10 Most Valuable Pennies: Price List
Pennies are among the most popular collectibles, even though they are among the smallest circulating coins and contain no bullion value. Yet, these coins, most of which contain at least a small amount of valuable copper, are among the most beloved collectibles.
For many collectors, pennies are the first coins they ever include in their sets. And countless collectors spend a lifetime building and improving on their sets of pennies.
This, of course, leads one to wonder what the most valuable pennies are. Most of the Lincoln Wheat cents one encounters from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s are worth only a few cents each. And worn Lincoln Memorial cents struck from 1959 through 1981 are worth about 2 cents for their copper value. Circulated Lincoln cents made since are generally worth their face value.
But there are several valuable pennies worth much more than just a few cents apiece. Here’s a rundown of 10 of the most valuable pennies made since 1900:
1. 1909-S Indian Cent
The lowest-mintage circulation strike of the Indian cent series is the 1909-S, which was struck to the tune of just 309,000 pieces. Values start at around $300 for even well-worn specimens, and prices climb above $1,000 for uncirculated pieces.
2. 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent
1909-S "VDB" Lincoln Wheat cent. Image: USA CoinBook
There is perhaps no 20th-century coin more famous than the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent. It is a penny that is the object of desire for not just Lincoln series enthusiasts but also for all collectors who want to own this widely known rarity.
Only 484,000 pieces were made, and far fewer exist today, pushing prices above $600 for well-worn examples and more than $1,300 for uncirculated specimens.
3. 1914-D Lincoln Cent
This early mint marked Lincoln cent is a highly regarded rarity that rises to the ranks of being a key alongside the iconic 1909-S VDB penny. Only 1,193,000 were made, and the number of survivors is but a fraction of that figure today. The 1914-D Lincoln cent sells for around $150 in well-worn grades and well over $2,200 in uncirculated grades.
4. 1922 Plain Lincoln Cent
For some time, the occurrence of a 1922 Lincoln penny without a mintmark led many in the numismatic community to assume it was a Philadelphia strike. However, mint records showed no Lincoln cents were made at the Philadelphia Mint in 1922 and that all pennies were struck in Denver that year.
Apparently, heavy die polishing led to the obliteration of the “D” mintmark on the obverse of a small number of 1922 pennies, all of which are worth around $500 and up even in well-worn condition. The tiny handful of rare uncirculated specimens start at over $10,500 a piece.
5. 1931-S Lincoln Cent
During the leanest years of the Great Depression, the United States Mint clamped down on the production of many coins, including the Lincoln cent. In 1931, the U.S. Mint greatly reduced the number of Lincoln cents it produced. The San Francisco Mint struck only 866,000 examples of the penny that year.
While many collectors saved 1931-S Lincoln cents from day one, this issue remains a scarce semi-key coin worth around $65 in circulated graded and $100 and up in uncirculated grades.
6. 1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent
1943 copper (bronze) Lincoln penny
In 1943, the United States Mint began striking Lincoln cents out of zinc-coated steel to help save copper for World War II ammunition. More than one billion 1943 steel cents were struck, but a few were accidentally made from bronze planchets. It's unknown exactly how many exist, but the number totals around two dozen from the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints combined.
Regardless of condition, 1943 bronze pennies tend to sell for around $125,000 and up.
7. 1944 Steel Lincoln Cent
The more common 1943 Steel Lincoln cent. Image: USA CoinBook
The 1943 steel cents were officially a one-year-only production, but a few leftover steel planchets were inadvertently stamped with 1944-dated Lincoln cent dies intended for bronze production. These are about as rare as the 1943 bronze pennies and generally trade hands in the neighborhood of $75,000 to $125,000 apiece.
8. 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent
One of the most popular varieties ever struck was the 1955 doubled die Lincoln cent. The coins caused a stir when they appeared in circulation and helped fuel a surge in coin collecting during the 1950s and early ‘60s.
The 1955 doubled die penny shows heavy doubling in the obverse inscriptions and the date. It is worth $1,000 and up even in well-worn condition, with uncirculated specimens taking $2,000 or more.
9. 1969-S Doubled Die Lincoln Cent
One of the most valuable doubled die varieties ever produced is this 1969-S penny error. This issue numbers only a handful of specimens and is worth more than $30,000.
Doubling is apparent on the obverse in the inscription and date but not the mintmark. The mintmark was hand-punched on the die after it was hubbed (the process of creating a working die, where the doubling on this coin would have occurred).
10. 1972 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent
Another doubled die Lincoln cent rounds out the top 10 on this list of most valuable pennies, with this highly popular variety from 1972. The 1972 doubled die penny shows marked doubling on the obverse and is most evident in the date and inscription “LIBERTY.”
There are several classifications of 1972 doubled die pennies, but the rarest and most desirable are usually categorized as “Class I” or something similar. These are worth about $200 in circulated grades and $300 or more in uncirculated grades.
Getting the Most Money for Your Coins
Whether you have valuable pennies or other coins your wish to sell, it’s best to take them to a coin dealer who is reputable, willing to educate you on what you have, and pays fair prices. Work with a coin dealer that has been involved in the numismatic industry for many years, has affiliations with organizations such as Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, and hires highly experienced professionals who are willing to answer your questions with courtesy and skill.
Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a journalist, editor, and blogger who has won multiple awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild. He has also authored numerous books, including works profiling the history of the United States Mint and United States coinage.
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