The Top 15 Most Valuable Pennies

Small Pieces of Copper Worth Huge Amounts of Money

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

Some little pieces of copper can be worth some very large dollar amounts. At one time, pennies used to be the workhorse of the United States economy. Making change for everyday purchases was the reason behind the penny's existence. Nowadays, people do not even want them back in change. Many people leave them in a cup by the cash register.

In spite of that, here are 15 of the world's most valuable United States pennies that have ever crossed the auction block. I researched over a quarter...MORE of a million public records to come up with the top 15 most valuable pennies. You will see that all of these coins are worth well over $100,000 apiece and all the way up to almost $2 million.

 

  • 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 coin extremely valuable is the pristine condition this coin is in, even though it is over 100 years old. There is not a noticeable bag mark on the surface of the coin and it has that bright red-orange copper color.

    For a coin like this to survive...MORE this long in pristine condition, it is certain that a coin collector in San Francisco back in 1914 pulled this coin and set it aside before it could become tattered and worn in circulation. The collector also ensured that the coin was stored properly in order to preserve its bright copper-red color. Coins in this condition are few and far between and are truly treasures to be held.

  • 02 of 15

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

    1944, 1944-D, 1944-S Steel Lincoln Cent
    Heritage Auction Galleries

    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 mint 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 only supposed to be used in 1943. After many people complained, the United States Mint changed back to the regular copper planchets beginning in...MORE 1944.

    However, a steel planchet leftover from 1943 must have found its way into the coining press. This created a great rarity amongst 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
    Heritage Auction Galleries

    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 Pres. 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 until this point in time, coin designers only used the first initial of their last name. To...MORE have all three initials on a coin's design was unheard of.

    Slightly less than a half million of them were minted before the Treasury Department demanded that the initials be removed. This created an overnight sensation among coin collectors and is the "Holy Grail" for any coin collector of Lincoln pennies.

  • 04 of 15

    1872 Indian Head Penny

    1872 Indian Head Penny in Uncirculated Condition
    Heritage Auction Galleries

    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. After all, slightly more than 4 million of them were minted. However, times were starting to get tough and people were not prone to save coins for their coin collections. In fact, the following year the United States saw "the Panic of 1873" that caused an...MORE economic downturn.

    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 well preserved over the last hundred years that it retained 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 Auction Galleries

    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 coins were counterfeit coins and began confiscating them. Five coins were confiscated and destroyed before they were acknowledged as being genuine.

    Look for doubling on the date and lettering on the obverse. Although the...MORE doubling is not as dramatic as the 1955 doubled die obverse, it is plainly evident using low-level magnification. 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 Auction Galleries

    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. True, it is uncirculated and it still retains its original copper-red color from the day it was minted, but the date and mintmark combination sets this coin apart from all others.

    The first factor that contributes to this coin's significant value is it's extremely and low mintage. Only nine other Lincoln wheat...MORE pennies have a lower mintage. Secondly, in the 1930s and 1940s, a majority of coin collectors acquired their coins from circulation. Therefore, it is not hard to find a circulated example of a 1926-S Lincoln penny. What is extremely rare, is finding an uncirculated 1926-S Lincoln penny with its original copper-red color!

  • 07 of 15

    1877 Indian Head Penny

    1877 Indian Head Sent
    Heritage Auction Galleries

    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...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 Auction Galleries

    Value: $152,750

    Grade: PCGS MS-66+ Red

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

    In 1914, economic times were good despite World War I beginning in August of that year. Although the United States did not join the war until 1917, America provided vast supplies of munitions and goods to England, France and other allied countries.

    This coin is also a victim of the widespread use of "penny boards" in the 1930s and 1940s that people use to collect...MORE coins from circulation. Therefore, a majority of the 1941-D Lincoln pennies are in circulated condition. An uncirculated example in its original mint state red color makes this coin 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 Auction Galleries

    Value: $161,000

    Grade: PCGS PR-65 Red & Brown

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

    In 1864, the Civil War was in full swing with both sides engaging in a series of violent battles. The United States economy was extremely fragile and people hoarded gold, silver and copper coins as a store of wealth. The United States government was having a difficult time securing the necessary metal in order to mint coins.

    The Indian Head penny was designed by Mint Engraver...MORE 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

    Here is an example of a 1943 Lincoln penny that should've been struck on a zinc plated steel planchet ending up on 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 fell into the...MORE 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 looking to cherry-pick a valuable Lincoln penny out of circulation. To find one in an uncirculated condition with its original copper-red color gives this coin its extreme value.

  • 11 of 15

    1856 Flying Eagle Cent

    1856 flying Eagle cent in uncirculated condition
    Heritage Auction Galleries

    Value: $172,500

    Grade: PCGS MS-66

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

    In 1856, the price of copper was rising to the point that it was taking 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. In order to save money and make the production of pennies economical again, The United States Mint reduce the size of the penny to its current diameter. In order to sell...MORE Congress on this idea, a batch of about 800 of the new small size pennies were made and presented 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. This coin in its pristine condition has lived up to that expectation.

  • 12 of 15

    1909 VDB Matte Proof Lincoln Penny

    1909 VDB proof Lincoln cent with rainbow toning in uncirculated condition
    Heritage Auction Galleries

    Value: $258,500.00

    Grade: PCGS PR-67 Red & Brown

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

    Lincoln pennies were first made in 1909 and had the designer's initials, "V.D.B." on the reverse of the coin at the bottom. As previously stated, tradition had it that only the designer's last initial was used to identify his work on circulating coinage.

    There were only 1,194 of the specially struck proof coins minted at the Philadelphia mint before...MORE the Treasury Department dictated that the designer's initials be removed from the coin. In and of itself, the low mintage 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 and valuable to those who can afford to pay for it.

    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 Auction Galleries

    Value:  $282,000

    Grade: PCGS AU-58

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

    Here is a second example of a 1943 Lincoln cent that should have been struck on a zinc plated steel planchet instead being 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 Auction Galleries

    Value: $373,750.00

    Grade: NGC MS-66

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

    In 1944, all Lincoln pennies were supposed to revert to the original bronze (95% copper and 5% tin) alloy. Somehow two zinc plated steel planchets ended up in the coining press in the San Francisco mint. One example circulated for a while before being added as a cherished specimen, albeit in circulated condition, to an extremely lucky coin collector's coin collection.

    This...MORE 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 evidence by even the minutest details being present on the coin. All of these factors put 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 Auction Galleries

    Value: $1,700,000

    Grade: PCGS MS-64BN

    Sold: September 2010; Legend Numismatics, Private Sale

    In September 2010, the only known example of a 1943 Lincoln penny struck at the Denver mint on the bronze alloy mint instead of the zinc plated steel, sold for an amazing $1,700,000. The coin that was discovered in 1979 was sold by Legend Numismatics of Lincroft, New Jersey and is certified MS-64BN by PCGS.

    All pennies produced in 1943 were to be struck on zinc-plated steel planchets instead of the regular...MORE copper alloy. Some bronze cents from 1942 must have slipped into the production line in order to produce this amazing Lincoln cent. There are several other examples of 1943 pennies that were stuck on the bronze alloy produced at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mint. It is estimated that less than 20 examples each were produced at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mint. Therefore, the single example from the Denver mint is extremely rare and makes it the most valuable penny in the world!