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I’m always on the prowl for old coins in my pocket change.
Since I started looking for them in my change from cash transactions, vending machines, and even take-a-penny-leave-a-penny jars, I’ve been rewarded with many interesting finds.
Of course, not every old coin I find is worth a lot of money, but it’s still neat to pluck vintage coins from circulation.
Here’s a rundown of 5 types of old coins worth money that you can still find in spare change if you look hard enough …and are just a teensy bit lucky!
These aren’t necessarily very valuable coins, but they’re definitely worth keeping because they’re worth more than face value.
#1 – Old Lincoln Wheat Pennies
Lincoln wheat pennies, which were made from 1909 through 1958, can still be found in circulation, though they are becoming scarcer and scarcer in pocket change with each passing day.
Common wheat pennies like the ones I mentioned above are worth about 3 to 10 cents each.
Lincoln wheat cent made before 1934 are generally the scarcest. The 7 rare wheat pennies most people search for include:
- 1909-S ($100 and up)
- 1909-S VDB ($750 and up)
- 1914-D ($200 and up)
- 1922 plain cent ($650 and up)
- 1931-S ($100 and up)
- 1943 bronze ($100,000 and up)
- 1955 doubled die ($1,000 and up)
There are several other semi-key pennies that aren’t as rare as the 7 listed above, but are still worth much more than face value.
Here’s a list of 43 valuable pennies worth holding onto.
#2 – Pre-1982 Lincoln Memorial Copper Pennies
What makes these older Lincoln Memorial pennies worthy of keeping?
All regular-issue pennies made before 1982, except for 1943 steel penny, were made from a primarily copper composition.
Copper is a valuable metal and that means pre-1982 pennies are worth slightly more than face value. In fact, all 1959 to 1981 pennies are worth at least 3 cents, even the worn ones.
Most Lincoln pennies made since 1982 are made from zinc.
The single problem with keeping old Lincoln Memorial pennies is that you can’t legally melt them down for their copper value.
But it’s still good to know those old pennies are worth a bit more than face value anyway, which is why I look for them in loose change and keep any that I find.
#3 – Buffalo Nickels
Yes, it’s still possible to find Buffalo nickels in spare change, though they are now extremely rare in circulation. In fact, the last time it was relatively easy to find Buffalo nickels with only a bit of dedicated searching was in the early 1980s.
However, I found a Buffalo nickel in my change just a few years ago.
While it was a dateless Buffalo nickel, it was still a worthy find, given how scarcely they appear now. By one estimate, Buffalo nickels turn up in circulation once every 25,000 nickels.
Dateless Buffalo nickels — the kind you’ll most likely find in pocket change — are worth around 50 cents to $1 each.
Any Buffalo nickels with dates are worth a minimum of $1 to $2.
#4 – Old Jefferson Nickels
Jefferson nickels have been made since 1938. While it may be hard for some individuals to immediately tell an old Jefferson nickel from a newer one, the color is usually an indicator.
Old Jefferson nickels are usually a much darker shade of gray than the newer ones.
Wartime nickels, which were made from 1942 through 1945, contain silver. These silver “nickels” are worth about $1.50 and up and can be found in circulation. (I know because I’ve found them.)
You can readily identify a Wartime nickel due to the large “P,” “D,” or “S” mintmark above the dome of Monticello on the reverse.
All Jefferson nickels made in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s are increasingly scarce in circulation.
Nickels made before 1960 are worth an average of 10 to 50 cents each. The 1939-D and 1939-S are worth about $5 to $10 each, and the 1950-D sells for almost $20.
Here’s a list of the most valuable old nickels worth holding onto.
#5 – Silver Coins
Along with the silver wartime nickels mentioned above, there are other types of silver coins you can still find in circulation (as I can confirm through personal experience). The most common among these are the silver Roosevelt dimes and silver Washington quarters.
40% silver Kennedy half dollars (from 1965 to 1970) and 90% silver Kennedy halves (from 1964) are most commonly found in bank rolls instead of actual pocket change. These are worth about $3.50 and $7, respectively.
NOTE: The values listed above for silver coins assume a silver bullion price of $20 per ounce. Silver coin values will be different when bullion prices are markedly lower or higher.
Here’s my video with some tips for finding rare coins in your pocket change:
More About Old Coins Worth Money
- Most Valuable Old Coins In Pocket Change
- Old Lincoln Cents You Can Still Find In Spare Change
- Look For These In Your Change: Bicentennial Coins
- Rare Coins You Can Still Find In Pocket Change
- Spare Change Nets A Coin Worth $150
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!