Pennies are among the coins I’m asked about most often here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins.
Usually, readers want to know how much an old penny is worth.
Normally, common-date wheat pennies that are well worn are worth 3 to 5 cents each.
However, some valuable pennies are worth $5, $10, even $500 each — or much more!
#1 – Wheat Pennies
“What wheat pennies should I be looking for?”
Here’s a list of the top 10 most valuable wheat pennies:
- 1969-S doubled die — $100,000
- 1943 copper cent — $75,000+
- 1944 steel cent (some people call these silver cents) — $75,000+
- 1955 doubled die — $1,200+
- 1909-S VDB — $750+
- 1922 plain penny (no Denver “D” mintmark) — $650
- 1914-D — $200+
- 1909-S — $150+
- 1931-S — $100+
- 1911-S — $50+
#2 – Gold Pennies
“I have a gold penny. Is it rare? What’s it worth?”
Questions about gold pennies and silver pennies are the next most popular ones I get. So, what about those gold pennies?
Gold pennies are real coins that have been plated outside of the United States Mint. These are usually offered as novelty coins and have very little gold content. In fact, the value of the gold on plated coins is often less than 5 cents.
Any gold penny you find have been plated by companies making novelty coins or ordinary folks looking to create a fantasy coin of some kind.
Gold cents have little if any value to most diehard coin collectors and may fetch 50 cents to $1 each in the novelty coin market.
In sum, gold pennies are not rare. And these gold coins are not made by the U.S. Mint. There are also no “secret” gold pennies or anything like that.
#3 – Silver Pennies
“What’s my silver penny worth? Are silver pennies rare?”
Silver pennies and silver-colored pennies, on the other hand, often do have coin collector value.
In 1943, the U.S. Mint struck steel cents to help save copper for ammunition during World War II. Most of these 1943 steel cents are worth between 20 cents and $1 each if they’re worn. While 1943 steel pennies contain a steel core and a zinc outer coating, they often have a silvery look and are mistaken for being silver coins.
What about a silver penny that isn’t from 1943?
Well, actually, about 15 to 20 steel wheat cents were accidentally made in 1944. These rare 1944 steel cents are worth between $75,000 and $125,000 each.
If you have silver colored pennies from any other year, they have likely either been plated with steel, zinc, silver, or even mercury.
Some silver colored cents are actually aluminum or nickel foreign coins with the Lincoln design stamped on them by accident. How could that happen? For many years, the U.S. Mint struck coins for many different foreign nations. Sometimes, the planchets (blank coins) for those nations would wind up in the Lincoln penny machinery and get struck with the Lincoln design. These neat error coins are often worth $100 or more each.
Sometimes, blank planchets intended for the U.S. dime have wound up in the penny presses, resulting in off-metal errors. These are also worth $100 or more each.
Any silver cents that have been made since 1982 could result in 1 of 2 possible ways:
- The copper plating on the core zinc of these so-called Zincoln cents was chemically stripped off in a common science experiment. These are only worth face value.
- The zinc Lincoln penny never received its copper outer layer to begin with. These zinc penny error coins are worth $50 and up.
It’s hard to tell without examining the coin in-hand whether your silver penny made in 1982 or a later date was chemically altered or simply was made at the U.S. Mint without its copper coating.
Other Old & Unusual Pennies
- 1943 Bronze Penny Sells For $1 Million
- Lincoln-Kennedy Novelty Pennies
- Doubled Die Pennies
- Rare Pennies You Should Hold Onto
- How Much Are Blank Pennies Worth?
- Elongated Pennies: Squashed Coins With Fun Designs
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!