Many people overlook the value of a penny and consider it to be worth just a few cents. However, some pennies have a much higher value and are considered rare coins that can fetch a significant amount of money. Although pennies are generally the lowest denomination in coinage, specific production runs and years can make them extremely valuable. Don’t underestimate the potential worth of these small copper coins.
As a coin collector, the value of coins is a major driving force behind the passion and dedication put into collecting. Collectors devote significant amounts of time and energy to acquiring and preserving various types of pennies, including Lincoln wheat pennies, Indian head pennies, and bronze pennies from both the Philadelphia and United States mints. Both as an investment and for personal enjoyment, coin dealers are motivated to pursue this hobby with great enthusiasm.
These are the top ten costliest pennies ever auctioned off.
10. 914-S Lincoln Penny – $105,800
The 1914-S Lincoln Penny, unlike the majority of the pennies discussed in this article, does not hold much value. The San Francisco Mint manufactured around four million of these coins, but what sets this penny apart is its exceptional state, even after more than a century. The coin exhibits no visible signs of wear and tear on its surface and still maintains its original red-orange copper hue.
Experts believe that the 1914-S Lincoln Penny has survived for so long because it was likely kept by a coin collector in San Francisco back in 1914, before it could become damaged during circulation. The person who held the coin for many years also took great care to store it properly, preserving its original color.
9. 1872 Indian Head Penny – $126,500
Finding a circulated Indian Head Penny may not be as difficult as one might think, despite it being a rare coin. Over 4 million of these coins were minted, but due to financial struggles during the time of its production, including the economic downturn caused by the “Panic of 1873” and the civil war with the United States in 1864, only a select few were able to save these coins for their collections. Consequently, most of these pennies ended up in circulation. Coin dealers or coin shows are good places to look for Indian Head Pennies in circulated grades.
The 1872 Indian Head Penny stands out as a rare find due to its exceptional condition. This coin boasts an almost flawless appearance, complete with a sharp strike that showcases its intricate details. Additionally, this coin has been well-preserved over time, allowing it to maintain its original red-copper color.
8. 1877 Indian Head Penny – $149,500
Back in 1877, the United States was experiencing a severe economic downturn that left families struggling to make ends meet. As a result, the demand for coinage was at an all-time low, with many Americans even unwilling to save a penny to start their own coin collection. It was during this time that the rarest Indian Head Penny ever minted was created. Sold for $149,500 at Heritage Auctions in August 2007, this 1877 Indian Head Penny remains a significant piece of U.S. coinage history.
The 1877 Indian Head Penny boasts a smaller mintage, however, the majority of them were preserved in uncirculated condition. Owning an uncirculated 1877 Indian Head Penny is deemed extremely rare, especially considering the challenging economic climate of that year. An original copper-red colored penny of this kind is considered exceptional.
7. 1856 Flying Eagle Penny – $172,500
If you happen to acquire a Flying Eagle Cent with an 1856 date, you’ve come across one of the most valuable pennies in the world. In fact, an uncirculated coin with the same date was sold for an astounding $172,500 in Orlando, Florida through Heritage Auctions back in January 2004. The rarity of the coin contributed to its high value.
Before the current production year, pennies were the size of a modern half-dollar coin. The copper content in each penny was worth more than a cent due to the high value of copper as a commodity at that time. In 1856, the United States Mint decreased the size of pennies to the diameter that we are accustomed to today. This year marked the beginning of smaller-sized coins.
6. 1909 VDB Proof Lincoln Penny – $258,500
Back in August 2014, a remarkable 1909 Lincoln Penny was put up for auction in Chicago, Illinois by Heritage Auctions. What made this coin so special was its uncirculated condition and the breathtaking rainbow toning, with hues of red and brown. The coin also boasted the initials VDB at the bottom of the tails side, which stands for Victor David Brenner, the designer of the new penny. This was a significant change from the traditional use of a single initial. It’s worth noting that only 1,194 of these rare coins were ever produced, making it incredibly difficult to find one in uncirculated condition. After the auction, the penny was sold for a whopping $258,500, making it an impressive addition to any coin collection.
5. 1943-S Lincoln Penny made of Bronze – $282,000
Back in February 2016, Heritage Auctions in Long Beach, California sold a Lincoln Penny dated 1943-S, made on bronze for an astonishing $282,000. Normally, pennies made during this period were struck on zinc plated steel, but this particular coin was struck on a bronze planchet, which was an error at the time. The mistake occurred in 1943 at the San Francisco mint, and only six of these bronzed pennies have been found. Given these circumstances, it’s no wonder why this penny is considered to be extremely rare and valuable.
4. 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny – About $336,000
For coin collectors, the 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny holds a significant value and is often deemed as the holy grail. Its rarity has made it one of the most valuable pennies in the world. This was proven when the coin was sold for an astounding $336,000 at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction in March 2018, setting an all-time record for the 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny.
The Double Die penny, also known as the Double Stamped penny, was created as a result of an error during the stamping process, which led to the lettering on the front of the penny being affected. The coin is named after this mistake. There are only three known Lincoln pennies in existence with this error, one of which was sold in 2018 and is in excellent condition.
3. 1944-S Lincoln Steel Penny – $373,750
In Baltimore, Maryland, Heritage Auctions sold a 1944-S Lincoln penny in August of 2008 for a whopping $373,750. This particular coin was in pristine, uncirculated condition and was minted on a steel planchet that was plated with zinc. Interestingly, this rare coin was supposed to be made of an alloy consisting of 95% copper and 5% tin, making it an exceptional find.
Unfortunately, this mistake was not discovered until a few coins had already been produced. As a result, this coin has become one of the most valuable ones in existence. This particular coin is rare due to a minting error, and it fetched a substantial sum for its owner when sold to a fortunate coin collector.
2. 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent – About $862,500
At an auction, the 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent was sold for a whopping $863,000. Lady Liberty wearing a modest cap is featured on the front of the coin, while the back showcases a wreath. This large cent is truly a remarkable piece of history.
Back in 1890, Lorin G. Parmelee, a renowned collector, auctioned off a coin that would become a hot item among collectors. This coin has since then changed hands multiple times through private deals over the course of 109 years. Eventually, Stack’s Bowers Galleries got hold of the coin and put it up for auction in December 2004, fetching a whopping $414,000. The coin was auctioned once again in January 2009, this time for a record-breaking $862,500, setting a new benchmark for one-cent coins sold at auctions.
1. 1943-D type Lincoln Bronze Penny – $1.7 million
In September 2010, a private sale was conducted by Legend Numismatics, where an uncirculated 1943-D Lincoln penny was sold. This penny held the record for being the most expensive penny ever sold at an auction because it was struck on a bronze planchet. The penny was sold for an astonishing price of $1,700,000.
In 1942, the penny was intended to be made from a bronze alloy but ended up being struck on zinc-plated steel. Interestingly, it is speculated that a few pennies from the production accidentally made their way into the San Francisco and Philadelphia mints.
About 20 instances of this coin have been discovered from various locations. Nevertheless, the Denver mint has only produced one of them, which is what renders it extremely valuable. No other coin like this has been found anywhere else in the world.
It’s hard to imagine that a single Lincoln penny could be worth almost 2 million dollars, but it’s true! It just goes to show that it’s always worth taking a closer look at the dates on your coins. Who knows what treasures you might find?
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