One of the most popular types of coins to collect is penny errors. This broad category includes most of the unusual Lincoln cents that have managed to escape the United States Mint over the years.
This is a complex area of the hobby, as the Lincoln cent has been in production since 1909 and covers more than a century of numerous errors. What’s more, determining their values is mostly dependent on the individual magnitude of the error and the coin’s condition.
Lincoln Cent Errors and Prices
This article will provide an at-a-glance review of the most valuable errors and varieties among 12 penny errors. One should consult a Lincoln cent reference book to understand better the many varieties found among Lincoln cents. One of the best books on the topic is A Guide Book of Lincoln Cents, by Q. David Bowers (Whitman Publishing).
Errors and Prices
- 1922-D (no “D”) - $500+
- 1943 Bronze - $100,000+
- 1944 Steel - $75,000+
- 1955 Doubled Die Obverse - $1,000+
- 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse - $25,000+
- 1972 Doubled Die Obverse - $300+
- 1982-D Copper Small Date - $10,000+
- 1992 Close AM - $5,000+
- 1995 Doubled Die Obverse - $30+
- 1998 Wide AM - $20+
- 1999 Wide AM - $400+
- 2000 Wide AM - $20+
One of the trickiest Lincoln cent errors it catches is the 1922-D “no D.” This is a famous example of a “filled die” error. Grease from the coining press can get on a die, filling a design element. Coins struck with that die will be missing that design element. In the case of the 1922-D “no D” Lincoln cent, grease filled the mint mark in a die.
Lincoln cents struck with this die are missing the “D” mint mark. This made the pennies look like they were minted in Philadelphia, which does not have a mint mark. The only reason that this famous “no D” error was discovered, was that Philadelphia didn’t make Lincoln cents in 1922. The following are the frequently asked questions about Lincoln penny errors.
What Pennies are worth keeping?
Every Lincoln cent struck before 1982 (except for the 1943 wheat penny) was made from a mostly copper composition. They are now worth closer to two cents for the metal value. Lincoln wheat cents were all bronze, struck from 1909 through 1958. Bronze Lincoln Memorial cents were struck from 1959 to 1981. (Both bronze and zinc cents were minted in 1982.) Lincoln cents have been struck from copper-coated zinc since 1982.
Beyond copper content, the collector should focus on the dates listed above. Also, check any and all pennies that appear to have mistakes or other oddities on them. While further inspection may reveal many of those “errors” to be only post-mint damage, it’s best to save what looks odd first and then rule it out (or in) as an error. You wouldn’t want to pass up an opportunity at saving a coin you weren’t sure about but spent out of haste or doubt.
What Year Pennies Are Valuable?
The answer to this question is similar to the previous one. However, if we are adding rare regular-issue dates to this list, consider the following valuable Wheat pennies:
- 1909-S - $100+
- 1909-S VDB - $600+
- 1911-S - $40+
- 1914-D - $150+
- 1924-D - $30+
- 1931-S - $100+
The Whitman “Red Book” Guidebook to U.S. Coins is often called the “official price guide to US coin collecting.” The Red Book does not list mint error coins, but it does list all major varieties, such as doubled dies and repunched mint marks. This can help you identify valuable pennies and old coins even without a current price list.
What Is An Error Penny?
An error penny is any one-cent coin that was misstruck during production in the U.S. Mint. Strike errors include such things as broadstrikes and off-center coins. Transitional errors can happen when a coin’s composition changes, but the old dies are used.
Die errors include filled dies, die cracks, and die doubling. Doubled die Lincoln cents aren’t technically errors, but rather are in a class of coins known as varieties. The 1955 Double Die Obverse Lincoln cent is one of the most famous double die U.S. coins.
What Year Pennies Have Errors?
Technically, errors can be found on a Lincoln cent from any year. That’s why it’s worth paying close attention to all the coins that go through your hands and investigating any coin that appears odd or unusual. If you’re looking for a more specific answer, please refer to the list above for the most notable penny errors.
What Are The Different Types Of Errors
Some of the most common penny errors include off-center coins, broadstrikes, and clipped planchets. Note that doubled dies, repunched mint marks, and die breaks are technically not errors, but rather varieties. These anomalies were created in the die creation stage or by way of wear-related changes to the die. Coin errors are created during the production of the individual coin itself.
What Is A Broadstrike Error?
A broadstrike error occurs when the coin is struck without its retaining collar in place. The retaining collar not only keeps the coin round and forms the edge, but it can also add lettering or designs like reeding to the edge.
How Can You Tell If Your Coin Has An Error?
It’s best to compare the coin that seems to be an error to other known examples of that error. This is where educational websites and coin books can be of most help. Unfortunately, many of the things that appear to be errors to new collectors are just forms of post-mint damage and thus add no value to the coin.
The body of coinage such as Jefferson nickels is so vast that it can’t feasibly be examined here in a paragraph or two. It’s best to consult an educational website or reputable reference guide for detailed information. Two trusted sources are the Combined Organization of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA), and the two-volume Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton (Whitman Publishing, 2008).
Which 1982 Penny Is Worth The Most?
The most valuable 1982 penny is a transitional error caused by the move from 95% copper to 99.2% zinc composition. It’s the 1982-D “small date” Lincoln Memorial cent made from copper. There wasn’t supposed to be any “small date” bronze Lincoln cents struck in Denver in 1982.
Leftover copper planchets struck with the new “small date” die meant for zinc coins caused this error coin rarity. This is technically a “wrong planchet error,” even though both types of blanks were meant for Lincoln cents. The 1982-D small date bronze Lincoln is often regarded as the “eighth variety” of a year that contained seven regular-issue Lincoln cent varieties. The seven “regular” 1982 Lincoln cent varieties are:
- 1982 “Large Date” bronze;
- 1982 “Small Date” bronze;
- 1982 “Large Date” zinc;
- 1982 “Small Date” zinc;
- 1982-D “Large Date” bronze;
- 1982-D “Large Date” zinc;
- 1982-D “Small Date” zinc.
The 1982-D copper small date was not discovered until 2016. It is worth more than $10,000.
How Much Is A 1999 Penny Worth?
Most 1999 pennies are worth only face value if worn. A handful of varieties are known, showing the bases of the letters “A” and “M” of “AMERICA” on the reverse further apart from each other than usual. These so-called 1999 Wide AM pennies are coins worth around $400 each.
What Is The Rarest Penny?
That’s the 64,000 question! Ironically, the most valuable Lincoln cent ever sold is worth much more than even that. In 2010, the only known 1943-D bronze Lincoln cent sold for $1.7 million. The coin, graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as PCGS MS64BN (Brown), crossed the block at a Legend Numismatics auction. The seven-figure sale of this rare coin made headlines all around the world.
How Much Is My Penny Worth?
Although many factors determine the exact value of a coin, you can quickly determine the value of your penny by knowing its type, date, mint mark, and grade. A coin type is very easily determined by looking at it. The design that is used in a particular denomination of coin over time is known as its type.
For example, Lincoln cents feature a portrait of Lincoln on the obverse that has been there since 1909. The reverse originally featured two stalks of wheat and this type was known as the Lincoln Wheat Penny. The United States has made four different types of small cents:
- Flying Eagle Penny (1856-1858)
- Indian Head Penny (1859-1909)
- Wheat Penny (1909-1958)
- Lincoln Memorial Penny (1959-2008)
To find out how much your U.S. penny is worth, we first need to determine its type. The U.S. has made two major types of pennies, the Large Cent, and the Small Cent. The Large Cents are dated 1857 and earlier and are much bigger and heavier than our current penny type, the Small Cent.
If you have Large Cents in your collection that you need information or values for, I recommend that you find an honest coin dealer to help you evaluate them, as Large Cents have many different varieties for most dates, and shouldn’t be priced using an online guide if you want maximum money for them.
If your penny is the Small Cent type, it will be about the same size as the ones we use today although it might be a tiny bit heavier. The United States Mint currently makes all one-cent coins on zinc planchets that have a thin layer of pure copper covering the entire surface. Pennies minted before 1982 were made of solid copper or bronze. This alloy is slightly heavier than the current zinc-plated alloy that the mint is currently using.
What Is My Flying Eagle Cent Worth?
If your small-sized penny is dated 1857 or 1858, it is a Flying Eagle Cent. A Flying Eagle Cent in the well-worn condition of lamination is worth about $15 to $25 if you sold it to a coin dealer. (Note: Most of the coin prices are realistic amounts that a dealer will pay you. They’re not retail or “catalog” values like you find virtually everywhere else. Most people looking for coin prices want to know how much they can sell their coins for today.)
If your Flying Eagle Cent is dated 1856, you need to take it to a dealer to get an appraisal. This penny is very rare, with a mintage of only 2,000 specimens, and forgeries and alterations of this date are far more common than the genuine 1856. The 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is considered to be a pattern coin, rather than a circulation issue by many experts.
What Is My Indian Head Penny Worth?
Indian Head pennies are dated from 1859 through 1909, and have a depiction of Lady Liberty wearing an Indian-style feathered headdress, hence the misnomer “Indian Head” Penny. In general, all Indian Head pennies are worth at least $1 each, even in very worn condition, as long as they’re not severely damaged. Be on the lookout for 1877 and 1909-S Indian Head pennies. They are most valuable in any condition and are highly sought after by coin collectors.
What Is My Wheat Penny Worth?
Wheat Pennies are dated from 1909 to 1958 and have a portrait of Lincoln on one side, and a wreath-like design of wheat heads on the other. Sometimes called “Lincoln Cents” (without mentioning the Memorial as described below) they are made of almost pure copper (95%) except for one year, the 1943 penny, which is made of zinc-plated steel.
All Wheat Pennies are worth at least three times face value, but of course many are worth substantially more especially the key date Wheat pennies. Be on the lookout for the ultra-rare 1909-S VDB. This coin is most sought after by collectors and is valuable in any grade. Also, the 1909-S (no VDB on the reverse), the 1914-D, and the 1931-S are also valuable coins in any condition.
What Is My Lincoln Memorial Penny Worth?
Lincoln Memorial Pennies are dated 1959 to 2008 and have a portrait of Lincoln on one side of the Lincoln Memorial building on the other. They were made of 95% copper until 1982. During 1982 the composition was changed to 97.5% zinc, with a thin copper plating, so that you have pennies dated 1982 made of both metal types. From 1983 until today, all U.S. pennies are made of mostly zinc.
Most Lincoln Memorial Pennies are only worth face value unless they have their original copper luster from Mint. In 2009, the U.S. Mint issued a unique commemorative set of four pennies to celebrate the 100th anniversary of President Lincoln’s birth and the Lincoln cent design. Lincoln Cents enjoyed a surge in popularity, which meant some higher values for these incredibly popular pennies.
The United States Mint in 2010 permanently changed the reverse of the Lincoln cent to feature a shield with E PLURIBUS UNUM at the top and a banner emblazoned with ONE CENT across the shield. These new coins are known as the Lincoln Shield Reverse penny. Numismatists classify these three different types of Lincoln pennies all under the Lincoln Memorial Cent type.
How To Find Rare Error Coins
Finding error coins and copper pennies in your daily pocket change can be fun and profitable and it’s very easy to do. Develop good coin-checking habits from the very beginning and you may locate error coins and die varieties that are circulating right now.
There are still many new discoveries waiting to be found. Some of them will be minor with very little numismatic premium. Also, it could be a very rare case that you discover a major mint error that could be worth significant money in your pocket. Finally, remember to set your expectations in line with what is currently circulating. In other words, valuable error coins are possible to find, however, the reason they are valuable is that they are rare.
If you could go to the bank, get a few rolls of coins to search, and pull out a few hundred dollars worth of rare coins, everyone would be doing it. Hence, they would not be rare. It is not uncommon to go through ten, twenty, or more rolls of coins and not find anything of value.
Always examine your coins in batches of similar coins. For instance, check all your pennies, and then your nickels, then your dimes. Your eye will get used to seeing each type after the first couple of coins, so you can quickly scan them once your brain has become familiar. The more dramatic the error or variety is, the more valuable it will be.
The Final Thought
It can be helpful to get a couple of good reference books on error coins and die varieties written especially for beginners. For general information about mint errors and varieties, “The Official Price Guide to Mint Errors” by Alan Herbert is helpful.
Another excellent book is “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” by Ken Potter and Brian Allen. Both of the books contain many close-up images of what to look for on the coins, along with rarity and pricing information.