By Tyler Rossi for CoinWeek …..
1982 No P Roosevelt Dime
In 1982, the United States Mint released the first circulation coin that did not bear the correct obverse mint mark: the Roosevelt dime. This error occurred two years after Philadelphia started including a mint mark on dimes. A mint worker must have forgotten to punch the P mintmark into the obverse die before inserting it into the coin press. These coins were originally discovered in Sandusky, Ohio in December of their year of issue, handed out as change by the local Cedar Point amusement park. It is unknown exactly how many examples left the Mint, but a contemporary die was expected to produce between 70,000 and 80,000 coins. Despite the two main grading services (NGC and PCGS) having certified only 3,314 examples, it is estimated that approximately 15,000 pieces survive.
In mid-Mint State condition, these coins are worth between $200 to $300 USD, while examples with the Full Bands designation regularly sell for $450 to $500.
Indian Head Cents
Struck from 1859 to 1909, the Mint produced a total of 1,849,639,030 Indian Head cents across all facilities. These highly popular coins depict Lady Liberty in a Native American headdress surrounded by the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on the obverse and the denomination ONE CENT surrounded by a wreath on the reverse. After over a century of collectors pulling them from circulation, these coins are rarely given out in change anymore. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to find an example every once in a while. Early examples are easily distinguishable from Lincoln cents due to their composition. Until 1864, these coins were struck in a copper-nickel alloy instead of the now common bronze, and as such have a distinctly different color.
As with most coins, varieties exist that sell for big bucks, but most circulated examples are worth between $1 and $10.
Early Lincoln Wheat Cents
With the change in design from the older Indian Head cent to the new Lincoln Wheat cent, the Mint ushered in a new era of American numismatics. Including all reverse types, the Lincoln cent is the longest continuously running series in all of American coinage. Despite small initial mintages, vast quantities of Wheat Reverse cents were produced for circulation by the 1950s.
While all Wheat cents contain more than one cent worth of copper, the composition was not changed to copper-plated zinc until 1982. This means that circulated examples from the 1930s and earlier generally are worth slightly more. Pieces from the 1910s in well circulated condition can sell for $1 to $2 while pieces from the ’20s and ’30s will sell for between five cents and $1. In higher grades, examples can fetch much more, with some high-grade pieces selling for over $10,000.
1943 Steel Lincoln Cent
If you are looking at your change and see a rusty Lincoln cent, congratulations! You’ve found a 1943 steel cent. Struck for only one year, the United States replaced the copper in the cent with steel to help with the war effort. Placed in circulation in February 1943, these coins drew nearly immediate complaints from the public for two main reasons. Firstly, it was not unusual for coin machines to reject the coins. Secondly, steel cents were easily confused with more valuable silver dimes.
Of the 1.1 billion steel cents struck in 1943, many were either recalled by the Mint during the 1950s and ’60s or subsequently became severely rusted after years of circulation. As a result, very few examples survive in pristine condition. These high-grade coins bring quite a premium, with perfectly preserved examples worth up to $3,000, while other high grade (but not perfect) coins are worth $100 to $200. Circulated examples are worth between five cents and one dollar.
Pre-1964 Circulating Silver Coins
According to the Coinage Act of 1965, the U.S. eliminated silver from all circulating dimes and quarters while reducing the silver content from 90% to 40% in the half dollars. What caused this? Dramatically increased demand for silver and the subsequent rise in its price. According to the Treasury Department, the Mint utilized over 111 million troy ounces of silver in 1963, a 193% increase from 1958. There were legitimate fears of hoarding, which could contribute to an economic recession. In order to reduce the use of silver, the Federal Government decided to switch to nickel-plated copper coinage – otherwise known as clad.
In circulated grades, these coins are called “junk silver” by collectors and are generally only worth the melt value of their silver content when found in change. According to the spot silver price for September 15, 2023, of $22.86 per ounce, pre-1964 half dollars, quarters, and dimes are worth approximately $8.25, $4.07, and $1.67, respectively.
Silver War Nickels
As with the 1943 steel Lincoln cent, the U.S. Mint changed the composition of the Jefferson nickel during World War II from the regular 75% copper and 25% nickel alloy to a new 35% silver, 9% manganese, and 56% copper alloy. Officially struck from 1943 to 1945, these “War Nickels” can still occasionally be found in pocket change and are easily identifiable by their large new mintmarks (P, D, and S) on the reverse above Monticello. A total of 11 official types exist, with the first year issue being struck only at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints. The remaining dates (’44 and ’45) were produced at all three mints (including Denver). All in all, a total of 870 million war nickels were struck.
Since each nickel contains $1.29 worth of metal (as of September 15, 2023), circulated examples sell for roughly $1 apiece. However, high-grade examples can be worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars. The highest price ever paid for a non-error silver War Nickel is $22,325 for a 1944-D graded MS68 FS by PCGS in an August 2012 auction!
2004 Wisconsin State Quarter with Extra Leaf
Five years into the 50 State Quarters series, collectors identified the series’ first major variety pair: the two 2004 Wisconsin quarters with extra leaves. These two varieties both include an extra leaf on the corn husk on the left side of the ear of corn. First discovered in December of that year, the Wisconsin quarter added a whole new spin to the public’s interest in the series and prompted many people to search freshly issued bank rolls of quarters.
NGC and PCGS have certified a combined population of 19,000 of these coins, with 11,000 being of the low and 8,000 of the high extra leaf varieties. While one example, graded as MS67 sold for $1,020 in February 2022, most examples in mid-mint state sell for $150 to $200.
1965 Roosevelt Silver Dime
Officially, the United States Mint changed the composition of circulating dimes from 90% silver to a clad copper and nickel planchet in 1965. But the Mint also continued to strike 1964-dated dimes from leftover silver planchets until they used up their remaining stock. This production was also intended to meet economic demand and to prove that the government was not hoarding silver coins. A few of the old silver planchets somehow entered the clad coinage production line, resulting in an interesting transitional error.
Quite rare, only a handful of examples have hit the auction block over the past 20 years, with hammer prices between $1,900 and $16,500. Nevertheless, there is an ever-so-slight chance that a collector might spot the coin in his or her change.
2007 George Washington Presidential $1 with Missing Edge Lettering
As the first coin in the Presidential dollar series, the George Washington design was released amid a wave of interest and high mintages. Of the 340,360,000 pieces struck in Philadelphia and Denver, this is by far the most common entry in the series.
Yet by the end of February 2007, collectors had started to report an interesting error. Some Washington Presidential dollars were missing their edge lettering, which included the date (2007), the mint mark (either P or D), and the mottos “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust”. This happened because the edge lettering on circulating coinage was struck in a separate process using an edge-incusing machine after the faces were struck by the coin press. It is thought that an entire bin of 250,000 coins was released without edge lettering.
Since NGC and PCGS together report a total of 63,653 grading events as of September 15, 2023, it is quite possible that there are more coins waiting to be found in pocket change. Today, these dollars sell for $50 to $60 in low to mid-Mint State, and for up to $300 in MS67.
1955 Doubled Die Penny
Struck during one night shift at the Philadelphia Mint, the 1955 doubled die Lincoln cent is one of the most famous United States mint errors and die varieties. A coin die is made by using a hub to strike an incuse (negative) image into a die blank. Requiring a massive amount of force, it takes multiple blows to fully force the design into the die. The die used for the doubled 1955 cent must have shifted between blows, thus creating the doubling effect.
It has been estimated that of the 40,000 examples struck, between 20,000 and 24,000 were released into circulation. The vast majority were quickly pulled from circulation, so a lot of examples survive in relatively good condition. However, very few survive in Mint State. High-grade examples with a Red color designation can sell for between $7,000 and $12,000. The more common High AU/Mid-MS examples with a Brown color designation sell for $2,000 to $3,000.
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 This is the total at the time of publication (September 2023). When originally written in September 2022, the total was 3,250.
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About the Author
Tyler Rossi is currently a graduate student at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management and studies Sustainable International Development and Conflict Resolution. Before graduating from American University in Washington D.C., he worked for Save the Children creating and running international development projects. Recently, Tyler returned to the US from living abroad in the Republic of North Macedonia, where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. Tyler is an avid numismatist and for over a decade has cultivated a deep interest in pre-modern and ancient coinage from around the world. He is a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA).