Want to diversify that portfolio, for free or on the cheap, and in a way that could produce a rare coin home run? Here’s something to consider…
(by Paul Eberhart) Gold is much more expensive than silver. As such, some investors like to choose silver because they can get much more weight for the same amount of money. But what if silver is too expensive, what if someone wants even more bang for the buck than what silver offers, or what if someone simply wants to diversify their investment holdings?
Enter the wheat penny:
Wheat pennies are very interesting for a couple of reasons.
First of all, they’re made of 95% copper, and while copper is not “money”, copper is indeed real metal, and a very important one on top of that, but more importantly, copper is in fact “currency”. Copper could be thought of as old school, proper “fiat currency”, in that if a person wanted real money, which during the run of Wheat Pennies (1909 to 1958) would have been silver (through 1964) and gold (up until mid-1933), a person could have simply exchanged their pennies for other coins, such as exchanging 50 of them for a silver half dollar, or 25 of them for a silver quarter, or 250 of them for a gold quarter eagle, and so on, and so forth.
That’s right folks!
Back in, oh, say, 1929, one could have exchanged a handful of copper currency for an actual gold coin!
Amazing, isn’t it?
Additionally, wheat pennies are also an interesting choice for savvy people because in a pinch, wheat pennies are still legal tender, worth $0.01 to this very day, so they can be used for the purchase of goods and services. However, with the price of copper north of $4 here in March of 2021, the copper “melt value” means one single wheat penny is worth more than $0.02, so sophisticated people may want to hold on to their wheat pennies instead of spending them. As the price of copper continues to rise, so too will the incentive to save those wheat pennies instead of spending them.
Generally, wheat pennies can be purchased in bulk, by weight or by face value. For example, one could purchase a $50 face value bag of what pennies, and that would equal 5,000 wheat pennies. Of course, since wheat pennies are actually legal tender and still in circulation, they can also be found in the wild, such as when people drop them in parking lots or when the wheat pennies are sitting atop a pile of pennies in the “give a penny, take a penny” jar at the local gas station. Wheat pennies found in the wild are free, and this is exactly one of the reasons I enjoy paying for things in cash, because you never know what you’re going to receive in change from any given transaction. While my luck has never been such that I receive any Constitutional, silver coinage as part of my change, I do in fact receive wheat pennies from time to time.
Now, if a person is interested in investing in valuable wheat pennies, there are certain ones to be on the lookout for. Of course, with such a long production run, there are several different coveted wheat pennies, including specific mint error coins from specific production years, among other things, but I’m going to talk about two wheat pennies that I’m always on the hunt for specifically, and that is because it is very easy to remember which ones I’m looking for. In particular, I’m always on the lookout for the “VDB” wheat pennies, as well as the 1943 WWII wheat pennies. Why those two wheat pennies in particular? For the collectability and coolness factor, basically. Specifically, the “VDB” pennies are wheat pennies from 1909 which feature the letters “VDB” on the reverse of the coin, and that is the only year when the initials were on the reverse. Victor David Brenner designed the wheat penny, and the “VDB” stamped on the coin are his initials, but the letters do not appear on all of the 1909’s, however.
When it comes to the 1943 WWII wheat pennies, the interesting thing here is there was a shortage, and rationing, of copper, due to the war effort, and because of this, pennies minted in 1943 were made out of steel instead of copper.
These WWII pennies look a little different:
Often times, since they’re made of steel, they can have rust on them. I like these WWII pennies for the history of the coin. Of course, one of the rarest wheat pennies of all is from 1943 as well, and in particular, it’s the 1943-S “copper” wheat penny. The minting of these pennies is shrouded in mystery, but yes, while steel was used in the production of pennies in 1943, some copper pennies were indeed produced, and if a person is ever lucky enough to find one of those, the price it can garner is astronomical, to say the very least.
So there you have it when it comes to wheat pennies: Wheat pennies really do have it all. Wheat pennies are something that can be purchased in bulk as an investment and searched with a fine-tooth comb for coveted varieties, and wheat pennies can be found just lying on the ground or even given as change when purchasing good and services. Wheat pennies are free, or cheap, and not only are they cheap, but the hunt for rare wheat pennies is super fun!
Looking for a way to diversify that portfolio?
Looking for a way to get more bang for the buck?
If so, the wheat penny might just be calling your name.
Thanks for reading,
Paul “Half Dollar” Eberhart