While almost all “pennies” are worth face value or just a bit more, some are desirable collectibles. Pennies got an entire older generation hooked on collecting coins in the last century. They were available in $.50 rolls from any bank, and sorting through rolls was enjoyable. “Back in the day”, the chances of finding a “key date” were reasonably good. Finding a valuable one today is still possible, though difficult. It is crucial to know which dates are important and understand the numismatic grading of pennies and how to care for them.
The Coinage Act of 1792 established a U. S. Mint, and coin denominations based on a dollar equaling 100 cents. The first United States “pennies” appeared in 1793, when 11,178 large cents (the size of today’s quarter) were minted. Increasing copper costs led to Flying Eagle’s “small cents” in 1857. Indian Cents (1859-1909) were a mainstay of U. S. commerce until the Lincoln Cent arrived to commemorate Lincoln’s 1809 birth.
The Lincoln Cent has undergone some important changes since it arrived in 1909. The “Wheat Back” reverse was used from 1909-58 when the Lincoln Memorial reverse first appeared. In 1982, the cent’s composition changed from a bronze alloy of copper, zinc, and tin to a copper-plated zinc coin. A series of four “Lincoln Bicentennial” reverses appeared in 2009. In 2010 came the Shield Reverse, symbolizing the Union of the United States, which Lincoln had helped to preserve.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Actual Value of Pennies
- 2 The Rare and Valuable Pennies
- 3 How to identify rare and valuable pennies
- 4 List of pennies worth money
- 5 Collecting Pennies
- 6 Selling Valuable Pennies
- 7 Pennies Worth Money FAQs
- 7.1 What is the rarest penny?
- 7.2 How do I know if a penny is rare or valuable?
- 7.3 What is the most expensive penny ever sold?
- 7.4 What makes a 1983 D penny rare?
- 7.5 What year penny is worth $1000000?
- 7.6 Why is a 1982 D penny rare?
- 7.7 Why is the 1999 penny worth so much?
- 7.8 What makes a 1964 penny rare?
- 7.9 What’s special about the 2009 penny?
- 7.10 Are the 2000 Cheerios penny worth anything?
- 7.11 What is the Holy Grail penny?
- 7.12 What makes a 1962 D penny rare?
- 7.13 How much is a 1964 D wheat penny worth?
- 7.14 Why is a 1982 penny worth $10000?
- 7.15 Why is the 1944 penny rare?
- 8 Conclusion
The Actual Value of Pennies
The cost of producing pennies
In 2022, the cost to produce a penny was $.0272. Eliminating the penny (and lots of “government waste”) is not pursued because politicians don’t want to upset their voters.
The metal composition of pennies
Since 1982, a zinc core plated with copper has been the penny’s composition. This replaced the bronze alloy of copper, zinc, and tin used for most of the 20th Century.
The purchasing power of pennies over time
The penny’s purchasing power has decreased greatly over time, as has the dollar’s purchasing power. As a boy growing up in 1957, I could buy three sticks of “Chum Gum” for a penny. This gum got brick-hard after just a few minutes of chewing, but it was affordable for kids.
“Penny candy” was a product description “Back In The Day” that completely disappeared decades ago. No wonder. The U. S. dollar/penny has lost 91% of its value since 1957. Can a penny (or the dollar!) buy anything today?
Comparison with other countries’ small denomination coins
Several countries still use pennies, or an equivalent, as their smallest denomination coin. The U. S., the United Kingdom, countries using the Euro Cent, etc., still have pennies or their equivalent. Some major countries (Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) have eliminated the penny due to the costs of making and using it.
The Rare and Valuable Pennies
Rare pennies are those which were minted in small numbers and/or whose numbers have been reduced by time/attrition. But of course, a rare penny requires a limited supply and a strong and widespread demand. When both supply and demand support a rare penny, its value increases.
What year of pennies are worth money?
The year a penny was minted is just one part of its value. Other factors combine with a penny’s date to make it worth money. Its Mint; its numismatic grade; its original uncleaned “no problems” condition; and the strength of collector demand for it also makes it worth money.
What year copper penny is worth the most?
The only “copper U. S. pennies” are the Large Cents (1793-1857). The 1795 Reeded Edge Large Cent made of copper has a wholesale “Bid” of $95K in well-worn AG3 condition. Of the copper alloy (Bronze) pennies, the 1888/87 Indian Cent has the highest wholesale “Bid” at $4,750 in VF20 condition. VF20 condition shows “light to moderate even wear. All major features are sharp.”
How can you tell if a penny is copper or bronze?
If it is not a Large Cent (1793-1857), it is not copper but some form of a copper alloy. Exceptions are the 1943 “Steelies” (composed of zinc-plated steel) and modern pennies starting in 1982, which are copper-plated zinc.
The different types of rare and valuable pennies
In the U. S., the different types of rare pennies are:
- Large Cents (1793-1857)
- Flying Eagle Cents (1856-58)
- Indian Cents (1859-1909)
- Lincoln Cents (some dates/Mints from 1909-Present)
How to identify rare and valuable pennies
A Guidebook of United States Coins (a. k. a. “The Red Book,” issued annually) provides mintages and approximate retail values for all U. S. pennies. Those figures provide you with a general guide to rare U. S. pennies. “The Red Book” is available for purchase or can be found in most libraries.
List of pennies worth money
Top 50 pennies worth money
Please note that these values are approximate and can vary based on factors such as condition, rarity, and demand—additionally, the values mentioned here.
- 1943 Copper Penny – $10,000 to over $1 million
- 1955 Double Die Penny – $500 to $1,500 (circulated), several thousand dollars (uncirculated)
- 1909-S VDB Penny – $750 to $1,500 (circulated), $3,000 to $6,000 (uncirculated)
- 1914-D Penny – $400 to $800 (circulated), $2,000 to $4,000 (uncirculated)
- 1909-S Penny – $300 to $600 (circulated), $1,500 to $3,000 (uncirculated)
- 1877 Indian Head Penny – $200 to $500 (circulated), $1,000 to $2,000 (uncirculated)
- 1909-S Indian Head Penny – $200 to $400 (circulated), $1,000 to $2,000 (uncirculated)
- 1856 Flying Eagle Penny – $150 to $400 (circulated), $800 to $1,500 (uncirculated)
- 1922 No D Lincoln Cent – $150 to $300 (circulated), $1,000 to $2,000 (uncirculated)
- 1908-S Indian Head Penny – $100 to $300 (circulated), $500 to $1,500 (uncirculated)
- 1926-S Penny – $100 to $300 (circulated), $500 to $1,500 (uncirculated)
- 1955 Poor Man’s Double Die Penny – $75 to $150 (circulated)
- 1914-S Penny – $50 to $150 (circulated), $300 to $600 (uncirculated)
- 1922 Plain Lincoln Cent – $50 to $150 (circulated), $300 to $600 (uncirculated)
- 1924-D Penny – $50 to $150 (circulated), $300 to $600 (uncirculated)
- 1914 Lincoln Cent – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1915-S Penny – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1926-S Indian Head Penny – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1931-S Penny – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1944-D/S Lincoln Cent – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Penny – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse Penny – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1972 Doubled Die Penny – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1983 Doubled Die Penny – $25 to $100 (circulated), $200 to $400 (uncirculated)
- 1992 Close AM Penny – $20 to $50 (circulated), $100 or more (uncirculated)
- 1995 Doubled Die Penny – $20 to $50 (circulated), $100 or more (uncirc
- 1982-D Small Date Copper Penny – $15 to $40 (circulated), $100 or more (uncirculated)
- 1960-D/D Small Date Over Large Date Penny – $15 to $40 (circulated), $100 or more (uncirculated)
- 1984 Doubled Ear Penny – $15 to $40 (circulated), $100 or more (uncirculated)
- 1999 Wide “AM” Penny – $15 to $40 (circulated), $100 or more (uncirculated)
- 1989-D/D Penny – $10 to $30 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1970-S Small Date Penny – $10 to $30 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1970-S Large Date Penny – $10 to $30 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1982 No P Mint Mark Copper Penny – $10 to $30 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1998 Wide “AM” Penny – $10 to $30 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1995 Double Die Obverse Penny – $10 to $30 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1971 Doubled Die Obverse Penny – $5 to $20 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1960 Large Date Over Small Date Penny – $5 to $20 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1972 Doubled Die Obverse Penny – $5 to $20 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1988 Double Ear Penny – $5 to $20 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1999 Close “AM” Penny – $5 to $20 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 2009-S Proof Lincoln Bicentennial Penny – $5 to $20 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 2009-S Silver Proof Lincoln Bicentennial Penny – $5 to $20 (circulated), $50 to $100 (uncirculated)
- 1970-S Small Date with S over D Penny – $3 to $10 (circulated), $50 or more (uncirculated)
- 1984 Doubled Die Reverse Penny – $3 to $10 (circulated), $50 or more (uncirculated)
- 1998 Wide “AM” in “AMERICA” Penny – $3 to $10 (circulated), $50 or more (uncirculated)
- 1999 Wide “AM” in “AMERICA” Penny – $3 to $10 (circulated), $50 or more (uncirculated)
- 2000 Wide “AM” in “AMERICA” Penny – $3 to $10 (circulated), $50 or more (uncirculated)
- 2001 Wide “AM” in “AMERICA” Penny – $3 to $10 (circulated), $50 or more (uncirculated)
- 2009-D Extra Log Cabin Penny – $3 to $10 (circulated), $50 or more (uncirculated)
USA Coin Book has provided a list of the “top 100” pennies based upon their highest retail/auction sales at: https://www.usacoinbook.com/encyclopedia/most-valuable-coins/pennies/
It is important to realize that all these top prices were for uncleaned, “no problem” coins authenticated and graded by one of the three top third-party grading services (PCGS, NGC, ANACS). Moreover, these coins would have been third-party graded near the top of the 70-point Sheldon Scale used in numismatic grading.
1960 to 1969 pennies worth money
The 1969-S third-party graded by PCGS, NGC, or ANACS in RB (Red-Brown) or RD (Red), at Sheldon Scale grades MS63 or higher, are the only ‘60s’ pennies worth more than $.01.
1970s pennies worth money
The 1970-S Small Date in RD and 1972/72 in RB or RD, third-party graded at or above MS63, are the only ones worth more than $.01.
1980 to 1989 pennies worth money
The 1983 Doubled Die Reverse RD and the 1984 Doubled Ear in RB and RD, third-party graded at or above MS63, are the only ones worth more than $.01
Related: The 1980 Penny Value
Reasons for collecting pennies
- Many older collectors began collecting Lincoln Cents starting in the 1930s because pennies were inexpensive and because (occasionally) one might find a valuable one. Many older collectors “mentor” their grandchildren et al. in collecting Lincoln Cents as a “bonding experience.”
- Some collectors seek “type sets” of the different penny types that the U. S. has issued;
- Some collectors pursue the “key dates” in the penny series they choose, usually seeking the highest third-party graded pennies that they can afford;
- Some collectors seek pennies (and other denominations) of particular years important to them, i. e. birth years, wedding years, etc.
- There are other reasons important to individual collectors.
The different types of penny collectors
Like any other human endeavor, many people with many goals and aspirations undertake penny collecting. “Old” collectors, kids starting out (often with a trusted adult as a mentor), “30 somethings” and older who have developed substantial resources and seek “Registry Set” recognition, etc., etc., pursue penny collecting. Numismatics generally is not a “one size fits all” pursuit–individuals can “chart their own collecting course.” So it is with penny collectors.
Tips for starting a penny collection
- As Q. David Bowers (renowned numismatic author) and others have advised, “Buy the book before the coin.” The more you are willing and able to learn about penny collecting, the more fulfilling your collecting of pennies will be;
- Pick a penny type or sub-type that appeals to you and is within reach of your discretionary budget;
- Especially if you decide to pursue expensive pennies, learn numismatic grading of them. Local coin clubs, the American Numismatic Association, etc. have individuals and grading classes/grading knowledge that will help you;
- While learning to grade pennies (and afterward) plan on buying expensive pennies third-party graded and authenticated by PCGS, NGC, or ANACS. You don’t need to find out afterward that an expensive uncertified penny you bought is counterfeit, cleaned, over-graded, etc.
Preservation of penny collections
This can be problematic if you are collecting Red or Red-Brown uncirculated pennies. Oxidation over time, accelerated by humidity, will cause the copper in a penny to move toward a brown color. This isn’t a major concern if you are collecting circulated pennies already brown from circulation.
A good, non-reactive coin album will help to protect pennies when stored in a low humidity, moderate temperature environment. The plastic “slabs” in which third-party grading companies have put the coins they have graded ARE NOT air-tight! Red or Red-Brown pennies in “slabs” must be maintained in low humidity, moderate temperature environments. They need periodic examinations to ensure they maintain the color they had when you acquired them…
Selling Valuable Pennies
Where to sell pennies
Lincoln Cents (1909-Present) are the pennies most commonly encountered today. Most dates and Mints are common because mintages are often in the millions, even billions. Many coin stores will buy common circulated Lincoln Wheat Cents for $.02 or thereabouts.
Circulated copper alloy Lincoln Memorial Reverse Cents (1959-82) may (or may not) have values exceeding $.01 depending upon the current commodity price of copper. Virtually all copper-plated zinc pennies (1982-Present) are worth $.01.Circulated common Indian Cents will likely bring around $1 or so at many coin stores. Circulated Flying Eagle Cents may bring $10-$25 or so at many coin stores, while common “no problem” circulated Large Cents could realize $10-$20 depending upon numismatic grade.
Other than coin stores, individual penny collectors, Internet sources (through eBay, etc.) may be possible purchasers of common circulated pre-1959 pennies. Coin shows where several dealers specializing in pennies take show tables allow you to receive more than one “buy” offer.
Should you have “key date” or high numismatic-grade pre-1959 pennies, seek “a second opinion” from a coin dealer or area penny collectors. The question is whether authentication and grading by PCGS, NGC, or ANACS would justify the expense involved. If yes, pennies worthy of third-party grading might be valuable enough to sell at auction or to the sources above.
How to sell pennies
First, know what you have! Uncleaned “no problem” pennies are easier to sell than “problem pennies.” Pennies “slabbed” by PCGS, NGC, or ANACS are easier to sell than “unslabbed” pennies IF their value has justified “slabbing.” Know (at least) your pennies’ approximate numismatic grade and value.
If you are using a “retail price guide” (The Red Book; “The CPG Coin and Currency Market Review,” etc.), plan on realizing 30%-50% or so less than retail. If you are using a wholesale price guide (“The Coin Dealer Newsletter;” “Numismedia”), ask for a price at “Bid” or slightly “back of Bid.” Ask for a counteroffer if your “sell” offer is not accepted.
The process of selling pennies
- Don’t waste your time or that of a prospective buyer by asking for a sky-high, unreasonable sale price;
- Virtually all post-1982 pennies (with the very few exceptions listed above) are worth $.01. Plan on spending all of them essentially.
- Selling any “worthy” pennies is not a prolonged negotiating/haggling process as is often found at a middle eastern rug bazaar. (a) The seller indicates the price he wants; (b) the prospective buyer will either accept (in which case the “deal is done”) or decline; (c) If declined, ask for a counter-offer. If none is offered, thank the prospective buyer and move along. If a counter-offer is made, either accept it or (your final step) ask to “meet in the middle.” If that is declined, either accept the counteroffer or (politely) move on.
The value of sold pennies
Great rarities, authenticated and “slabbed” by PCGS, NGC, or ANACS in high numismatic grades, have auctioned for eye-catching sums. Investors with lots of money and/or wealthy collectors working on achieving upper-end Registry Sets have steadily increased the upper-end numismatic market.
For most pennies, the sale prices realized have been much more modest. Most pennies minted in the past 100+ years were minted in prodigious quantities. Demand for most pennies by collectors has shrunk as their numbers have shrunk over the past 50 or so years.
A wholesale price guide (“The Coin Dealer Newsletter;” “Numismedia”) in combination with the American Numismatic Association’s book of numismatic grading standards will help you to understand the value of sold pennies.
Pennies Worth Money FAQs
What is the rarest penny?
The rarest penny in terms of numbers known is the 1974 aluminum “test pattern” penny. Two are known. (Chinese) fakes exist. Be careful.
Source: Coin Week
How do I know if a penny is rare or valuable?
Determine that it is an uncleaned “no problems” coin, then check a wholesale price guide (preferred) or a retail price guide to see relative penny values. If you believe you have a rarity, get “a second opinion” from a coin dealer, cent collector, etc.
What is the most expensive penny ever sold?
A 1943 bronze “wrong metal planchet error” coin sold for $1 million dollars in a 2018 “private treaty.” It is one of 15 or so known and the only third-party graded as MS63 RD (original “Mint-red” luster).
What makes a 1983 D penny rare?
Most of the 7.7 billion 1983 pennies minted are worth $.01. There are about 5,000 or so 1983 “Doubled Die Reverse” pennies, where the reverse lettering (especially) shows doubling to the naked eye.
What year penny is worth $1000000?
A 1943 bronze “wrong metal planchet error” coin sold for $1 million dollars in a 2018 “private treaty.” It is one of 15 or so known and the only one that is third-party graded as MS63 RD (original “Mint-red” luster).
Why is a 1982 D penny rare?
It is rare only if the 1982 “Small Date” variety is struck on a bronze planchet weighing 3.11 grams instead of the 2.5 grams copper-plated zinc planchet.
Why is the 1999 penny worth so much?
It’s worth $.01 UNLESS it is the “Wide A M” reverse variety. Uncleaned “no problems” examples will likely be worth authentication and grading by PCGS, NGC, or ANACS. A “second opinion” from a coin dealer or Lincoln Cent collector is recommended before spending the money for authentication and grading.
Source: USA Coin Book
What makes a 1964 penny rare?
Most of them aren’t rare. Since over six billion 1964 pennies were produced at Philadelphia and Denver, most are worth $.01. The major exception is the 20-50 or so known 1964 “Special Mint Set” finish pennies produced for as-yet unknown reasons. Here are comments from the PCGS website on this issue: “…. A nice, smooth, satin-like finish characterizes the special finish for the 1964 SMS Lincoln cents.
The fields are usually well-struck, very clean, and without major nicks or scratches. The edges of most 1964 SMS coins also tend to be square and sharp. The bust and legends are usually highly detailed and sharp in most examples, especially when compared to circulation strike coins. The surfaces are non-reflective compared to proof coins of the era, yet, are not the same finish as regular issue coins from the same year….”
What’s special about the 2009 penny?
The 2009 penny featured four different reverses, all portraying stages in Abraham Lincoln’s life since 2009 was the 200th anniversary of his birth. Nearly two billion of the cents with the four reverses were produced, with many saved in uncirculated condition.
Are the 2000 Cheerios penny worth anything?
The 10 million 2000 “Cheerios Pennies” done as a promotion were “consolation prizes” in boxes of Cheerios if you did not receive one of the 5,500 Sacagawea Dollars inserted randomly in Cheerios boxes. One might realize a few dollars for a Cheerios penny in its original packaging.
One might realize substantially more if one had the “Wide AM” reverse 2000 penny. But to determine if you have the “Wide AM” reverse, the penny must be removed from its original packaging to see the reverse! Quite a gamble! Once out of the packaging, the penny would have lost its Cheerios connection!
What is the Holy Grail penny?
The so-called “Holy Grail” penny is the 1943 copper alloy penny. 1943 saw the striking of zinc-coated steel pennies to provide copper for WWII munitions. Perhaps 20 or so bronze planchets from 1942 got “tossed into the hopper” with the zinc-coated steel planchets and were made into 1943 cents. Finding one today would be analogous to Crusaders, et.al finding Jesus’ “Holy Grail” centuries ago.
What makes a 1962 D penny rare?
Since nearly two billion were made, only high-grade uncirculated examples may be considered scarce. PCGS’ website has these comments on the 1962-D:
”In MS65 grades, 1962-D Lincoln Cents are also considered scarce. Most 1962-D Lincoln Cents contain nicks, scratches, and corrosion spots. The luster is dull, uneven, and the coin’s fields have a rough-looking surface that keeps them from obtaining a high grade.”
How much is a 1964 D wheat penny worth?
Since no Lincoln Wheat Pennies were made after 1958, a 1964-D Wheat Penny is either a counterfeit or one whose date has been altered.
The PCGS website has this to say about the 1964-D Memorial Reverse Lincoln Cent:
“….The 1964-D is common in circulated grades up to MS64. In MS65, they are a little harder to find, but many are probably still in original and even opened rolls. In MS66 condition, they become scarce, possibly under 1,000 available combined between raw and certified examples. There are probably more in the original rolls, but they are getting harder to find.
There are probably very few, if any, in opened rolls, as these are usually pulled out and sold as singles or sent in to be graded. MS67 is one of the tougher dates from the 1960s, especially from the Denver Mint. Less than two dozen are known in MS67 condition with none being graded higher.’”
Why is a 1982 penny worth $10000?
Since about 17 billion 1982 pennies were made at Philadelphia and Denver, most are worth $.01. The major exception is the 1982-D Small Date Cent made on a bronze (not copper-plated zinc) planchet and in very high-grade uncirculated condition as certified by PCGS, NGC, or ANACS. Bronze planchets weigh 3.11 grams. Zinc planchets weigh 2.5 grams.
If you weigh your 1982-D cent and it appears to be an uncirculated bronze cent, get a “second opinion” from a coin dealer, an area coin club, a cent collector, etc., as to whether it is worth the expense of third-party authentication and grading. Finding a bronze 1982-D in high-grade uncirculated condition and then realizing anywhere near $10K for it will not be easy.
Why is the 1944 penny rare?
The 1944 penny can be considered “rare” only if it is one of the approximately 30 1944 steel pennies known from the three Mints. Check purported 1944 steel cents with a magnet! Zinc-plated bronze 1944 pennies will not be attracted to a magnet, while genuine 1944 steel pennies will be.
The only other 1944 cents of major value are 1944-D/S over-mintmark pennies. The rest of the 1944 cents–even in high uncirculated grades–wholesale for from $1 to perhaps $75 or so.
Most modern pennies are worth $.01.
Even most circulated Lincoln “Wheat Cents” that are 100 or so years old have minimal value over their face value. The age of a penny is typically a secondary value consideration. Primary factors are a penny’s ” key ” and numismatic grade. “Key date” pennies can have considerable value, especially those authenticated and graded by PCGS, NGC, and ANACS in high numismatic grades.
Auction records at major numismatic auction firms like Heritage, StacksBowers, Great Collections, etc., can provide insight into the values found in the “upper end” penny market. Wholesale price guides (“The Coin Dealer Newsletter;” “Numismedia”) are also important in determining penny values.
List of references and sources
- The Official American Numismatic Association Grading Standards for United States Coins, Sixth Edition