardless of their monetary worth, these pennies are a part of our history and culture. They remind us of a time when life was simpler and people were kinder.
They also show us that sometimes the most ordinary things can become extraordinary with time and patience. So if you ever come across a 1944 wheat penny in your pocket or drawer, don’t toss it away. You might be holding a treasure in your hand.