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Which Pennies Are Valuable?

Do you want to know which pennies are valuable? Very rare pennies can be worth thousands, like a 1943 copper penny. Read on to find out about some rare pennies and why they are valuable.

Which Pennies Are Valuable?

Coinage Terms

Before you look at which pennies are valuable, it is helpful to get familiar with some terms used to describe coins.

  • Die: This is an engraved stamp used to make a coin.
  • Planchet: This is the blank piece of metal alloy that will become a coin.
  • Strike: When a die is forced onto the planchet, it is called striking a coin.
  • Doubling: When a die is struck twice, whether by accident or on purpose, it is called doubling.
  • Minting: This is the process of making coins.
  • Mint marks: These are the tiny letters on a coin that signify where the coin was minted. U.S. Mints in operation today are: Philadelphia - P, Denver -D, San Francisco - S, and West Point - W. Since the first U.S. Mint was in Philadelphia, sometimes there was not a mint mark when a coin was produced there. Older U.S. Mints were in New Orleans – O; Carson City – CC; Dahlonega, GA., - D; and Charlotte, NC - C.
  • Obverse and reverse: The obverse is the front side of the coin and the reverse is the back side.
  • Proof: These coins are made for collectors and are also called cameos. They are doubled and the die is treated and polished so the face of the coin is very shiny.

History of Pennies

The U.S. Mint started making pennies in 1793 of 100 percent copper. From 1856 to 1981, there were an alloy of other metals, like nickel, tin, and zinc, but pennies were still at least 88 percent copper. From 1982 on, they have been made of 97.6 percent zinc and 2.4 percent copper. So now, they are basically copper-coated zinc.

However, one penny was never copper. That was the 1943 steel penny nicknamed “steelie." During World War II, copper was needed for shell casings and other kinds of equipment, so pennies were made of steel with a zinc coating. These pennies were very similar to dimes and they were magnetic, so they didn’t work in vending machines. They also rusted because the zinc didn’t coat the edges. So, in 1944, the U.S. Mint went back to a copper alloy by retrieving spent shell casings.

Which Pennies Are Valuable?

Different things can make a coin valuable. Being rare is one of them, which can occur if a mint doesn’t make many or the government retrieves them to make new coins. Having an error on it is another, like doubling or using a die with a flaw. The value of a coin will be higher if it is in good condition. Mint state means it was un-circulated and near perfect.

Because steel pennies were made in such high numbers, they are not rare. However, some of the copper planchets left over from the year before were still in the machine and a few copper 1943 pennies were accidentally made. Consequently, those are very rare and valuable and can sell for over ten thousand dollars.

In 1944, when the pennies were going to be copper again, some steel planchets were struck and there are a few steel 1944 pennies. There were even fewer of these than the 1943 copper pennies and they are very valuable. One sold at auction in 2008 for $373,750 dollars.

Other Valuable Pennies

Here is a list to answer the question “Which pennies are valuable?” The values are based on good condition coins.

1793 Chain Type $5475
1793 Wreath Type $1650
1793 Liberty Cap $4,500
1794, 1795, 1796 $200 each minimum
1799 $3300
1804 $1700
Indian Head Pennies 1877 $720, 1909-S — $435
Lincoln Pennies 1909-S VDB—$465, 1914-D—$110, 1922 Plain—$380

The values of the following pennies are current market value for 2010 for almost perfect coins.

Lincoln Memorial Pennies
1955/55 Doubled on the obverse $1650
1960-D over D $150
1972/72 Doubled on the obverse $300
1984/84 $200
1990 Proof - No "S" mint mark $3,500