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Rare Pennies

When looking through your loose change, do you ever wonder if any are rare pennies in your collection? If so, read on to learn about some unusual pennies and their potential value.

Rare Pennies


Before you look at rare pennies, you need to go over the terms that are used in describing coins so you can better understand what makes a coin rare or special.

  • Planchet or blank - This is the metal that will be made into a coin.
  • Die - This is the engraved stamp that makes the impression on the planchet.
  • Strike - The planchet is put into a machine where the die strikes it, making the coin.
  • Doubling - This occurs when the die strikes the planchet two or more times. Sometimes this doubling will have a bearing on the value of a rare coin.
  • Minting - This refers to the process of making coins.
  • Mint marks - There is often a tiny letter on the coin that indicates at which U.S. Mint the coin was made. Current mint marks are: P - Philadelphia, S - San Francisco, D - Denver, and W - West Point. Older mint marks are: O - New Orleans; CC - Carson City; D - Dahlonega, GA; and C - Charlotte, NC.
  • Grade - Coins are graded according to the amount of wear and circulation. It ranges from poor to mint state.
  • Proof - This as a coin minted for collectors. They are made with a special die that is treated, polished, and doubled. They are shinier than other coins and are also called cameos.
  • Obverse and reverse - The heads side of the coin is the obverse and the tails side is the reverse.

About Rare Pennies

Pennies can be rare for many reasons. One is that not many were minted at the time. Another is they were collected and melted down to make new pennies. Also, doubling and mistakes on the die is another reason.

After 1857, pennies were made smaller and many pennies were melted down because of the high cost of copper. Also, since there were few coin collectors, nobody thought to save coins. Following are the top pennies and half cents, with the estimated value as of 2009. The value is based on the penny being in good condition, meaning it is worn but not damaged. Values are obtained from Coin Study.

1793 Chain Type $5475
1793 Wreath Type $1650
1793 Liberty Cap $4,500
1794 | 1795 | 1796 minimum value $200 each
1799 $3300
1804 $1700
Indian Head Pennies
1877 $720
1909-S $435
Lincoln Pennies
1909-S VDB $465
1914-D $110
1922 Plain $380
Here are some old and rare half cents:
1793 $2500
1794 $540
1795 $428
1797 $265
1802 $880

There are very few recent rare pennies. The values given are current market price for almost perfect coins.

Rare Lincoln Memorial Pennies
1955/55 Doubled-Die Obverse $1650
1960-D over D $150
1972/72 Doubled-Die Obverse $300
1984/84 $200
1990 Proof - No "S" mint mark $3500

Coin Collecting

What makes a coin both rare and valuable is interesting. Sometimes coins become rare over time, as they are lost, destroyed by fire or floods, worn out from use, or buried in a jar. Mistakes like doubling, mistakes on the die, or missing mint marks add to the value of rare coins. During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt stopped the circulation of gold coins. Since many of them were melted down, the few that remain are rare.

Coin collecting can be a fascinating hobby. My Coin Collecting has loads of information about getting started in coin collecting. The Frequently Asked Questions section is very informative and will give you lots of advice. Coin Collector has a lot of information about coin collecting, prices of metals, etc.