You may have some coins worth big money sitting in your pocket right now. There are many reasonably valuable U.S. error coins and die varieties in circulation today. People overlook these coins because they have small distinguishing characteristics that are not easily recognizable, such as a modest doubling of the coin image, or minute differences in the size or spacing of the letters in the legends. Learn which of your pocket change coins is worth a significant premium over face value, and what to look for.
Be sure to do your coin hunting with at least a 6x power magnifier, so you don't miss anything!
The 6 Most Common Valuable Coins
01 of 10
1969-S Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse
This coin is exceedingly rare. The Secret Service confiscated the early specimens until the U.S. Mint admitted they were genuine. Counterfeits abound but usually have the wrong mint mark. In May 2014, a mother in Texas found one while going through rolls of coins. PCGS graded the coin AU-55, and it is valued at approximately $24,000.
- How to detect: Look for a clear doubling of the entire obverse ("heads" side) except for the mint mark. If the mint mark is doubled, it is probably a case of strike doubling, rather than a doubled die, which isn't worth much. Mint marks were punched in the dies separately in 1969 after the doubled die itself had already been made.
- Approximate value: Around $35,000 or more in AU-50 or better.
02 of 10
1970-S Small Date Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse
As with practically all true doubled die varieties, only one side of the coin shows doubling. If both sides exhibit doubling on any part of the coin, the coin probably exhibits strike doubling instead, and is not worth as much as a true doubled die.
- How to detect: The rarer Small Date variety is most easily distinguished from the common type by the weakness of LIBERTY. Another way to identify the Small Date variety is to look at the 7 in the date. If it is level with the rest of the numerals in the date, it is the Small Date variety. If the numeral seven is slightly lower, then it is the more common Large Date variety. The Doubled Die Obverse is best demonstrated by doubling in LIB and IN GOD WE TRUST.
- Approximate value: Around $3,500 in EF-40 or so.
03 of 10
1972 Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse
The 1972 (no mint mark) Lincoln Cent doubled die variety shows strong doubling on all elements. The "Cherrypicker's Guide to Rare Die Varieties", which was an important source for this article, suggests using a "die marker" to help verify your finds. A die marker is a gouge or crack that identifies a particular die that a coin was made from.
- How to detect: A clear doubling of all obverse elements; look for a tiny gouge near the edge above the D in UNITED as a die marker. You will need at least a 6X magnifier to authenticate this variety. Also, make sure to use a quality light about 18 inches from the surface of the coin. This will help you see these small differences easier.
- Approximate value: About $500 in EF-40 or so.
04 of 10
2004-D Wisconsin State Quarter With an Extra Leaf
Variety experts disagree about the cause and long-term value of this type, but we've included in the list because it is very findable in pocket change and worth hundreds of dollars right now.
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
- How to detect: There is some defect on the die that makes it appear as if there's an extra leaf on the lower left-hand side of the ear of corn on the reverse. The leaf is very prominent and a magnifying glass is not necessary to make this observation. Known in two varieties, the High Leaf, and the Low Leaf type.
- Although no counterfeit coins are known to exist, it is just a matter of time before counterfeits of this valuable coin start to appear on the market. Therefore, make sure to have your Wisconsin High Relief or Low Leave variety authenticated by a reliable numismatist.
- Approximate value: $200 to $300 in MS-60 or so.
05 of 10
1999 Wide "AM" Reverse Lincoln Cent
This variety is known for 3 dates, 1998, 1999, and 2000, with 1999 being by far the rarest. The mint erroneously used a proof die to strike normal circulation coins.
- How to detect: The AM in AMERICA on the reverse is clearly separated in the Wide variety. In the normal variety for these dates, the letters AM are very close or touching.
- Approximate value: $5 to $25 in circulated condition, $75 to $600 in MS-63 or better depending on color. 1999 brings the highest prices, with 2000 being second.
06 of 10
1982 No Mint Mark Roosevelt Dime
At the point in time that the United States Mint made these coins, the coin dies sent to the individual branch mints would be punched with the proper mint mark letter for that branch before shipping. This variety is believed to be caused because one or more non-punched dies were used to make coins.
The letter "P" was being used for coins made at the Philadelphia facility, "D" for Denver minted coins, and "S" on dimes minted in San Francisco. Therefore, all coins should have a mintmark. Since this coin has no mint mark, it is moderately valuable. Beware of altered coins that may have had the mint mark removed by an unscrupulous person.
- How to detect: The 1982 dime is missing a mint mark.
- Approximate value: About $30 to $50 in AU-50, more for higher grades.
07 of 10
Presidential Dollar Edge Lettering Errors
Ever since the first Presidential Dollar (the Washington Dollar issued in 2007), there have been errors associated with the lettering on the edge of these coins. The edge lettering is applied to the coin after the coin is struck. In some cases, it is missing entirely. In others, the edge lettering has been placed there multiple times.
- How to detect: Look at the edge. The inscription should appear fully encased all around the circumference of the coin. Missing or doubled inscriptions are rare and valuable.
- Approximate value: $50 to $3,000, depending on the President.
08 of 10
1995 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent
This doubled die variety generated a lot of mainstream interest when it was featured as a cover story in USA Today. Specimens are still being found in circulation all the time!
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
- How to detect: Clear doubling in LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST.
- Approximate value: About $20 to $40 in uncirculated condition.
09 of 10
Certain Uncirculated State Quarters
As the economy has worsened, people who have been hoarding rolls of State Quarters have been spending them into circulation. If you can put together whole rolls uncirculated quarters of certain in-demand states, you can get as much as $30 per roll for them.
- How to detect: Demand changes from time-to-time based on major coin dealer promotions. Currently, look for Georgia, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Illinois. Quarters must be uncirculated!
- Approximate value: $20 to $52 per roll for strictly uncirculated rolls of certain states.
10 of 10
Silver Half Dollars
Most people think that the silver in U.S. coins ended in 1964, but this isn't true. The Half Dollar coin had silver in it until 1970. Many people spend the Half Dollars from 1965 to 1970 or sell them in rolls of halves they take to the bank, not realizing they are 40% silver.
- How to detect: If the Half Dollar is dated 1964 or earlier, it is 90% silver. Halves dated from 1965 to 1970 are 40% silver. You might also find silver Proof Half Dollars, which are 90% silver and dated to current. Silver Proof Halves have very shiny, mirror-like surfaces and there is no copper color when you view the edge.
- Approximate value: Value is based on the silver spot price.
Edited by: James Bucki