If you're interested in numismatics or just curious about the value of old coins, you should definitely learn about rare pennies that are worth money. These coins are fascinating, not just for their monetary value, but also for the historical context they offer.
Most pennies you'll find in a change jar at home are worth 1 cent. However, there are some rare pennies worth more than their face value. Such coins attract a higher value because of superior features in grade or rarity.
But with many coin collectors, there are tremendously low chances of finding that precious penny today. So, how would you identify one if you are lucky enough to bump into it?
Here is a list of rare pennies worth money today!
1. 1792 Birch Cent
Known auction value: $2.6M
The 1792 Birch cent is the most prominent early coin made by the United States Mint. It’s named after its British designer William Russell Birch.
This penny is characterized by a profile of Liberty with curling flowing hair in front. On the obverse, the coin features a special phrase; “Liberty Parent of Science and Industry.” The denomination of the coin, “One Cent,” is boldly engraved at the center, surrounded by a ring of decoration enclosed in an edge inscribed “United States of America.”
It remains the finest known penny sold for nearly $2.6m at a Heritage auction in 2015 to Kevin Lipton, a Beverly Hills coin dealer.
2: 1793 Liberty Cap Wreath Cent
Known auction value: $940,000
The Liberty cap wreath cent was designed in 1793 after the shelving of the Birch cent because of the chain element in its make. However, the Liberty cap wreath cent lasted briefly as it was changed to the Liberty cap wreath penny produced from 1793 to 1796.
To this date, the Liberty cap wreath pennies are desired by coin collectors throughout the US. With a mintage of 35,000 pieces, this coin variety remains a rare but valuable penny you can find.
As coin collectors continue to heavily seek for the 1793 Liberty cap wreath cent, even its most corroded specimen will still retail for thousands of dollars. The best state of this penny, rated MS58, was auctioned for $940,000 in 2017.
3: 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent
Known auction value: $862,500
In the year 1793, the United States penny took different designs. Among the variants of the 1793 flowing hair wreath penny, the 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent has a unique, recognizable reverse design.
The penny features a stylized vine embodying a wreath circling the “One Cent” denomination engraved at the coin's center. Above the coin’s date is a sprig that resembles a strawberry leaf hence the name “Strawberry leaf.”
During a 2009 auction, the finest piece of this rare coin sold for $862,500.
4: 1943 Bronze Lincoln Penny
Known auction value: $372,000
The 1943 Bronze Lincoln penny was produced erroneously during World War II. The war resulted in a copper shortage as ammunition, telephone lines, and electrical wirings manufacturing used more of this metal.
The United States Mint then abandoned the use of copper in making coins and switched to nickel. It was during this transitionary period that errors occurred.
During the production of nickel coins, bronze planchets were erroneously mixed with steel planchets, resulting in bronze coins. The best preserved 1943 Bronze Lincoln penny will fetch at least $200,000, with an auction record of $372,000 in 2021 for an MS62-rated specimen.
5: 1958 Lincoln Wheat Cent (Doubled Die Obverse) Penny
Known auction value: $336,000
This 1958 Doubled-Die Obverse penny stands out as one of the rarest pennies of the 20th century. The coin has a visible doubling on the lines “Liberty” and “In God We Trust.” As a rare penny, it’s believed that there are only three recognized varieties of this particular 1958 Lincoln penny variation.
As expected, the 1958 Lincoln wheat cent penny is highly desired by coin collectors globally. It attracts an exorbitant ransom. One of these coins, rated MS64, was auctioned for $336,000 in 2008.
6: 1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze
Known auction value: $282,000
The 1943-S Lincoln cent struck on bronze is the second type of 1943 Lincoln cent erroneously minted on a bronze planchet instead of a zinc-plated steel planchet. A student discovered the coin after receiving a change from a cafeteria in 1947; being a coin collector, he set it aside.
The coin was auctioned in 2016 at US Coins Signature Auction, fetching $282,000.
7: 1909 VDB Matte Proof Lincoln Penny
Known auction value: $258,500
It is a highly valued penny bearing the designer’s initials “VDB.” It’s believed that only 1,194 coins had been made before the designer’s initials were removed in obedience to the Treasury Department orders. The low production, coupled with a distinct eye-catching surface and the brilliant colors of the coins after 100 years of storage, makes this rare penny more attractive to collectors.
You’ll find the 1909 VDB Matte proof Lincoln penny retailing at $34,000-$70,000. The highest auction price for an MS-67-rated specimen was $258,500 in 2014.
8: 1856 Flying Eagle Cent
Known auction value: $172,500
The 1856 Flying Eagle cent symbolizes the change from the large cents produced after America became independent to the smaller pennies we see today. The United States Mint records no less than 634 specimens were produced and presented to the government of the day as samples. After that, more 1856 Flying Eagle cents, approximated to be 4,000 coins, were produced for different purposes.
On the lower end, an 1856 Flying Eagle cent will fetch $15,000. The highest value (MS66 rate) this type of penny fetched was $240,000 in 2020 at an auction.
9: 1877 Indian Head Penny
Known auction value: $149,500
The 1877 Indian Head penny is the rarest and oldest ever minted penny of all Indian Head pennies. The original color of this coin is copper-red, making it an extraordinary penny for collectors. This coin did not have the motto “In God We Trust.”
On the head side of the coin is a profile depicting young Lady Liberty wearing pearls on her neck and a tiara (Native American man’s feather) on her head. On her left are the words “United States” and “America” on the right. The word “Liberty” is engraved on her headband.
The reverse features an oak sprig wreath tied with a ribbon knot at the bottom. The denomination “One Cent” is embodied in the center of the wreath.
10: 1992 Close AM Reverse Lincoln Penny
Known value: $20,000
This penny is a unique variant mistakenly made using a proof die for the tail side of a batch of ordinary business coins. There was no separating distance between the letters “AM” in “America.” Both letters seemed to be touching each other. According to numismatists, at least 250,000 pennies were struck with the error.
In their circulated states, you’ll find the coins selling for $2000-$3000. However, a finer uncirculated grade can fetch up to $20,000.
Rare pennies have some sentimental value, and their current worth can be thousands of dollars. If you have some rare pennies worth money, visit renowned auction houses for free evaluation and guidance on selling them.