Rare U.S. Coins Are Easier To Find Than You Think

Ah, rare coins… we all would love to find a rare coin in an attic chest, in our inheritance or, yes, even in our pocket change. In fact, none of these scenarios are impossible.

You may be glad to hear that there are dozens of U.S. coins considered rare, and that many estates include rare U.S. coins. Many others are found in attics, old drawers and chests, and some are even found in circulation!


So, how do you know if a coin you have is rare? And how do you find out how much your rare coin is worth?

Rare Coins Value

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to determine the value of rare coins.

The reason for this is threefold: coin values range widely, rare coins are diverse, and there are many kinds.

Rare U.S. coins do not have a rubber-stamped value. They can range in price from the hundreds to the millions of dollars, based on the coin, condition, year, etc. Thus, there is no catch-all way to see what your coin is worth without evaluating it individually, and on a sight-seen basis.
The Most Popular Rare U.S. Coins

These are some of the rare U.S. coins that are often encountered in coin collecting:

  • standing-liberty-quarter.png 1877 Indian Head penny ($850-$8,500)
  • 1909-S V.D.B. penny ($750-$4,500)
  • 1916-D Mercury dime ($1,200-$35,000)
  • 1916 Standing Liberty quarter ($3,900-$35,000)
  • and any number of error coins, including doubled-dies (worth from the tens of dollars to the thousands, based on date, prominence of doubling, etc.).

How To Determine If You Have A Rare Coin & Its Value

The best way to identify which coins are rare is to buy a really good book on United States coins. I like A Guide Book of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett.

This book is especially good for those who have no background in U.S. coins but want to see if the coins they have found are rare. Simply compare the dates and designs of the coins to those in the book and you will quickly get some idea as to how rare your coins are, based on mintage numbers (the number of coins made) and their relative prices.

Of course, the condition of your coins will greatly determine their values. A Guide Book of United States Coins briefly details how to grade coins based on wear.

You may want to a have a professional coin dealer or 3rd-party grading service determine if your coins are authentic, and also to determine the grade and overall condition of your coins.

The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) maintains a website that lists coin prices. This is the resource that was used to list prices for the rare coins mentioned above.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

My love for coins and numismatics began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I've also been studying meteorology and watching weather patterns for years. I enjoy sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about coins, weather, travel, health, and living green with others.

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  • Angela

    I have several old coins (looks like) rare. I can’t seem to get a value on line. I believe they are worth some value. . . please adivse …too many to list.

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Angela —

      I’m happy to help, but I will need to have some dates, denominations, nations (where the coins were made) of your coins so I can begin giving you some values… If you’d like, feel free to post some info here on a few coins you’re most interested in and I’ll gladly give you some pricing insight!

      Don’t forget, there are many articles here, with photos, on most of the major U.S. coins. More articles and posts are being added all the time. Check out the rest of The Fun Times Guide To Coins and, hopefully, you’ll be able to find out some more about the values of your coins that way, too!

  • Janetpineda

    hi my name is janet i have a coin thats is the same as the picture of the quarter coin of one of the rare coins in youre page .the 1916 standing liberty coin.

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Janet —

      Are you able to see the date on your coin, or has the date been worn off? Most Standing Liberty quarters are common, but based on the date (or lack thereof) I can give you a better idea as to its value, because they’re all worth more than face value; some are worth much more…

  • Tuckertripp

    i have two 2005 bufflow nickles are they rare

    please write back. thank you for your time

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Tucker —

      2005 Buffalo nickels are actually very common and worth face value if worn.

  • Tony Gee

    Hello my name is Anthony and I have a Standing Liberty Quarter. Unfortunately the year is worn out. Is there another way to determine the year.

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Tony —

      Unfortunately the date wears off relatively quickly on Standing Liberty quarters made from 1916 to 1924. It has to do with how high up off the coin’s surface the date is imprinted — it’s one of the first points to receive wear on those coins.

      At an absolute minimum, your coins is worth $5 to $7 for its silver content.

      Unless you apply certain acids to the area of the date, you really can’t tell the exact year. You can, however, find out what RANGE of years your Standing Liberty quarter was made.

      The easiest way to do this is to check for the arrangement of stars on the reverse (tails side) of your coin.

      1916 and some 1917 Standing Liberty quarters have 7 stars left of the eagle and 6 to its right.

      1917 to 1930 Standing Liberty quarters still have 13 stars on the reverse, but 3 are under the eagle.

      If you think you have a 1916 or 1917 Standing Liberty quarter with the 7 stars on the left and 6 on the right, there’s a chance you have the rare 1916 Standing Liberty quarter, worth at least $1,000 or so, even without the date. If your quarter looks like one of the earlier ones, it MAY be worth sending it away to a third party coin grader for testing to see if its a 1916. Here’s info on third party coin grading: http://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/2009/01/slabbed_coins.php

  • JoshuaTheFunTimesGuide


    The date on Standing Liberty coins made from 1916 to 1924 wore off easily because they were located very “high” on the coin. Later dates were recessed into the design more. Minimal value for a piece such as yours is currently around $5.

  • Jo Wilson

    Hi, I just made an email and I can’t fine it so I try it again. I have a beautiful liberty with 1881. I also have a Columbian half dollar, 1893 (it is so cool.) I also have my favorite, Lady Liberty, looking to the right, 1912.

    • JoshuaTheFunTimesGuide

      Hello, Jo –

      What are the denominations of your 1881 and 1912 coins, please? Is the earlier piece a silver dollar and the latter a half dollar?

      Your 1893 Columbian half dollar is indeed a very cool piece and one of the earliest United States commemorative coins. It is worth around $20.

  • Jo Wilson

    I am sorry. The Liberty is a silver dollar and is facing right, Hair cascading on shoulder. I have some really nice Liberty, and Indian pennys.