Cashing in wheat pennies
December 13, 2008 12:36 PM   Subscribe

My 16-year-old son has about 40 rolls of wheat pennies given to him by his grandfather. What is the most efficient and cost effective way for him to cash these coins in?
posted by Newstuffoldstuff to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Check your local listings for a coin collector's event. Maybe you can sell them to a collector/dealer.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 1:08 PM on December 13, 2008

I'll give him face value for the coins. . . but who wouldn't. If he wants to make maximum $ off of them, he should look at the coin trends and try to identify if any of them are truly valuable: Some of the the biggies are the 1909-SVDB, the 1914-D, the 1922 plain. Condition is also important in determining value. Under no circumstance should he clean them, that always lowers the value.

Also, like anyone trying to make money on anything now, don't sell in this economy!
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 1:08 PM on December 13, 2008

If you try to sell wholesale (i.e. sell to someone intending to resell, like a coin shop) you'll make virtually no money. It's like selling your used car to a dealer...they need to pay you very little in order to make a profit on the eventual sale.

So your only hope is to find an end (retail) buyer...i.e. the guy who'd go to a coin shop to buy such coins. It's harder and more time consuming to find a retail buyer than a wholesale one, but it's possible. Try craigslist, ebay, and coin shows. But beware that wheat pennies are very very small potatoes (high supply and low demand). Sort of like trying to sell a bunch of used Napolean Dynamite DVDs.


You definitely should find or buy a pricing list. Because some wheat pennies are much, much, more valuable than others. So taking a couple hours to learn about the good dates (and how to grade condition) and going through to see if you've got one is time well spent. Sort of like going through a bookcase of mostly worthless old books to find the possible rare first edition.

Good luck!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 1:13 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

woops, "No New Diamonds Please" posted re: my second point before i did. One coin he didn't mention: look for known about (and sought after) minting errors, too, like the 1955 double die (the year seems to have been stamped twice, slightly out of alignment)
posted by jimmyjimjim at 1:15 PM on December 13, 2008

Seconding and Thirding NNDP and jimmy, check for ones with actual value - others are usually just 2 or 3 cents each, but that 1955 double die is like my white whale, as a "just for fun" collector.
posted by SputnikSweetheart at 1:30 PM on December 13, 2008

Cash them in? Are you kidding?

I can understand how a sixteen year old kid might not appreciate something like that right away and would want to turn it into cash, but if he sells them the money's going to be gone in a couple of days.
Back when I was sixteen, hell, even right now, having a collection of old wheat pennies like that would be awesome- organizing them, gloating over them, looking them up in a book.
Cool things like this only come along so often, and I've seen so many of my peers destroy or sell cool old things they've gotten from relatives because they didn't appreciate their value- not in cash, but in terms of a bird in the hand.

Even if he wants his thirty-five bucks right now like any other red-blooded 16-year-old, he needs to sit on that. Some day he'll appreciate what he's actually got.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:08 PM on December 13, 2008 [16 favorites]

Wheat pennies have little to no added value over face except for rare ones. You might see them at coin shows for $.25 each, but no one is buying them for that except kids. He should save them for the $25-30 he would get because someday he might care that this was a gift from his grandfather.
posted by mrmojoflying at 2:32 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with dunkadunc and mrmojoflying. I also agree with the premise of this article. 100% copper pennies (from 1982 pennies started being copper-clad zinc) are now like silver dimes were in the 1970s on - relatively common in circulation, but slowly but surely disappearing. As a kid (20 or more years ago) a friend and I had reasonable luck getting rolls of coins from the bank and finding silver pre-1964 coins in common circulation. Since I got out of college in the mid 90's I have found exactly one silver quarter in common circulation. I've found one "mercury" dime in ordinary circulation coins. I actively pull all-copper pennies out of pocket change and save them and I can tell you it has been a while since I saw a wheat penny. I rarely see them anymore. This is a gift that will inevitably become an increasingly rare and neat gift from his Grandfather. He won't regret it if he can be convinced to hold on to them. He'll be lucky to double his money if he does not.
posted by nanojath at 3:12 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

What others said. He's probably going to get less than 3x face value unless he really hustles them. Whereas, putting them away for safe keeping just may mean he can get 50x or more in a few decades.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:31 PM on December 13, 2008

Pay him thirty bucks for the coins, put them away, and then give them to him as a gift in twenty years. He'll tear up, give you a hug, and tell you what a wonderful parent you are.
posted by incessant at 3:37 PM on December 13, 2008 [30 favorites]

I agree with incessant. That seems like the best thing you could do.
posted by bolognius maximus at 4:14 PM on December 13, 2008

Do what incessant said, but tell him a coworker is interested in buying them from him for increased mouth-agape factor in twenty years.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 4:18 PM on December 13, 2008

Also, you could split the difference between maximum cash and you saving them. Have him go through them all and identify especially rare and valuable ones. Those he could then sell individually, if he cared to, for enough money to make their loss to the overall collection irrelevant. I would imagine that one or two especially rare pennies would be worth the same as the entire rest of them.

Or, if he's mercenary enough to care about the extra $30 from the remainders... go with GooseOnTheLoose's idea.

Just as he finishes the task of identifying the really rare ones, announce that one of your coworkers would like to buy the coins from him for 2 cents apiece. Suggest that he keep and sell individually those rare pieces he identified. Pay him the cash for the remainders, and put them away.
posted by Netzapper at 5:25 PM on December 13, 2008

It is very unlikely that a collection of 2,000 pennies will have any of the truly rare items - the 1909-S VBD, the 1955 double die. The 1926-S would be moderately valuable. The wartime steel pennies, likewise.

So I would go with incessant's idea.
posted by megatherium at 6:03 PM on December 13, 2008

« Older Help us get our lazy landlord's attention   |   A programme to record mobile phone calls Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.