Pennies Worth Thousands Of Dollars Could Be In Your Pocket Right Now
By Dave Basner
March 18, 2020
If you find yourself with not much to do as you stay socially distant in your home, you might want to take some time to look through your couch cushions or coin jars. While doing so might just result in you finding pocket change, there is a chance that you could stumble onto something worth a whole lot more. It turns out that not every penny is worth just one cent - some could actually be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, in 2019, a 1943 bronze Lincoln cent sold at auction for $204,000, and in 2015, a Birch cent, one of America's first pennies, was bought for $2.6 million dollars. So how do you know if you've got just an everyday penny or a goldmine?
Here are some of the most valuable coins you might actually have laying around:
1943 Bronze Lincoln
The Lincoln cent that sold last year wasn't the most valuable Lincoln cent - someone paid $1.7 million for one in 2010. So what makes it special? The same thing that makes many coins valuable - a mistake. The error came from how the coins were minted back in the early '40s. To help preserve copper for World War II, the U.S. Mint made pennies from zinc-coated steel disks. However, a few of the old bronze coin blanks which were used for the copper pennies somehow got in the mix and went into circulation. So a 1943 bronze penny might be very lucky. Only 15 to 20 are known to collectors, but there might be more out there. Even if you find one though, it could be fake. To be sure it is real, see if it sticks to a magnet. If it does, it's not real.
1969-S Double Die Obverse
Sometimes a coin is stamped twice, and when that occurs it makes the coin incredibly valuable. It happened to some 1969 pennies, and you can especially see the mistake in the word "Liberty," which shows some misalignment. These pennies also have an "S" below the year, which shows that they were minted in San Francisco. At most, 1,000 of these pennies made it to circulation before the mistake was discovered. If you have one in good condition, it could sell for $75,000. Even in just fair condition, it could move for $35,000.
1992 Close AM Reverse
Because the letters "A" and "M" in America are so close that they touch, the 1992 Close AM penny could be worth up to $20,000. Usually, those two letters are clearly separate, but a mix-up with the die, the object they stamp the coins with, led to the error. On the pennies, the Mint accidentally used a die meant for collectors coins. There were actually 250,000 pennies printed this way, and while it has to be in shiny, new condition to go for 20 grand, a used one could still go for around 2 to 3,000 bucks.
1972 Double Die Obverse
This 1972 penny also got double stamped, with the mistake once again visible in the word "Liberty." These pennies saw a bit more circulation, with at least 250,000 getting out. Because they aren't as rare, a used one is only worth about $100, but a clean one could go for $500.
1995 Double Die Obverse
Once again, another coin that got stamped twice. It is a little more subtle on this penny, only really visible in the letter "B" of "Liberty." These are also much more common and relatively easy to find, making them worth just $45 in good condition - still more than one cent though!
1999 Wide AM Reverse
Having the "A" and the "M" in "America" being really close isn't the only way a penny is more valuable, when the "A" and "M" are far apart it increases its worth too. In fact, the 1999 Wide AM penny, which was caused by another die mix-up, could sell for $500 in good condition, but more often goes for around $45.
1983 Double Die Reverse
One more double stamped penny is this one from 1983. About 250,000 of them made their way to the masses, and you can tell you've got one because the "E Plurbis Unum" on the back looks like it would if you had double vision. It's another pretty common one so only worth $75 to $200.
Hopefully one of the pennies you've got laying around is worth a lot more than one cent. Meanwhile, if you want to ensure you have a penny worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, you can buy one or bid on one at Heritage Auctions here.
Photo: Heritage Auctions - HA.com, Getty Images