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Why So Many Wheat Cents?

12 Feb

I am often mystified as to why I find so many more wheat cents than I find dimes while metal detecting. I counted my wheats for 2013 so far and I have 78. That’s a lot of wheat cents. Most of them hearken back to the 30’s and 40’s.

The obvious answer is that people carried more one cent coins than they did other currency in their pockets and thus they lost more one cent coins. The question that arises next is why. Why did people carry more one cent coins than any other currency?

It would be a mistake to try to answer that question with today’s eyes. Today, we carry one cent coins because in spite of the one cent coin being practically worthless, we still mint billions of them every year. Today, a one cent coin is more of an inconvenience that anything else. However, back in the 30’s and 40’s and even into the 50’s and 60’s, a one cent coin was real money.

Some discussions on the Internet bring back notions of penny candy and one penny for a loaf of bread. Someone posted in a forum that in the early 60’s, he could buy two pieces of candy for one cent. I myself, although growing up in a different country, remember receiving a dollar for delivering doughnuts in my bicycle in 1970 (I was six years old) and buying a candy bar with it. I got 95 cents in change! I ate candy for a week with that dollar. Also, in case you’re wondering, it was not uncommon where I grew up for children to have jobs as soon as the notion made sense in our little heads. The concept of a supermarket was relatively new and there were still many corner stores everywhere. The baker in my neighborhood employed us to deliver doughnuts and other pastries to these corners stores. Other jobs followed such as delivering papers, shoe shining, and selling candy from a friend’s house where his father graciously allowed us to make a makeshift candy store out of one of the rooms in his house. It was at this time that I discovered wholesale prices were a lot lower than retail prices LOL!

So people didn’t carry wheat cents in their pockets because they could not spend them on anything, they carried them because you could actually buy things with them. You could buy a soft drink with a few wheat cents. You could buy gum. You could buy a bus ride with a few wheat cents.

So now we can kind of see why people didn’t need to carry silver dimes or quarters. Carrying those denominations in your pocket would be a little like carrying $20 dollar bills today. I don’t carry $20’s because the only time I need that kind of cash is when I am going to the grocery store. If I am planning on eating lunch out, I carry a $10, or a $5.

Incidentally, we in the U.S. are not anywhere near eliminating the one cent coin. I hear rumors of the mint changing the composition of the one cent coin again, from zinc to a yet to be determined substitute, perhaps aluminum, perhaps tin or steel. Canada just a few days ago, officially killed the one cent coin.

Thus there is my theory: People lost more wheat cents because they carried more wheat cents; and people carried more wheat cents because you could actually buy things with them.

Thank you for looking!

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2 Responses to “Why So Many Wheat Cents?”

  1. mgilmore2013 April 14, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    May I put in my 2 cents worth… haha. As a child of the 60’s myself, I remember being paid with 10 or 15 pennies for chores. Not understanding the true value of coins, receiving multiple coins was far greater than just a dime or a nickle. Ten pennies made a child rich! As a young girl, I wasn’t alowed to wear jeans/dungarees, so on the day I was given my bounty, I would keep my pennies in my shoes. I’m sure I wasn’t the only child to stand in front of their piggy bank wondering where the rest of my pennies were. My thought is many of these Wheats fell from the pockets or shoes of children.

    • pulltabMiner April 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      Fantastic! Your answer makes way more sense than mine. Thank you for stopping by!

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