Hey Sacramento, that penny in your pocket could be worth $80

Want to make a quick $80 this week?

Check your pockets or your purse – you might have one of four relatively rare pennies that the Sacramento Valley Coin Club is releasing into circulation in the region this week.

If you find one of the coins – known as the 1909 S wheat penny – take it to the club’s 57th anniversary spring coin show on Friday and Saturday in Natomas, and the club will pay you $80 to get it back.

“It’s a fun way to get people to come to the (coin) show, and get people to think about the change that they have,” said Robert Shanks, coin show chairman, who used one of the 1909 S wheat cents at a coffee shop on Monday. Usually, about 500 people attend the group’s two-day shows.

The 1909 S wheat penny was chosen for the buyback promotion because it is a relatively hard-to-find coin.

Between 1909 and 1958, pennies were minted with a wheat design on the back. The words “one cent” and “United States of America” are in the middle, flanked by stalks of wheat. After 1958, the wheat design was replaced by the Lincoln Memorial. The letter S under the year on the front of the coin indicates that it was minted in San Francisco.

The Sacramento Valley Coin Club will release 500 wheat pennies from various years and mints over the next few days to promote the coin show, which will be held at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, 4900 Duckhorn Drive, Sacramento.

While the club will buy back only the four 1909 S wheat pennies, the rest can be appraised for free by the 35 coin dealers at the show. The value of most of the other pennies being circulated by the club ranges from a few cents to $35.

“We like to have people bring stuff in for appraisal,” said Shanks. “The dealers buy and sell. For them to stay in business, they have to keep turning new inventory.”

The club did not mark the four 1909 S pennies that will be released, because that would devalue them. But Shanks said the club will buy back the first four 1909 S wheat cents turned in at the coin show.

“If 10 or 15 of them show up, the dealers would be interested in buying them,” he said. “They may not pay $80, but they are definitely worth something.”

Shanks couldn’t say how many 1909 S wheat pennies were made, but they are harder to find than the pennies minted in Philadelphia, which have no mint mark. According to www.coincommunity.com, there were 1,825,000 wheat pennies minted from San Francisco, compared to 72,700,000 made in Philadelphia.

“A lot of people have collected the San Francisco pennies, so there are not that many floating around,” said Shanks.

The Denver mint did not produce any pennies until 1911, but coins made in Denver bear the letter D.

The 1909 S penny also was chosen because the coin show will host a special wheat cents workshop for children Saturday morning. “The first 25 kids who register for the workshop will each go home with a collection of Lincoln cents worth up to $25,” said Shanks.

For those who want to bring their old coins to the show to have them appraised or sold, Shanks has this warning: Do not clean them.

“Don’t take an older penny and try to shine it up,” he said. “Most people would take the Comet Cleanser to it, but that can really ruin its value. I have seen a $1,000 coin turn into a $50 coin that way.”