If you are an amateur coin collector, you might be interested in finding out which pennies are worth more than their face value. Some pennies can be worth thousands of dollars, depending on their rarity and condition. Here are some tips on how to identify and value the most valuable pennies to look for worth money in circulation.
Wheat Pennies (1909-1958)
Wheat pennies are the first series of Lincoln cents that were minted from 1909 to 1958. They feature the portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse and two wheat ears on the reverse. Wheat pennies are generally worth more than modern pennies because they are older and scarcer. Here are a few examples of especially rare and valuable wheat pennies.
The 1909-S VDB wheat penny is the most sought-after among collectors. It has the lowest mintage of any of its era with only 484,000 coins. It also has the initials of the designer, Victor D. Brenner, on the reverse. Excellent examples of this penny can be worth upwards of $700 or more.¹
The 1943 Copper wheat penny is one of the most famous error coins in history. This is because it was accidentally struck on a copper planchet instead of a steel one. Because only about 40 examples are known to exist, these holy grail coins can fetch up to $250,000 or more¹.
The 1922 Plain wheat penny is another error coin, struck at the Denver mint without a mint mark. It’s also known as the “no D” penny. Experts in numismatics estimate that only about 15,000 to 20,000 coins were produced. With this low population of error coins, better condition examples can be worth up to $500 or more³.
The 1955 Doubled Die wheat penny is a coin that shows a clear doubling of the date and the inscription on its front. This error was caused by a misalignment of the dies during the striking process. As one of the most dramatic and popular varieties of wheat pennies, examples can be worth up to $1,100 or more³.
Lincoln Memorial Pennies (1959-2008)
Lincoln Memorial pennies are the second series of Lincoln cents minted by the United States. They were produced from 1959 to 2008. While they feature the same portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the front (also known as the obverse), they have a different design of the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse.
Of course, being that so many billions of them are in circulation, most Lincoln Memorial pennies are generally worth only their face value of a single cent. But, there are exceptions for examples made of copper or have particular errors or variations. Here are some examples of Lincoln Memorial pennies that can be worth more than face value.
The 1982 Copper penny is important for being the first year in which the composition of the penny was changed from 95% copper and 5% zinc to 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. However, some pennies were still struck on the old copper planchets by mistake. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to tell them apart by their weight: copper pennies weigh 3.11 grams, while zinc pennies weigh 2.5 grams³. Some Copper pennies from 1982 can be worth up to $30 or more, although generally only in pristine condition or highly graded by a coin grading service.³
The 1992 Close AM penny is a rare variety that shows a close spacing between the letters “A” and “M” in “AMERICA” on the reverse. This error was caused by a use of a proof die on a circulation strike coin. Because very few examples are known, individual coins can be worth up to $2,000 or more³.
The 1999 Wide AM penny is another rare variation showing a wide spacing between the letters “A” and “M” in “AMERICA” on the reverse. The error came from the use of a circulation die on a proof strike coin. The few examples are known can individually be worth up to $500 or more³.
Canadian Pennies (1858-2012)
Canadian pennies are another source of potential value for North American amateur coin collectors. Canada minted its own pennies from 1858 to 2012, but discontinued them due to their low value and high production cost. While this isn’t meant as a guide to all valuable Canadian pennies, here are a few examples that can be worth more than face value.
The 1858 Queen Victoria is the first Canadian penny ever minted. Naturally, it features the portrait of Queen Victoria on the front and a maple wreath on the reverse. It’s made of bronze with a diameter of 25.4 mm. Examples of this rare, historic coin can be worth up to $300 or more.⁴
The 1923 King George V is one of the rarest Canadian pennies, with a mintage of just 1,019,022 coins. It features the portrait of King George V on the obverse and two maple leaves on the reverse. Like the Queen Victoria, it’s made of bronze, but has a smaller diameter of 19.05 mm. Examples can be worth up to $1,000 or more.⁴
The most recent and most valuable of modern Canadian pennies is the 2006 No P, No Logo, Magnetic. This rare variety has several unusual features. It has no mint mark (“P”) or logo (a small maple leaf) on the obverse, and it’s also magnetic due to its steel core. Only about an estimated 20,000 coins were produced, and they can be worth up to $1,000 or more.⁴
Final Thoughts on Penny Collecting
As you can see, there are many pennies that are worth more than their face value. But, while some of these particular examples can be worth a lot of money, condition is everything. Most circulated pennies are still only worth their face value, or only slightly more in their smelt value. Uncirculated coins are always the most valuable, but truly valuable examples are those which have minimal wear and tear.
Still, if you are an amateur coin collector, you should always check your change and look for these valuable pennies. You never know when you might find a rare and valuable coin in your pocket change! Finding a valuable coin does happen, but like any true collecting journey, it requires patience, knowledge, and a passion for coinage.
Here are sources to check out for further information about valuable pennies to look for worth money:
- Check Your Change! These Valuable Pennies Are Worth Thousands. https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/national-international/check-your-loose-change-some-pennies-are-worth-thousands-of-dollars/4130040/ .
- How To Find Valuable Pennies Worth $1 Or More Apiece In Your Loose Change… https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/valuable-pennies/.
- Top 10 Rare Canadian Pennies – My Road to Wealth and Freedom. https://www.myroadtowealthandfreedom.com/top-10-rare-canadian-pennies/.
- 15 Most Valuable Pennies Still in Circulation | Work + Money. https://www.workandmoney.com/s/valuable-pennies-circulation-ea389055bc8a4886.
- 7 valuable pennies worth up to $200,000 might be in your pocket – CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/18/valuable-pennies-worth-up-to-200000-might-be-sitting-in-your-pocket.html.