Ten Most Valuable US Pennies
Though they might only have a face value of one cent, there are many US pennies that are worth over $100,000. We know that sounds unbelievable, but over the course of the US Mint history, we’ve seen a lot of rare pennies. Their value comes from scarcity, but the reason for the limited number of coins varies from one to another.
How can you find pennies that are worth money? You must first start by identifying which years are significant. From there, you’ll want to look for coins of that year that meet the specific criteria. We know that sounds easier than it actually is, so we’ve created this guide to help you determine the most valuable pennies. In fact, the penny list we created has ten of the most expensive pennies sold on public record.
Though some of these are extreme examples, they are a good starting point for finding pennies worth money if you are considering an investment. Keep reading to see some of the most valuable pennies in US history.
1909-S Lincoln Penny with VDB Initials
When the Indian Head penny was replaced with the Lincoln cent in 1909, the designer Victor David Brenner added his initials at the bottom of the coin’s reverse design. The letters “V.D.B” can be spotted between the two wheat stalks, and this was a rare occurrence because, up until then, only the first initial of a designer’s last name had been included.
Just under 500,000 pennies were minted this way before the Treasury Department required that the initials be removed. As a result, these coins have become rare wheat pennies sought after by collectors. One of these coins sold for $117,500 at an auction in 2014.
1872 Indian Head Penny
A rare penny’s worth is often determined by its scarcity and condition. The 1872 Indian Head penny is a good example of a coin that isn’t hard to find at a coin show, but it is difficult to obtain one in good condition.
More than 4 million of these coins were minted, but the Panic of 1873 was an economic downturn that made it difficult for collectors to keep these coins out of circulation. As a result, it’s incredibly rare to find one in great condition with its original color, so you can consider this one of the most expensive pennies for collectors. An especially flawless example sold at auction in 2007 for over $126,000.
Doubled Die Obverse 1969-S Lincoln Penny
This coin also sold for over $126,000 because it is double died, which is noticeable on the date and lettering on its obverse side. When the coin was first discovered and reported in 1970, the government began confiscating and destroying them since they were believed to be counterfeit. The circulated versions of this penny are valuable, but uncirculated ones are even rarer.
1926-S Lincoln Penny
If you’re looking for rare pennies worth money, this one sold for nearly $150,000. These pennies’ value specifically comes from their low mintage, which is one of the lowest in history. It’s only higher than nine other wheat pennies. If you find one that is uncirculated and has retained its copper-red color, it could sell for as much as this example—possibly more!
1877 Indian Head Penny
Due to the economic slump of 1873 that continued into 1877, few Americans were saving coins for collection, so many were simply put into circulation. In addition, not many were minted in the first place. Only the 1909-S Indian Head Penny has a smaller mintage. Today, it's very rare to find an 1877 Indian Head Penny that is uncirculated. It’s worth even more when you find one with its original color. These can be worth upwards of $150,000.
1914-D Lincoln Penny - Uncirculated
This penny is another example of a coin that is hard to find in uncirculated condition. In 2017, one of these wheat pennies sold for more than $152,000! Unfortunately, the majority of these Lincoln pennies were used in “penny boards,” which were very common in the 1930s and 40s. The boards were collections of coins from circulation, so if you can find an uncirculated 1914 Lincoln Penny that is still a brilliant red color, it will fetch a lot of money at an auction. That’s why you will often find this coin on a valuable pennies chart.
1864 Indian Head Penny – “L” on Lady Liberty’s War Bonnet
On October 2011, a rare penny found its way to auction and sold for $161,000. What makes these coins worth money like that? They were minted in the midst of the Civil War when the federal government struggled to get the metal it needed for coins. Due to the fragile economic state of the country, many citizens were hoarding all of their precious metals.
Not only that, but the Indian Head design of this design is unique because it features an “L” in the tail ribbon of Lady Liberty’s war bonnet. This was only done halfway through the mintage of all 1964 pennies, so there were only about 5 million coins made like this. When you combine this with the age of the coins, it’s very rare to find these old pennies in uncirculated condition.
1856 Flying Eagle Cent
Back in 1856, the US Mint was faced with a dilemma. The price of copper rose to a point that made it more expensive to produce than the coin was even worth. In an effort to cut costs, it was decided to reduce the size of the penny’s diameter. However, they would need approval from Congress to make the change. As a result, a limited number of these new pennies were produced to present to lawmakers in the year 1856. There are disagreements over the true number of samples made, but it's estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,200. Either way, it’s incredibly rare to find one in any condition, circulated or uncirculated.
1944-D Lincoln Penny Struck on Steel Planchet
This is another example of a penny worth money to collectors. It sold for $373,750 in 2008. It’s important to note that this is one of the most valuable wheat pennies because it was made by mistake. In 1944, the mint reverted to using the original bronze alloy for all pennies. However, there were two zinc-plated steel alloys that made their way into the press in San Francisco.
This particular penny was not circulated, and it was well-preserved. It also was well-struck in the first place, so it has exceptional detail. As a result, this is one of the most valuable wheat pennies.
1943-D Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze
We’ve covered a lot of different pennies to look for, but what penny is worth the most? The 1943-D Lincoln Bronze Cent sold for a whopping $1.7 million dollars in 2010. It is another example of an accident that yielded expensive pennies.
These pennies were struck during a time when the U.S. switched to zinc-plated steel pennies. It’s estimated that a small handful of bronze pennies were accidentally minted by the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints. Since most of these were circulated, they have a lot of wear, but this bronze penny produced by the Denver mint is pristine. Therefore, it is the most valuable penny on the list.
Learn More About What Pennies Are Worth Money
If you would like to learn more about the value of old pennies by year, we encourage you to contact International Precious Metals. We’ve been a trusted online coin dealer for more than 25 years, so you can count on us to provide you with honest and reliable information. For that reason and many more, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact our helpful representatives. We are happy to provide you with guidance over the phone, or you can submit our online chat form to ask any questions you might have.
If you’re interested in reading more about rare US coins, check out some of our other great posts including, ‘Investing in Gold Coins vs Bars’, ‘Is it Safe to Buy Silver Online' and ‘Guide To Buying Gold’.