Old Lincoln Cents You Can Still Find In Pocket Change

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lincoln-cents-kevin-dooley.jpg First struck in 1909, tens of billions of Lincoln pennies have made their way to pockets, purses, and piggy banks all across the land.

Because Lincoln cents are so numerous and also very inexpensive (after all, their face value is only one cent!), they have become one of the most widely collected United States coins ever made.

In fact, it’s perfectly safe to say that Lincoln cents are the most popular collectible coin.

Some of the allure of collecting Lincoln pennies is searching through loose pocket change for them.

Believe it or not, finding old Lincoln cents in circulation is still possible. It just takes a little searching.

Let’s look at some of the old Lincoln pennies just waiting to be found in your spare change.


Finding Old Pennies

There are plenty of old Lincoln pennies in circulation.

You just have to know where to look.

Old coins (for the sake of this article, we’ll consider old coins to be those made before the 1960s) turn up in all sorts of situations.

However, searching penny rolls often yields the most old coin finds.

So, what types of old Lincoln pennies can you expect to find in circulation?

Let’s look at the old Lincoln pennies that you have a good shot of finding in pocket change…


Steel Pennies

Yes, these are probably among the hardest of the ‘common’ Lincoln cents to find, but they still do exist in circulation.

1943 steel pennies (often mistakenly referred to as silver pennies) were made to save copper for the war effort. With over 1 billion made, 1943 steel cents are very common. However, their novelty as light-colored pennies make these coins extremely popular among coin collectors and non-collectors alike.

1943 steel cents are worth around 10 cents to $1 in circulated grades. Rusty steel cents really aren’t worth much more than face value but still are fun trophies to pull from circulation.


Pre-1934 Lincoln Cents

Most old Lincoln cents you’ll find are those dating from about the mid 1930s and beyond. However, pre-1934 Lincoln wheat cents are especially fun and challenging to find.

What makes Lincoln cents from before 1934 a little more difficult to find? Lower overall mintages have something to do with it.

Also, it was in 1934 that Lincoln penny collecting first became popular, thanks to the invention of the penny board.

Earlier Lincoln cents weren’t saved in as large a number as Lincoln cents made since the time that collecting Lincoln pennies became popular.

Overall, any pre-1934 Lincoln cent is worth 10 cents to $1, even in circulated grades. Some of the semi-key Lincoln cents, virtually all of which date before 1934, are generally worth at least $3 to $5 and up.


1934 to 1958 Lincoln Wheat Cents

Do you want to lay a bet on which old Lincoln cents will most likely turn up in your pocket change? Try Lincoln cents dating from around 1934 to 1958.

These are the most-common Lincoln cents. Most dates made since the mid 1930s were struck in numbers topping 100 million or more. Several dates from the 1940s and 1950s top 1 billion (yes, that’s billion with a b).

Overall, Lincoln cents made since around 1934 are worth generally much less than  their earlier counterparts. In fact, the typical coin dealer would probably offer only 2 to 3 cents for any Lincoln cent dated from the mid 1930s or after.

There are, as always, a few exceptions — such as the 1955 doubled-die penny; this mint error easily pulls in $1,000 to $2,000.

For the most part, though, don’t set out collecting later Lincoln wheat cents for the money. Do it for the fun of finding and collecting obsolete Lincoln pennies and filling coin folders, such as the ever-popular 1941 to 1974 Lincoln cent folder from Whitman.


Rare Lincoln Pennies

Yes, believe it or not, there actually are highly rare sightings of rare Lincoln cents in circulation. Check out this list of the rare Lincoln pennies:

Now, don’t expect to find one of these coins sitting in your pocket tomorrow, but there are people who have found these rare Lincoln pennies in the last several years.

Often, when these rare Lincoln pennies show up in circulation, they’re in pretty bad shape. However, they’re still rare birds that are truly worth a pretty penny.


The 1959 Lincoln Memorial Penny

Yes, the first of the long-running Lincoln Memorial pennies was made in the late 1950s. While considered by numismatists to be a common coin (and it’s only worth face value to collectors), this date is getting relatively hard to find in circulation in recent years.

Try finding one. It may take you some searching. If you do find one, why not hold it aside. The 1959 Lincoln Memorial cent heralds the beginning of a 50-year-long coin design that lasted up through 2008 and became one of the world’s most-recognizable coins.


Here’s a video I made showing some of the most valuable old pennies:


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64 thoughts on “Old Lincoln Cents You Can Still Find In Pocket Change”

    • Roxy,

      If your coin was stripped of its copper coating (leaving its zinc core exposed) as part of a common science experiment, it’s worth no more than face value.

      However, if your coin was accidentally made without the copper coating because of a mint mistake, its value is closer to $50 to $100.

      The best way to tell is to have a reputable coin dealer check it out for you, sight seen. Here’s a good coin dealer directory if you’re interested: https://www.pngdealers.com/dealersearch.php

  1. I clean my pennies by mixing half a cup of vinegar and three teaspoons of salt. Then I dip the penny in for five seconds and take it out. I saw this method on a youtube video. Is this a safe way to clean pennies?

    • Unfortunately no, William. Vinegar strips the patina (natural coating) off the coins. Cleaning coins to make them look brighter actually reduces their numismatic value and damages them, so I highly recommend NOT cleaning your coins.

  2. I have a 1999 gold colored penny. I don’t know if it’s worth anything or not, so… yeah. I think it might just be a part of a science experiment though. Is it worth any more than normal?

    • Tristan —

      Even if it was gold plated by somebody, the value would be very nominal because the layer of gold is so thin. It’s likely value would be under $1 or $2. But it’s still neat to have!

    • Marcus,

      Assuming all the coins are in typical,worn condition, the 1897 V nickel is worth around $2,the 1936 Buffalo nickel approximately 50 cents to $1, and the 1946 penny is worth 3 to 5 cents.

  3. I was wondering does anyone know what the 3 letter are on a 2006US Lincoln penny ? The letters are on the bottom of Lincoln’s shoulder.

    • Hi, Pat –

      Those three letters are V.D.B., and they are the initials of the man who designed the Lincoln profile on the penny – Victor David Brenner. For a few months in 1909, the U.S. Mint had placed the initials on the back of the penny, but people thought the initials were too prominent in size, so they were removed until being placed under the shoulder in 1918.

      Here’s some more about the interesting story of the 1909 VDB penny: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/1909_vdb_penny/

  4. Hi Joshua,
    I see the articels tallk about 1909 or 1914, 1936 pennies but nothing about 1910? Can you please tell me if its worth anything. Its in good condition and it does have the wheat picture on back. Thank you


  5. I collected coins from circulation from about 1969-1974, when I was a teenager. We used to go to banks and get $10 worth of ‘rolls’, look through them, and remove the wheat (and a few others) pennies. We used to call them ‘wreaths’. And we agreed to put the examined rolls back to a specific bank, so that we did not spoil each others finds.

    What I noticed was a dramatic decrease in what one can find during just those 5 years. In 1969, almost half of the pennies were of interest, and by 1974 it was down to 1 in 10. So by the 1980s, I was already telling people that this hobby was no longer any fun, since it was too much work to even complete the 1941 – 1974 set. I completed 4 of these, but I cheated, since I purchased a few rolls of S mints, so I could get the hard to find 1955S and by then 1943 was also hard to find.

    During this period, probably my most valuable find was a 1915 cent in very fine condition. Of the pre 1934 period, the most common dates were 1919 and 1920, but it was rare to find one in fine condition. I still have my 12000 plus wheat pennies in a box.

    What is interesting, is that my other hobby was keeping weather records locally, and there was a time when I had memorized many weather records for New York City as well as mintages for many Lincoln set coins.

    • Andrew,

      Even in my time in coin collecting, I’ve noticed a marked changed in what one can realistically find in circulation. I recall in the 1990s finding many more wheat cents than I can find now. One estimate I read, 98 percent of all wheat cents have been pulled from circulation.

  6. Would you mind terribly assisting me in identifying the value of this 1961D Lincoln Memorial Cent? I’ve attached 3 pictures of the best quality I could achieve with my available digital camera. Thank you in advance, I love reading your articles!
    ~Mandi Price

  7. Josh,

    I bought a $25 Box of Brinks Pennies from my bank as usual this week and just found this odd little guy… Any idea what this is? Thanks as always lovey!


  8. my dad collected wheat pennies with his father for many years and I just recently finished going through them and he doesn’t have any worth thousands of dollars but they are still cool to look at. he has a whole roll of 1943 steel wheat pennies, hundreds from 1941 and 44, like a hundred or so from 52, and like 50ish form 1927. the list goes on and on. it was cool to figure out what the D and S on them meant. They are all in really good condition except for a few. I have to say looking through them has been a lot of fun.

    • Hi, Mike –

      1924 Lincoln cents almost never show up in pocket change any more, but they are considered fairly common as more than 75 million were made, and many still exist.

      In typical, worn condition, a 1924 penny is worth about 10 to 20 cents.

  9. I have found a 1891 indian head penny F , a 1919 s penny XF, a 1921 penny XF, a 1926 penny AU, a 1934 penny AG, a 1938 penny VF,lots from the 40s and 50s. and 12 pounds of copper pennys. I have found all of these coins in the past week and a half and I only spent $8 and sorted trough many penny rolls and and exchanged the junky zinc pennys

    • Nice work! Yes, it goes to show that there are still plenty of good finds to be made in pocket change and some serious coin roll searching.

  10. I found a 1937 no mint wheat penny with a giant number 7 stamped on the wheat side. Is this a proof mark from the mint or something that happened later on?

    • Hi, Mike –

      Something happened to that coin after it left the mint. Perhaps it was intended as a “lucky” token, given the number “7”?

  11. i have a draped bust dime that has 2 holes and is worn smooth. The only way i could tell it was a draped bust dime,is that it has the heraldic eagle reverse. what’s it worth?

    • Thank you for your question – Even though your Bust dime is probably a Poor-1 to Fair-2 and has two holes (very common amongst coins from the 18t and 19th centuries, by the way), it is still collectible as a type coin, and is a rare coin in any respect. I would say it is worth somewhere between $150 and $200.

  12. Hi, I have a rare quarter with the markings “E” and “1” on both sides of the head. What do you think it is worth?

    • Hello, Ben –

      Your coin was counterstamped with those markings after it left the mint, so those markings will not have added any value to your coin.

      Thank you for your question!

    • Hello, Ben –

      The 1974 dime exhibits wear unusual for circulation. It looks like the dime was attached to a disc with a pointed axis and was spun against that apparatus, forming the dent in the middle and the even wear across all high points of the coin.

      If that is the case, your dime is still worth 10 cents.

  13. I have a 1941 Lincoln wheat penny but it has no mint mark. It is also slightly used. I’ve been doing some internet searches and it doesn’t come up anywhere, even on this website. Is it just a counterfeit penny or extremely rare?

    • Hi, Colby —

      Given that the famous Brasher Doubloon, one of the few Colonial-era U.S. coins made of gold, was dated 1787, not 1789, I’m wondering if you have a replica of some sort, or perhaps another type of coin altogether. Please post a photo of your piece if you don’t mind and I’d be glad to assist further.


  14. josh i had made up my mind i wasn’t going 2 bother you again, but i need help on this coin, i can’t even find it mentioned anywhere, it weights 6.923 grams oh i weighed it on my coin scale. i never even heard of a brass colored wheat penny ,any help is greatly appereciated, thannks again https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db03aa51bb6e050a10f0685a110c4b4e406b25d18ebfa47b6131813f8f3fe716.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c19c5c521f50581be12505dd6cd3ea3990532b69d8fa0761834c69db1ac84a08.jpg


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