26 Rarest And Most Valuable Pennies Worth Money

Pennies are some of the world’s most popular coins. They have a long history that dates back more than a century. Some are worth just their face value—1 cent—and others would beat your imagination with just how much they have sold at auctions.

An innocent-looking penny can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just one coin. This phenomenon may surprise you, making you curious as to why anyone would pay that much for an old coin. Well, where an uninformed sees an old coin, an expert collector sees value. Some of the appeals are sentimental, while half of it is rooted in the condition of the coin.

With coins in general and pennies in particular, it is never what you see on the surface. As the ones presented in the chart below and in the subsequent list will show, there’s more to these pennies than meets the eye. Satisfy your curiosity by reading about 26 of the rarest and most valuable pennies.

No
Name of Penny
Grade
Price
1
1914 S Penny
MS 66
$105,800
2
1909 S VDB Lincoln Penny
MS 66
$7000
3
1944-D Lincoln Penny
MS 67+
$22,425
4
1969-S Lincoln Penny Double Die Obverse
MS 64
$126,500
5
1872 Indian Head Penny
MS 66
$3,300
6
1926-S Lincoln Penny
MS 65
$149,500
7
1877 Indian Head Penny
MS 66
$149,500
8
1864 Indian Head Penny L On Ribbon
PR 65
$161,000
9
1914-D Lincoln penny
MS 66+
$44,400
10
1856 Flying Eagle Cent
MS 66
$172,500
11
1943 Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze Alloy
MS 63
$504,000
12
1909 VDB Matte Proof Lincoln Penny
PR 67
$258,500
13
1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze
AU 58
$282,000
14
1958 Doubled Die Obverse Cent
MS 64
$336,000
15
1944-S Lincoln Steel Penny
MS 66
$408,000
16
1943-D Lincoln Bronze Cent
MS 64
$1,700,000
17
1972 Doubled Die Obverse
MS 67
$7,637.50
18
1995 Doubled Die Obverse
MS 69
$3,001.20
19
1999 Lincoln Cent Wide AM Reverse
 
 
20
1983 Double Die Reverse
MS 68
$7,050
21
1931-S Wheat Penny
MS 66+
$18,600
22
1917 Doubled Die Wheat Penny
MS 67+
$120,000
23
1909-S Wheat Penny
MS 67
$69,000
24
1922-D No D Wheat Penny
MS 64
$92,000
25
1955 Doubled Die Wheat Penny
MS 65+
$114,000
26
1943 Copper Cent
AU 50
$46,000

1. 1914-S Penny Regular Strike

Grade: MS 66 

Price: $105,800

1914-S Penny Regular Strike

In our opinion, the 1914 penny marked with the S on it because it was produced in the San Francisco mint, is a rare penny. Although some experts do not consider the 4 million mintage as such, we do. It’s been more than a century since this beautiful coin was minted. This is why this particular piece sold by Bowers/Merena in 2006 is an amazing one. It has been well preserved featuring most of its luster. Pennies from this year, and in MS 66 condition are now extremely rare.

2. 1909-S VDB Lincoln Penny

Grade: MS 66 

Price: $7,000

1909-S VDB Lincoln Penny

This is one of the most storied pennies in the history of pennies. The story behind its production makes it even more sentimental for many expert coin collectors. Unlike many peers, this penny has an initial from the designer, Victor David Brenner.

But as the event happened, Brenner had his full name written on the coin sample design but mint engraver Charles Barber changed it to what you have on the coin now, VDB.

The backlash that followed in those years includes the accusation that Brenner took advantage of the coin for illegal advertising.  At any rate, this 1909 coin is a beautiful specimen of what could happen if a coin is well preserved. This coin sold on eBay in 2022 for $7000.

3. 1944-D Lincoln Penny

Grade: MS 67+

Price: $22,425

1944-D Lincoln Penny

In the war year of 1944 the Denver mint struck more than 430 million of this penny making it anything but rare. So what makes this specimen special? It was struck on a steel planchet left over from the 1943 operation.

See also  20 Rare and Most Valuable US Coins Ever Sold

Complaints led to the halting of steel pennies and the mints would revert to the normal composition the following year. Still, collectors would pay top dollar for specimens of this rarity. This one was sold by Bowers/Merena in 2005.

4. 1969-S Lincoln Penny Double Die Obverse

Grade: MS 64

Price: $126,500

1969-S Lincoln Penny Double Die Obverse

There are fake 1969 double die pennies just in case you have an interest in them. Though the United States government has seized a couple of them in the past, there’s no telling how far imitators are willing to go to make a novice lose money. This piece is an authentic one that was found in a roll containing 1969-S cents by a collector named Micheal Tremonti. Prices of these gems—1969-S double die—have since risen upon seeing that there are only a few of them in existence. This one sold on Heritage Auctions in 2008.

5. 1872 Indian Head Penny

Grade: MS 66

Price: $3,300

1872 Indian Head Penny

The auction firm, Stacks, sold this rare Indian head penny in 1997 for $3,300. One of the factors that make this Indian Head penny rare is that it had a low mintage, the lowest in the series. There are about 5000 of this penny in existence, combining all grades.

6. 1926-S Lincoln Penny

Grade: MS 65

Price: $149,500

1926-S Lincoln Penny

1926 coins of this grade are very rare. This is why this one is so valuable. Specimens like these 1926-S were bought off the public in the 40s and 50s. This penny does not have any marks and comes with a high eye appeal. This one went on sale at Heritage Auctions in 2006 for $149,500.

7.1877 Indian Head Penny

Grade: MS 66

Price: $149,500

1877 Indian Head Penny

Of all the Indian Head pennies, this is the rarest date. The coin came at a period when the country was experiencing an economic downturn. People were spending more than saving. The ones that were saved happened to be ones in uncirculated condition. This one was sold on Heritage Auctions in 2007.

8. 1864 Indian Head Penny L On Ribbon

Grade: PR 65

Price: $161,000

1864 Indian Head Penny L On Ribbon

This Indian Head Penny is called L on Ribbon because the L which is the initials of James Longacre, the designer of the coin, is placed on the ribbon behind the neck. Only 20 of these pennies were made, adding to the extreme rarity of it. What happens at auctions when rare pennies like this turn up is, collectors come in trying to win the sale at all costs. This one went on sale in 2011 at Heritage Auctions for $161,000.

9. 1914-D Lincoln Penny

Grade: MS 66

Price: $44,400

1914-D Lincoln Penny

When this 1914-D coin came out, it was well accepted by the public and they hoarded them. Years later, by the 1930s, when numismatic organizations began to take note of this penny, most of the excellent grades became rare but circulated.

Uncirculated specimens turn up sometimes though. In the 1970s there were examples found in the Pacific and New Zealand. This example sold in 2019 at Heritage Auctions for $44,400.

10. 1856 Flying Eagle Cent

Grade: MS 66

Price: $172,500

1856 Flying Eagle Cent

This is one of the two Flying Eagle cents graded MS 66. It is the finest you will ever encounter. The 1856 cent was produced at a time when copper was too expensive to produce one cent coins.

In a bid to reduce this cost, the mint had to first reduce the weight of the cents, then present the specimens—800 of them, to Congress. This one here is one of those special coins made in that year. It was sold on Heritage Auctions for more than 172 thousand dollars.

11. 1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze Alloy

Grade: MS 63

Price: $504,000

1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze Alloy

Most old collectors would remember the 1943 Lincoln penny for the publicity it enjoyed in the 1940s when it was rumored that Henry Ford promised to reward with a car anyone who found the copper cent.

This bronze cent is worth all the hype. It is one of the rarest coins in the history of US coins. Only 6 of these S cents have turned up over the decades of searching for them. This one sold on Heritage Auctions in 2020 for half a million dollars.

12. 1909 VDB Matte Proof Lincoln Penny

Grade: PR 67

Price: $258,500

1909 VDB Matte Proof Lincoln Penny

This is the only coin considered the finest of the lot among the 1909 VDB marked cents. This one is from John Story Jenks’s collection. At the time this coin was sold, it was the highest paid for a proof cent. PCGS features other grades of the coin though none is like this specimen which sold for $258,500 in 2014 by Heritage Auctions.

13.1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze

Grade: AU 58

Price: $282,000

1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze

This 1943 S coin was struck on a bronze planchet instead of a zinc-plated steel one. It is an error coin and six of these are known to exist, all of them made in the San Francisco mint. This is the second finest of the 1943 S coins. It was sold by Heritage Auctions in 2016.

See also  10 Most Valuable Morgan Silver Dollars: A Complete Guide

14. 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Cent

Grade: MS 64

Price: $336,000

1958 Doubled Die Obverse Cent

The double die Lincoln penny is a specimen from just three that are known to exist. There’s a doubling in the word LIBERTY, and in the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. It also shows some doubling in the date, particularly the number 8. This Lincoln cent with its doubling was unknown to collectors for years until the 1980s. This sample was sold at Stacks Bowers galleries for $336,000 in 2018.

15. 1944-S Lincoln Steel Penny

Grade: MS 66

Price: $408,000

1944-S Lincoln Steel Penny

This is the only steel cent from the San Francisco mint that’s been classified as the finest. It was the war period when this cent was made. The American war efforts required that metals, copper, and zinc, be directed into the manufacture of war materials.

The mints had to improvise. They struck these coins by coating steel with a thin layer of zinc. The results were unpleasant. The rusted, grown mildews were magnetic. The vending machines wouldn’t accept them. In the years that followed, the mints would have to stop using this composition. This one here sold for $208,000 in 2021 at Heritage Auctions.

16. 1943-D Lincoln Bronze Cent

Grade: MS 64

Price: $1,700,000

1943-D Lincoln Bronze Cent

The existence of this bronze cent was unknown until 1979. It is the only known cent to have been struck by mistake with a bronze planchet at the Denver mint. It sold for 1.7 million dollars by Legend Numismatics in New Jersey. The buyer was a businessman who chose to remain anonymous. Officials of PCGS estimate that there were less than 20 of these error coins from that mint. It is the most valuable cent in the world. And very rare too.

17. 1972 Doubled Die Obverse

Grade: MS 67

Price: $7,637.50

1972 Doubled Die Obverse

This cent is one of the most important error coins in the family of Lincoln pennies. The doubling is evident in the word LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST. The estimate says there are 250,000 of this coin floating around in people’s pocket change. This one was sold in 2015 by Heritage Auctions.

18. 1995 Doubled Die Obverse

Grade: MS 69

Price: $3,001.20

1995 Doubled Die Obverse

This penny makes it to this list because it’s an error coin. They don’t turn up easily. And although this one isn’t as valuable as the others on this list, it’s only a matter of time.

You will note doubling in the B in LIBERTY. There’s more doubling in the date and WE TRUST but you have to look very closely to see it. This penny was sold in Heritage Auctions in 2021 for $3,001.20.

19. 1999 Lincoln Cent Wide AM Reverse

Grade: MS 67

Price: $1,260

1999 Lincoln Cent Wide AM Reverse

The intention was to produce San Francisco coins with a wide AM in the word AMERICA to distinguish the pennies from that mint from others. The style ended up being used in the Philadelphia mint too. These pennies are so rare only 12 have been graded MS 67.

20. 1983 Double Die Reverse

Grade: MS 68

Price: $7,050

1983 Double Die Reverse

This is a double die reverse with a very evident doubling in the words UNITED, and a fading in the word STATES. It appears from the perfect doubling of the words ONE CENT, that the mint workers deliberately created this error. This coin is graded MS 68. It was sold at Heritage Auctions in 2017.

21. 1931-S Wheat Penny

Grade: MS 66+

Price: $18,600

1931-S Wheat Penny

Graded 1931-S wheat pennies of this luster are rare. This one represents one of the best specimens with a deep brown color like honey. There are pepper spots on the reverse that can be seen under a magnifier. Other than this one, there’s been no other wheat penny from this year with the same condition. A buyer paid more than 18 thousand dollars for this specimen at Heritage Auctions.

22. 1917 Doubled Die Wheat Penny

Grade: MS 67+

Price: $120,000

1917 Doubled Die Wheat Penny

This is the most sought-after penny from the year 1917. Its type of double die is unlike any others. There’s a doubling in the date and the letters of IN GOD WE TRUST. This 1917 wheat penny sold a whopping $120,000 at Stacks Bowers.

23. 1909-S Wheat Penny

Grade: MS 67

Price: $69,000

1909-S Wheat Penny

This wheat penny is a rare kind. It features a mix of colors in the middle and around the rim—orange-red and yellow-gold respectively. This penny is a semi-key date, a little difficult to obtain. This one was sold by Heritage Auctions for $69,000.

24. 1922-D No D Wheat Penny

Grade: MS 64

Price: $92,000

1922-D No D Wheat Penny

What makes this penny with Abraham Lincoln’s image on the obverse rare is the lack of a mint mark. It was made in the Denver mint and ought to have a D mark on the obverse. And it may have partly been because Denver was the only mint making pennies at the time. This here is a piece from a number of pennies made in a rush by the Denver mint without a mark. Stacks sold it for $92,000.

See also  20 Rare and Most Valuable Presidential Dollar Coins Ever Sold

25. 1955 Doubled Die Wheat Penny

Grade: MS 65

Price: $114,000

1955 Doubled Die Wheat Penny

A man named James Ruddy discovered the first 1955 double die obverse. Later it was discovered that 40,000 pieces of the coin were struck at the mint. An inspector had noticed the error coins and destroyed them but many more had already mixed with the bunch of coins, bagged and being sent out to the Reserve. This coin here was one of the many that made it to the banks. Stacks sold it for $114,000.

26. 1943 Copper Cent

Grade: AU 50

Price: $46,000

1943 Copper Cent

From the second world war period comes this very interesting copper penny. The most distinguishing mark of this 1943 penny from others like it is the little error on the head of the image of Lincoln. It is a planchet void that happened when the coin was struck. Only 12 of these coins have been traced. This one was sold on Heritage Auctions in 2001 for $46,000.

The History Of The Lincoln Penny

The life of every Lincoln penny began with the desire of the mint to create a coin with the image of the late Abraham Lincoln on the obverse. This was in January 1909 and this was a significant year because it was the centennial birthday of Lincoln. It became the most widely loved coin with a person’s image on it.

Though many felt that having Lincoln’s image on the coin was monarchical, the mint would go ahead with the project and the first coins touched the public’s hands—and hearts—on August 2, 1909.

The first few coins had the initials of the man who designed the penny, Victor David Brenner, VDB, on the obverse. Critics thought it was too much of an advertisement for the designer so, in the days that followed, the initials were deleted.

1918 swung in and the initials of David Brenner were back on the penny again near Lincoln’s shoulder, only this time they were smaller. The first cents or pennies were manufactured with 95% copper but in 1943 war efforts made it crucial to make steel cents coated with zinc.

When the expediency was no more, the mint reverted to the original composition until the year 1982 when once more inflation in metal products caused the mint to make pennies with more zinc than copper. In 1959 there was a change in the design of the reverse side of the penny.

The engraver Frank Gasparro was contracted to make a new one for the sesquicentennial birthday of Lincoln. The new design featured the Lincoln Memorial building. Since that time the penny has experienced more changes. The penny is a well-loved coin by the American public, mostly because of the image of Abraham Lincoln on it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Pennies should I keep?

There are certain pennies you should definitely keep because collectors and experts love them and their value will continue to spike. A few of them are;

  • 1995 Lincoln Memorial Cent Double Die Obverse
  • 1970 S Lincoln Memorial Cent (Small Date, high 7)
  • 1999 Lincoln Memorial Cent (Close AM)
  • 1984 Lincoln Memorial Cent (Double die ear)
  • 1983 Lincoln Memorial Cent ( Double Die reverse)

If you find any of these years in your loose change, take a moment to examine them for the variety.

Why is the 1999 penny worth so much?

Pennies from 1999 can be worth as much as $4,500 if it has errors, especially the ones from the Philadelphia mint. Check the reverse for an abnormally wide gap between A and M in the word AMERICA. That error makes the coin worth more.

Final Thoughts

The penny—any penny from any year and design—is perhaps America’s most decorated and most loved coin. It is also the most popular. Once the word penny made it into day-to-day diction the status of the coin itself achieved immortality. Every time you see a bunch of old pennies, you should breathe, then take your time to scrutinize the lot. You just might be Heritage Auctions’ next big seller.

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