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Ten Amazing Lincoln Cents Worth A Lot of Money

By CoinWeek …..
 

Lincoln cents, the most popularly collected of all coins produced by the United States, will mark their 115th year of production in 2024. Over the span of that time, the U.S. Mint has struck over 540 billion one cent coins and is expected to produce eight billion. more this year.

The “commonness” of Lincoln cents is what made collecting them a favorite pastime for Americans, especially during the Great Depression when money was tight. Indeed, collecting Lincoln cents is widely considered a rite of passage for generations of coin collectors.

While many of these coins are quite common (like the pennies in that jar full of loose change that you may have tucked away), some Lincoln cents are quite rare and are extremely valuable. It is because of these coins that building a complete set of Lincoln cents will be out of reach for most of us and even those with the resources to buy any coin they want will find that building a complete set can take a lifetime – as it did for collector Stewart Blay, whose amazing collection of Lincoln cents GreatCollections sold in January 2023, bringing record prices.

Do you want to know which Lincoln cents are the most interesting or most valuable? We present CoinWeek’s picks for the “Top 10” Lincoln cents.

#10. 1992 Close AM – A rare cent that can be found in change

1992 Close-AM Lincoln Cent. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1992 Close-AM Lincoln Cent. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

In 1992, the United States Mint re-cut the Lincoln cent reverse master hub in an effort to sharpen the details and create a better strike. And while the design remained nearly identical, the lettering in the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA was shifted slightly. In the older design, the letters “AM” are separated; on the new version, these letters are almost touching. Intended for release in 1993, several new reverse dies were nonetheless used in 1992 by both the Denver and Philadelphia mints (there are roughly a dozen examples of the 1992-D Close AM known). The variety was discovered in December 2001 by collector Colin Kusch. The 1992 Philadelphia Close AMs are slightly rarer. First discovered in May 2006 by Michigan coin collector Parker Ogilvie, there are roughly 10 known examples.

#9. 1960 Small Date – Two date styles that started a collecting boom

1960 Small Date Lincoln cent (left). 1960 Large Date (right).
1960 Small Date (left). 1960 Large Date (right).

In 1960, the U.S. Mint updated the master dies for the Lincoln cent midyear. As was the case with the 1992 Close AM, dies of both the old style and the new style were put into use. Unlike the 1992 Close AM, however, far more of the older Small Date coins were struck and released, making the variety much more collectible.

As soon as collectors became aware of the situation, interest in the variety exploded and astute dealers were more than eager to sell the coins. Incidentally, the 1960 Small Date Lincoln cent is often called the coin that launched Coin World. By the mid-1960s, the variety was selling for close to $10 each – quite a sum for the time.

#8. 1922 Plain D – An error coin that looks like something it isn’t

1922 Plain D Lincoln cent.
1922 Plain D Lincoln cent.

In 1922, Philadelphia did not produce Lincoln cents – only Denver did. Why, then, do 1922 cents without mintmarks exist? The answer is complicated.

When the die shop at the Philadelphia Mint produces dies for the branch mints, it adds a letter or series of letters to the coin to denote the branch mint of origin. With the exception of the 1942-1945 “War” nickels, coins struck at the main mint did not carry a mintmark. This changed in 1979 with the release of the Susan B. Anthony dollar. Other denominations followed, but, outside of a few limited instances, Lincoln cents struck at the Philadelphia Mint do not carry a mintmark.

As originally shipped, all dies used to strike 1922 cents at the Denver Mint did have a mintmark punch applied to the dies, including the 1922 Plain D.

Technically this is not a true variety but a die state. As is often the case, dies become damaged during use. If a die is repairable, then a mint worker might efface the die to remove the damage (such as clash marks). In this instance, the D mintmark was accidentally polished off of the die.

While the total 1922 Denver mintage of cents stands at just over seven million coins, this die state accounts for a mere fraction of the total number. They are quite rare, often faked, and interested collectors should ensure that they only purchase certified examples.

#7. 1914-D – A low-mintage regular issue that slipped through the cracks

United States 1914-D Lincoln cent
United States 1914-D Lincoln cent

As one of the smallest mintages–second only to the 1909-S VDB and the 1931-S–the 1914-D Lincoln cent is one of the key dates for the entire series.

In fact, when Denver struck only 1,193,000 coins, Philadelphia struck over 75 million cents and San Francisco produced over four million. Even for Denver, this is a very low mintage. In 1913, the Denver Mint struck nearly 16 million coins and in 1915 it made over 22 million. PCGS Coinfacts estimates that only about 10% of the original mintage survives. We believe that this number is wildly optimistic and that perhaps fewer than 50,000 exist in desirable grades. We can thank the penny board craze of the 1930s for inspiring collectors to put aside that many.

By 1957, high-grade examples were selling for as much as $210 USD ($2,218 adjusted for inflation). Most of these are from a hoard of 700 pieces that came to market in that decade.

#6. 1944 Steel Cent – An off metal error highly regarded by collectors

1944 Steel Cent.
1944 Steel Cent.

A companion off-metal error to the 1943 bronze cent (spoilers: #1 on this list), the 1944 steel cent was produced when the Mint switched to copper planchets made from recycled shell casings in 1944.

There are two possible ways that 1944 steel cents were struck at the Philadelphia Mint: either old 1943 steel planchets or steel blanks intended for foreign coinage slipped into the production line. The latter was not possible at Denver or San Francisco as neither facility struck zinc-coated steel coins for foreign governments that year. Consequently, while there are 25-30 known Philadelphia coins and seven known from Denver, there are only two known from San Francisco.

As Fred Weinberg, mint error specialist/consultant for PCGS noted, these coins have the unfortunate and unfair reputation of being known as the “poor sister of the more famous 1943 copper cent.” Instead, they should be viewed as fascinating and rare pieces in their own right!

#5. 1909-S VDB – A controversial low mintage issue with quite a story

David Lawrence Rare Coins Key Date Lincoln cents

For the longest time, this coin was considered to be considered the “King of Lincoln Cents”. The 1909-S VDB is the San Francisco striking of Victor David Brenner’s original approved design.

1909 marked the centennial of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth, and in order to honor him, the Mint debuted a stunning new coin design featuring Lincoln on the obverse and two wheat stalks on the reverse. Brenner adapted his obverse effigy from an earlier medal. The wheat reverse was a simpler (dare we say, more modern) interpretation of the traditional wreath design.

Brenner was not a Mint artist and thought that the coin design would propel his career forward. The inclusion of his initials on the final design was not untoward or unusual for medalists or sculptors.

The American public, with the help of the media, saw the initials as self-aggrandizing, and the Treasury Department quickly sought their removal. As a result of the public uproar, the Mint pulled Brenner’s initials within days, and as a result, only 484,000 of the 2,309,000 cents stuck at the San Francisco Mint in that year have the VDB. This makes the 1909-S VDB the rarest circulating-issue Lincoln cent.

#4. 1955 Doubled Die Cent – A cent with a striking error that will make you see double

1955 Doubled Die Cent.
1955 Doubled Die Cent.

Created by an incorrectly manufactured die, the 1955 Doubled Die variety is quite dramatic and was instantly sought after upon its discovery.

The dramatic doubling was caused when the position of the die rotated slightly between impressions from the hub. This doubling is most notable on the legends IN GOD WE TRUST and LIBERTY, as well as the date (1955). The day these coins were struck, three cent presses were operating at the Philadelphia Mint. All dumped their completed coins into one box. Apparently, the inspector failed to notice the defective die until over 40,000 pieces were struck, by which time 24,000 specimens of the variety were intermingled with non-defective coins. Sixteen thousand pieces were isolated and then melted, but the rest were released into standard circulation. Many were famously paid out as change in cigarette vending machines.

#3. 1969-S Doubled Die Cent – A rare doubled die error still found in change

1969-S Doubled Die cent.
1969-S Doubled Die cent.

As with the 1955 Doubled Die cent, this coin was created by a blundered die. The 1969-S Doubled Die is much rarer than the 1955, with fewer than 40 examples certified. This small surviving population is due to the fact that the offending die was discovered quite quickly.

But collectors beware! Virtually no sooner than it had been discovered, the 1969-S fell victim to a counterfeiting scheme. In 1969, Roy Gray and Morton Goodman worked together to create a number of fakes, including the 1969 Doubled Die Lincoln cent. Reportedly, some authentic examples also got caught up in the Secret Service’s hunt for the Gray/Goodman counterfeits and were destroyed.

The main way to tell authentic 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cents from the fakes is that the real coins will not have doubled mintmarks. This was because the mintmark was punched into the die by hand after the doubling occurred.

#2. 1958 Doubled Die Cent – The king of the Lincoln cent doubled dies

The 1958 Doubled Die Lincoln cent is a controversial coin. It is also one of the most valuable. The “king” of the Lincoln cent doubled dies, only a three examples are known. The doubling is dramatic, with the legend LIBERTY and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST being the most pronounced.

The coins were discovered in 1960, reportedly by Philadelphia collector Charles Ludovico. The rarity of the issue caused many to wonder whether these were intentional mint products or even forgeries. When the Mint was given the opportunity to study Ludovico’s specimen, they determined that the coin was authentic. In the 1990s, a Mint State example of this elusive coin traded for just over $25,000 – a bargain, given that the variety has since sold for over one million dollars.

#1. 1943 Bronze Cent – This mint mistake made generations of collectors check their change

Famous 1943 Bronze Cent Error Coin Offered by GreatCollections

At number one is the most coveted of all Lincoln cent error coins: the 1943 Bronze cent. Struck during World War II, this error coin was created at a time when the United States was producing cents from zinc-coated steel planchets as it diverted its copper stockpile for the war effort.

While most current literature points to general war scarcity, some numismatists believe that this switch in metals was intended to instill a sense of ownership and sacrifice to the war effort on the part of ordinary citizens. Regardless of the reason for the switch, the U.S. Mint adopted the new planchet type for one year only. Unlike at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints, where it is thought that some old 1942 planchets accidentally remained in the coin press feeding bins, no such error occurred at the Denver Mint. The only known 1943 D Bronze cent is thought to have been struck by a Mint worker for his personal collection. With extremely fine detail, it is believed that this coin was struck twice.

A conflicting story states that this coin was actually struck by United States Mint Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock. This particular coin was not discovered until much later, when it was examined by ANACS in 1979. Recently, the coin sold in 2021 by Heritage Auctions for $840,000.

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CoinWeek
CoinWeek
Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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61 COMMENTS

  1. Hello, My name is Greg Mellon, I own MELLONPATCH4 COINS & COLLECTABLES. I sell many knives pocketknives and Hunting all brands etc; I also buy sell and appraise U.S. coins. I was disabled 30 years ago +.- so these two items are what I enjoy, and they keep me busy and help with my pain. The coins do I can take my mind off the pain while working with them. Of the 10 Lincoln Cents you show I have them all but the last 3. Over my years of dealing with coins I have had problems with grading services, yes the big boys. I ‘d sent in coins and get them back cleaned, Genuine but no grade everything you don’t want to hear or see. I found a dealer in NE and we became friends I told him about this issue, he asked me to send him my coins I did. He sent them in and all of them were graded. He had hundreds of coins graded a year I a handful, now you can take this several ways, I just stopped dealing with them and my friend has since pasted. I do not know how many people out there have had what happened to myself, my point is there could be more of these coins then you believe sitting just like mine because of my distaste for grading services. I am also a life member of the ANA, and listed in the dealer directory to give you an idea of myself. I read the Numismatic News every month, I also get the Numismatist monthly and read both. I have written my opinions to the News and it was printed, but I have not told either of my issue, years have pasted and today I might get a different result. I am the type of person that when burned by people, companies I remember and just stop dealing with. I have many coins graded by the services I am speaking of. One holder has the wrong coin in it and I did try to have this fixed I was told ay my expense, so I still have it. Does that say anything about my finally writing to you and telling my tales of woe, I do not want to say story that could be taken wrong. To wrap this up, I found these coins I only brought the 1955 double die, and I am still looking for the 69-S, 58 and the 43 bronze, I can’t tell you how many 1943 coins I have weighed. thank you I hope you enjoy this Greg Mellon

    • Thank you Greg for the article, I only started a few years ago collecting coins but really got interested last year and will continue to explore.

    • I have the69s the43bronze . I have no clue who to trust with them for grading, I would rather sell them with no issues. I never check my email.

      • Well you would have to send a picture with the 43 on a scale and a picture of the 69s and clear Pic not a blurry one then we can talk or if anyone else that thinks they have the real pennies

        • I have a coin that is rare and makes sense. In 1944 the mints were using shell ammunition left over on a certain number of them. I have a 1944 bronze steel penny and I need to have it graded. But this one is in good shape and has metal in it because a magnet picks it up. Who should I send it to to grade. The weight diameter and everything else matches up.

    • Hey greg! My name is Ray, I’m from Los Angeles and recently purchased a lot from a ebay seller. In the lot of incomplete lincoln cents 1909-58 there was a copper 1943. Now the coin looks and weighs correct! However as you examine the date you begin to see the 9 4 and 3 get flatter no detail mush like a strike through greese would! Also the 3 being the weekest struck also has suspicious marks. The style of the 3 looks correct. The color looks aged brown correct. What do you think? Hopefully i can add photos to this reply.

    • Like your story I’m 52 and also find peace in collecting pennies thanks for sharing about the big coin I was about to get one graded maybe I can share it some time.

  2. I’m new at this and I red your comment witch I find very interesting, I have a small collections of coins, some of them are rare and I would like to have an expert opinion about that so I decided to write to you about it.
    One of them is i943 1 cent in mint condition and the rarity of it is that look like is brilliant iron (I’m not sure about metal that is made and I’m going to try to send you a picture of it.

  3. I have 1943 &1944 pennies mixed with a silver metal. I have a patriotic quarter 1776-1976. I have a number of silver Eisenhower dollars. Also some with 1776-1976

  4. I have a 1943 silver penny that is magnetic, I was curious are those rare? And a 1776-1976 bicentennial drummer boy quarter and was curious about it.
    Thanks

    • You have a small fortune if that truly is a 43 steel penny get it graded don’t clean it in anything but warm water and mild soap. I’ve been collecting for over 20 years get it graded to make sure what you have is really worth a small fortune the higher the grade the better the price at Auction.

  5. Very cool .I’ve been collecting the wheat cents for awhile now and just recently found a 1935 that intrigued me. What caught my eye was liberty . It has a upside down Y were the L should be. Ive showed it to a few collectors and microscoped and its definitely a y. Any info on this would be awesome

    • ‘1982 if it weights 2.6 you have a test strike ! most weight 3.1
      if you have a ‘1983 that weights 2.6 worth a few bucks but if you have one that weights 3.1 you have 12-20 grand higher the grade better the price !

      • 43 they made steel penny and used the copper for the war..but if it was only copper but in 44 they went back to copper if you had a 44 steel…money!!

  6. This posting was terrific, and it was backed up by a factual accounting of the information that I have always read. Thank you for the nice photos.

  7. I have several old coins like these. I have a 1943 steel penny. I have die penny’s bouble die pennies. Sure would like to visit with someone about these items.

  8. Yea I know the feeling who to trust..I have 5 1969s and wheat pennies from 1911to 1958. Plus I have 1960 plus 1958 both double dies.. who do I trust??? I have called heritage they tell me they would give me very little for them..I have went to local shops they tell me pennies aren’t worth much…I have others and if I can’t trust them either pennies how can I trust them at all??? I read on the internet 1969s pennies sold at auction for 125 thousand , I have 5 of them!! Who do I trust????

    • They could be lying just to see how many of these pennies pop up, and are out in the population. A lot of what is said about these coins always comes back as they are not worth anything after it’s put out there that it was sold for almost a million for a penny. Any thing that sounds to good to be true is not. I have all these ones as well. I’m just gonna sit on them cause I love the history behind each penny there story’s are worth more to me then the penny itself and some have
      That special history behind them that’s amazing and priceless. Keep your pennies there worth admiring.

    • Buddy I’m in the same boat I got 1909 vdb’s the 58 to 1969s 35 34 33 32 31 1960 small day big date 61 62s 63 small and big who do you trust the den of thieves is what they are but I found mine in the old collection in the storage

  9. I have a 1943 copper Pennie on the obverse side it is zinc so the copper was hiding and when they changed to steel that were coated with zinc this little copper Pennie came out of hiding and was coated with zinc what is this one in a million history in the making all I need is an avid coin collector at 90 years old I would like to retire spread the news. Gwen

  10. I have at around 10 of the 1940s and 1950s coins (pennies) and some bicentennial quarters along with some change with errors on them I also have one quarter that looks like the face was either shaved off or is a error coin- – How do I get those checked out or sell them??

  11. Michael Valle , I am a collector, for over five yrs , I have most of the wheat pennies, I am also a stamp collector for over 20yrs , comics books ,baseball,football and basketball cards.but Favorite is coins.

  12. I have complete sets and so many other great key dates , the coin shop that I was told that was the best…..There slung my coins on the counter as I was repeating to them PLEASE PLEASE do not treat them like that , I treat them with respect, they person became more and more disrespectful towards them (my coins) and me . Some received marks due to this .Then they wanted to purchase them by the pound. I think that they underestimated my knowledge about what I brought there.Lucky 3/4 of my fabulous finds were still at my sister… Conclusion: I was the only professional in the room. They got nothing and I went to my release my aggravation at Cage fit . Great work out …

  13. I have1944 steel penny how much are they worth I have with no midmark on it 1943 steel penny there’s no midmark on the other coin if any won’t to let me know please thank you

  14. I’m new at this. I heard about the AM stamping and have looked through a myriad of pennies. It sems that many of the ones I have looked at have the A and M touching. Am I not seeing what I think I’m seeing?

  15. I have a 1909 VDB Lincoln wheat cent with no mint mark in really great condition probably would be graded as Red Brown. From what I’ve seen other coins graded its probably around a 68 or 69 but don’t really know what it will be graded as. Wondering how much this coin could be worth. The last one that I heard about was sold at 258,500.00 in good condition so I think mine should be worth at least that much or maybe more than that

  16. I have a 1964 Jefferson nickel which on the reverse side where it says United States of America the u and the n is complete but from the I in United to the I in America only the top half of the letters are there then the C and A are complete. I looked through thousands and thousands of nickels and never have seen another one like this or even heard about one like it anywhere. So was thinking it could be worth quite a bit from having a mint struck error like that

  17. What is the process if I have a VERY valuable coin???
    I have a 1944 penny w.out Where it was cast. I also have 2 pennies from 1945, one I Think from San Francisco.

  18. I have found a 1988 penny with no mint mark. Everything I have read doesn’t mention anything else that has to be different. I read that Philadelphia started using a mint mark in 1980, and a handful of their pennies were produced without mint marks. I too have recently become disabled and the coins seemed to calm me. Thank you

  19. My name is vern I have collected coins started collecting when I was about 19 I am 48 now still collecting coins I have a lot of wheat penny’s it would be cool to get them graded but to scared to send them off I live in winchester TN is there a place close by I can take them so I don’t have to send them off I also have dimes nickels quarters 2 dollar bills in my collection my favorite is my 2 headed quarter some say it is a game quarter some say it isn’t but still it is cool to have

  20. I have a box of bunch of old coins I found remodeling my grand parents house after they past away got 14-15 1943 steel pennys 1 1944 d bronze wheat penny n a number of other old coins where do I get them graded and n where would I auction them.. think anyone with information about this

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