Most of us take a penny for granted, valuing it for just a few cents, and would never wonder what the most valuable pennies cost. While it's true that most of them have the lowest value of all coins ever produced, there are some rare coins that could be worth a small fortune. These little pieces of copper represent the lowest monetary denomination in coinage, but certain years and production runs are rare and extremely valuable.
Coin values are one of the reasons why coin collectors do what they do. These individuals exert time and effort to own and keep different types of pennies - from Lincoln wheat pennies and Indian head pennies to bronze pennies from the Philadelphia mint and United States mint. A coin dealer takes this route for two reasons: as an investment and for their personal enjoyment.
Here are the ten most expensive pennies that have ever been sold at auction.
10. 914-S Lincoln Penny - $105,800
Unlike most pennies presented in this article, the 1914-S Lincoln Penny isn't that valuable. The San Francisco Mint produced about four million of these coins. What makes this coin valuable is its pristine condition despite being more than 100 years old. The coin doesn't show any noticeable bag mark on its surface and has retained its original red-orange copper color.
According to experts, for this coin to survive this long, it is believed that a coin collector in San Francisco back in 1914 must have kept it before it could become tattered or worn during circulation. The person who kept the coin for decades also ensured that the 1914-S Lincoln Penny was stored correctly to preserve its original color.
9. 1872 Indian Head Penny - $126,500
Although considered a scarce coin, the Indian Head Penny can be readily found in coin dealers or coin shows in circulated grades. More than 4 million of these coins were minted. But the financial hardship during that time (including the economic turndown caused by the "Panic of 1873" and the civil war with the United States in 1864) meant that only a very few people were able to save these coins for safekeeping and their collections. This resulted in these pennies going into circulation.
Another thing that makes the 1872 Indian Head Penny rare is its exceptional condition, which showcases an almost flawless coin with a sharp strike. This coin was also well-preserved to retain its original red-copper color.
8. 1877 Indian Head Penny - $149,500
Sold in August 2007 at Heritage Auctions for $149,500, the 1877 Indian Head Penny is the rarest Indian head pennies ever minted. The story behind this penny goes back to 1877. The economic slump that started on 1873 continued until 1877 but this time, with full force. As a result, the demand for United States coinage was at an all-time low and families struggled a lot to make ends meet. Due to this reason, Americans wouldn't even save a penny to start their own coin collection.
The 1877 Indian Head Penny has a smaller mintage but most of them were saved in uncirculated condition. Being able to hold, collect, or keep an 1877 Indian Head Penny in an uncirculated condition is considered extremely rare given the poor economic conditions that year. Having one in its original copper-red color makes it extraordinary.
7. 1856 Flying Eagle Penny - $172,500
If you come into possession of a Flying Eagle Cent that is marked with an 1856 date, it's considered one of the most valuable pennies in the world. One of these coins was sold in Orlando, Florida through Heritage Auctions. The sale took place in January of 2004 for a whopping $172,500. The coin was in uncirculated condition, which made it extremely rare.
Prior to this year of production, the size of the pennies made was equal to the size of a modern mint of the half-dollar. The amount of copper that was being used was worth more than a cent because the price of copper as a commodity was high at the time. It was in 1856 that the United States Mint reduced the size of the pennies being made to the diameter that we're familiar with currently. 1856 represents the first smaller-sized coins made.
6. 1909 VDB Proof Lincoln Penny - $258,500
In August of 2014, a very special 1909 Lincoln Penny was sold in Chicago, Illinois through Heritage Auctions. This rare coin was sold for an amazing $258,500. The penny was in uncirculated condition and featured rainbow toning with red and brown coloring. The reason for the VDB on the coin is that Lincoln Pennies were first made in 1909 with the new design and the designer added his initials to the coin at the bottom of the tails side. This was a departure from the tradition of just using one of the initials. This extremely rare coin is from a limited run of just 1,194 that was ever produced. Finding one in the uncirculated condition is very hard to do.
5. 1943-S Lincoln Penny made of Bronze - $282,000
In February of 2016, a Lincoln Penny dated 1943-S which was made on bronze was sold in Long Beach, California through Heritage Auctions for an amazing price of $282,000. While most of the pennies made at this time were struck on zinc plated steel, this coin was struck on a bronze planchet which at the time, was an error. That mistake was made in 1943 at the San Francisco mint and only a handful of these bronzed pennies have been discovered (six to be exact). These factors make this a very rare and valuable penny indeed.
4. 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny - About $336,000
The 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny is one of the most valuable pennies in the world, considered as the holy grail by many coin collectors. This coin was sold in March 2018 at Stack's Bowers Galleries auction for $336,000. This amount was an all-time record for the 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny.
This coin came to existence due to an error involving a double stamping (thus, the name) that affected the lettering on the front of the penny. Only three of these Lincoln pennies are known to exist, including one in great condition sold in 2018.
3. 1944-S Lincoln Steel Penny - $373,750
A 1944-S Lincoln penny was sold in August of 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland by Heritage Auctions for $373,750. The coin was in uncirculated condition and was struck on a zinc-plated steel planchet. This rare coin was part of a production run that was supposed to be made of an alloy of 5% tin and 95% copper.
However,for some reason, this wasn't caught until a few had been produced (hence it becoming one of the most valuable coins.) It's a rare coin that was part of a minting error. It fetched a pretty penny for the owner who sold it to a lucky coin collector.
2. 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent - About $862,500
The 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent is a large cent sold at an auction for $863,000. The front of the coin shows Lady Liberty wearing a modest cap and the back displays a wreath.
This coin was first seen in 1890 in an auction when Lorin G. Parmelee, a famed collector sold it for $79. From there, the coin was passed through countless collectors through private transactions for the next 109 years. Stack's Bowers Galleries first auctioned the coin in December 2004 for $414,000 and then in January 2009 for $862,500. The two sales set new record prices for a one-cent coin sold at auctions.
1. 1943-D type Lincoln Bronze Penny - $1.7 million
The most expensive penny that has ever been sold at auction is a 1943-D Lincoln penny. It had been struck on a bronze planchet and was in uncirculated condition. It was sold in a private sale in September of 2010. The penny went for an unbelievable price of $1,700,000 through Legend Numismatics.
The penny was created on a bronze alloy. It was supposed to be struck on the zinc plated steel. It's believed that some pennies from production in 1942 accidentally got into the line in San Francisco and Philadelphia mints.
There have been around 20 examples found from these locations. However, only one is known to exist from the Denver mint. This is one of the factors that makes it so highly valuable. There isn't another one like it known to exist in the world.
Who would have believed that a single Lincoln penny could actually be valued at nearly 2 million dollars? It pays to check the dates on those pennies every now and then.
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Written by Garrett Parker
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