The Top 15 Most Valuable Pennies

Small Pieces of Copper Worth Huge Amounts of Money

pennies
While the pennies pictured in the above photo are not valuable, the ones listed below are worth a whole lot more. @mohammed_nanotech / Twenty20

Some little pieces of copper can be worth some very large dollar amounts. When you get to the world's rarest and most coveted pennies in the world, values are well over $100,000 and up to almost $2 million. Rarity is a significant factor in determining a penny's value. Condition is another; coins that stayed out of circulation may retain their original coloring and fine details, greatly adding to their value. And some coins are made more valuable simply by being unintentional, as with the 1943 Lincoln pennies that were mistakenly made with bronze rather than steel.

Here are 15 of the most valuable U.S. pennies, based on over 250,000 public records and auction sales figures.

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Watch Now: The Most Valuable Indian Head Penny

  • 01 of 15

    1914-S Lincoln Penny

    1914-S Lincoln Wheat Penny in Uncirculated Condition

    Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS)

    • Value: $105,800
    • Grade: PCGS MS-66 Red
    • Sold: August 2006; Bowers & Merena, Anne Kate Collection Part II

    The 1914-S Lincoln cent is by no means a rare coin. After all, there were over 4 million of them minted at the San Francisco mint. What makes this particular coin extremely valuable is its pristine condition despite being over 100 years old. There is no noticeable bag mark on the surface of the coin, and it has retained its original bright red-orange copper color.

    For a coin like this to survive so long in pristine condition, it is evident that a collector in San Francisco back in 1914 must have set it aside before it could become tattered and worn in circulation. The collector also ensured that the coin was stored properly to preserve its color. Coins in this condition are few and far between and are truly treasures to behold.

  • 02 of 15

    1944-D Lincoln Penny on a Zinc-Coated Steel Planchet

    1944, 1944-D, 1944-S Steel Lincoln Cent
    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $115,000

    Grade: NGC MS-63

    Sold: August 2007; Heritage Auctions, Milwaukee, WI, ANA Signature Coin Auction

    A 1944 Lincoln penny struck at the Denver, Colorado mint facility is nothing special. In fact, over 430 million of them were struck. What makes this coin extremely valuable is the fact that it was struck on a zinc-coated steel planchet. These steel planchets were used primarily in 1943. After many complaints, the United States Mint changed back to the regular copper planchets beginning in 1944.

    However, a steel planchet left over from 1943 must have found its way into the coining press. This stray planchet created a great rarity treasured by coin collectors, and they are willing to pay handsomely to add this coin to their collection.

  • 03 of 15

    1909-S VDB Lincoln Penny

    1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent
    James Bucki

    Value: $117,500

    Grade: PCGS MS-67 Red

    Sold: March 2014; Heritage Auctions, Atlanta, GA, ANA National Money Show US Coins Signature Auction

    In 1909, the Indian Head penny was replaced with the Lincoln cent. The design was created by Victor David Brenner under the auspices of President Theodore Roosevelt. Brenner added his initials V.D.B. to the reverse of the coin, at the bottom between the two stalks of wheat. Up to this point, coin designers used only the first initial of their last name. To have all three initials on a coin's design was unheard of.

    Slightly less than a half-million of these pennies were minted before the Treasury Department demanded that the initials be removed. This created an overnight sensation among coin collectors, and this penny has come be known as the "Holy Grail" for collectors of Lincoln pennies.

  • 04 of 15

    1872 Indian Head Penny

    1872 Indian Head Penny in Uncirculated Condition

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $126,500

    Grade: PCGS MS-67 Red

    Sold: August 2007; Heritage Auctions, Milwaukee, WI, ANA Signature Coin Auction

    An 1872 Indian Head penny is a scarce coin but can readily be found at any coin show or coin dealer in circulated grades. Slightly more than 4 million of them were minted. However, financial hardship of the time (including the economic downturn following the "Panic of 1873") meant that few people were able to save coins for their collections. As a result, most of these pennies went into circulation.

    What makes this coin extremely rare is its exceptional condition that combines a nearly flawless coin with a sharp strike from a fresh set of coin dies. Additionally, it has been sufficiently well preserved to retain its original bright red-copper color.

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    1969-S Lincoln Penny–Doubled Die Obverse

    1969-S Doubled Die Lincoln Penny

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $126,500

    Grade: PCGS MS-64 Red

    Sold: January 2008; Heritage Auctions, Orlando, FL, FUN Signature Coin Auction

    This coin was first discovered in 1970 and was reported by Coin World on the front page in its July 8, 1970 edition. Originally, the government believed that these were counterfeit coins and began confiscating them. Five coins were confiscated and destroyed before they were acknowledged as being genuine.

    This penny exhibits doubling on the date and lettering on the obverse. Although the doubling is not as dramatic as that of the 1955 doubled die obverse, it is plainly evident with low-level magnification. These coins in circulated condition are also valuable, but uncirculated coins are extremely rare.

  • 06 of 15

    1926-S Lincoln Penny

    1926-S Lincoln Penny in Uncirculated Condition

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $149,500

    Grade: PCGS MS-65 Red

    Sold: January 2006; Heritage Auctions, Orlando, FL, FUN Signature Auction

    On the surface, there is nothing visually spectacular about this coin. While it is uncirculated and retains its original copper-red color from the day it was minted, it is the date and mintmark combination that sets this coin apart from all others.

    One factor that contributes to this coin's significant value is its extremely low mintage. Only nine other Lincoln wheat pennies have a lower mintage. Also, in the 1930s and 40s, most coin collectors acquired their coins from circulation, so it is not hard to find a circulated example of a 1926-S Lincoln penny. But it is extremely rare to find an uncirculated 1926-S Lincoln penny with its original copper-red color.

  • 07 of 15

    1877 Indian Head Penny

    1877 Indian Head Sent

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $149,500

    Grade: PCGS MS-66 Red

    Sold: August 2007; Heritage Auctions, Milwaukee, WI, ANA Signature Coin Auction

    This is the rarest date of all the Indian Head pennies ever minted. In 1877, the economic slump that began in 1873 continued with full force. Demand for United States coinage was at an all-time low, and families struggled to make ends meet. Saving even a penny for a coin collection was not an option for most Americans.

    Although the 1909-S Indian Head Penny has a smaller mintage, more of them were saved in uncirculated condition. To hold an 1877 Indian Head Penny in uncirculated condition is an extreme rarity given the poor economic conditions of that year. To have one in its original copper-red color makes it that much more extraordinary.

  • 08 of 15

    1914-D Lincoln Penny

    1914-D Lincoln Cent

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $152,750

    Grade: PCGS MS-66+ Red

    Sold: August 2017; Heritage Auctions, Denver, CO, ANA U.S. Coins Signature Auction

    This coin was heavily circulated and was commonly subjected to the widespread use of "penny boards" in the 1930s and 40s, which people use to collect coins from circulation. As a result, a majority of the 1941-D Lincoln pennies are in circulated condition. An uncirculated example in its original mint state red color is extremely rare and valuable.

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    1864 Indian Head Penny–"L" on Ribbon

    US-1864-1C-Bronze-L-on-Ribbon-PR64-Red.jpg

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $161,000

    Grade: PCGS PR-65 Red & Brown

    Sold: October 2011; Heritage Auctions, Pittsburgh, PA, Signature Auction

    In 1864, the Civil War was dragging on, and the United States economy was extremely fragile. Many citizens hoarded gold, silver, and copper coins as a store of wealth. This made is difficult for the federal government to obtain the metal needed for minting coins.

    The Indian Head penny was designed by mint engraver James B. Longacre and was first issued in 1859. Beginning approximately halfway through the mintage of 1864 pennies, an "L" was added to the tail of the ribbon in the war bonnet on Lady Liberty's head. It is estimated that only 5 million of these coins were made, and very few of them were saved in uncirculated condition.

  • 10 of 15

    1943 Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze Alloy

    1943 Lincoln Cent Minted on a Bronze Planchet in Uncirculated Condition

    Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS)

    Value: $164,500

    Grade: PCGS MS-63 Red

    Sold: January 2013; Stack's Bowers Galleries, Americana Auction

    This 1943 Lincoln penny should have been struck on a zinc-plated steel planchet but was in fact made with a bronze alloy planchet. Although there is some argument that mint workers actually struck these coins on bronze alloy planchets on purpose, it is more probable that a few bronze planchets left over from the previous year got stuck on a conveyor belt or tote and was incorporated into the regular striking process.

    Since most people do not look at the date on every coin that they receive in change, some of these 1943 bronze alloy pennies circulated for a while before being snatched up by an alert coin collector intent on cherry-picking the valuable Lincoln penny out of circulation. The high value of this coin is due to its uncirculated condition and its original copper-red color.

  • 11 of 15

    1856 Flying Eagle Cent

    1856 flying Eagle cent in uncirculated condition

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $172,500

    Grade: PCGS MS-66

    Sold: January 2004; Heritage Auctions, Orlando, FL, FUN Signature Auction

    In 1856, the price of copper rose to the point that it took more than a penny's worth of copper to make a penny. Prior to this date, pennies were large and bulky and were almost the size of a half-dollar. To lower costs, the United States Mint sought to reduce the size of the penny (to its current diameter). But the move needed Congressional approval, so the mint produced a batch of about 800 of the new pennies and presented them to the lawmakers.

    Any one of these coins in circulated or uncirculated condition is extremely rare. When an example as fine as this one crosses the auction block, it is certain to set record prices.

  • 12 of 15

    1909 VDB Matte Proof Lincoln Penny

    1909 VDB proof Lincoln cent with rainbow toning in uncirculated condition

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $258,500

    Grade: PCGS PR-67 Red & Brown

    Sold: August 2014; Heritage Auctions, Chicago, IL, ANA US Coins Signature Auction

    As with the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Penny, this highly valued penny proof bears all three of the coin designer's initials: "VDB." Only 1,194 of these proof coins were struck at the Philadelphia mint before the Treasury Department dictated that the designer's initials be removed from the coin. The low mintage alone makes this coin extremely rare, but the brilliant colors that resulted from a coin being stored for 100 years makes this coin extremely attractive to collectors.

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze

    1943-S Lincoln penny graded au-58 on a bronze planchet

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $282,000

    Grade: PCGS AU-58

    Sold: February 2016; Heritage Auctions, Long Beach, CA, US Coins Signature Auction

    This coin is a second example of a 1943 Lincoln cent that should have been struck on a zinc-plated steel planchet but was instead coined on a bronze planchet. There are six known examples of this error being produced at the San Francisco mint in 1943. This is the second-lowest number of 1943 Lincoln pennies on bronze planchets produced at any of the United States Mint locations.

  • 14 of 15

    1944-S Lincoln Steel Penny

    1944-S Lincoln penny struck on a zinc plated steel planchet in uncirculated condition

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $373,750

    Grade: NGC MS-66

    Sold: August 2008; Heritage Auctions, Baltimore, MD, ANA US Coin Signature Auction

    In 1944, Lincoln pennies were reverted to the original bronze alloy made of 95 percent copper and 5 percent tin. But two zinc-plated steel planchets somehow ended up in the coining press in the San Francisco mint. One example circulated for a while before being picked up by a collector.

    This example is not only uncirculated, but it is extremely well preserved and shows a minimal amount of bag marks from the minting process. Additionally, it was extremely well struck, as evidenced by the minutest details present on the coin. All of these factors together make this the second most valuable penny in the world.

  • 15 of 15

    1943-D Lincoln Bronze Cent

    1943-D Lincoln cent struck on a bronze plancheet in uncirculated condition

    Heritage Auctions, HA.com

    Value: $1,700,000

    Grade: PCGS MS-64BN

    Sold: September 2010; Legend Numismatics, Private Sale

    Accidents can produce the rarest coins. When the U.S. switched from bronze alloy to zinc-plated steel pennies in 1943, only a relative handful of bronze pennies slipped through. It is estimated that fewer than 20 were released by each of the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints. But the rarest of all is this single known example from the Denver mint. It is the most valuable penny in the world.