Top 19 Most Valuable Pennies Ever Sold
The U.S. one-cent piece, commonly known as the penny, was one of the original denominations minted in the United States and remains a staple of United States coinage today.
Although a penny's face value is just one cent, many rare or unusual pennies are worth far beyond that and have sold for jaw-dropping amounts at auctions. Who knew that a small piece of copper could be worth so much? But the interesting question is, which pennies are worth a lot of money?
This article will first give you a brief history of the penny, followed by a look at what makes a penny valuable, and will conclude with a list of the 19 most valuable pennies ever sold with other additional valuable pennies worth mentioning.
The name “penny” has been around for hundreds of years and is used to denote the smallest monetary unit in several currencies worldwide.
Interestingly, in the U.S., the term penny is more colloquial, meaning that penny is the common term and not the official one. The official name of the penny is the “cent” according to the U.S. Mint or the “one-cent piece” according to the U.S. Treasury. You might even hear the expression "one-hundredth of a United States dollar."
The first American cent was the Fugio or Franklin cent, designed by Benjamin Franklin and minted only in 1787. The U.S. penny came into existence with the Coinage Act of 1792 when the first one-cent coins were minted in Philadelphia in 1793.
Although pennies are the smallest denomination of U.S. currency nowadays, that hasn't always been the case. The U.S. minted half-cent coins up until 1857, and they were also made of copper.
Pennies were made of 100% copper up until 1857, when the copper content was reduced to 88%. Since 1982, the U.S. Mint switched the composition to copper-plated zinc — primarily zinc with only 2.5% copper.
Check out more information on our article: What are pennies made of?
Along with the metal content, the penny designs have also changed several times over the years. The Lincoln pennies, which most people are familiar with, were originally minted in 1909 to commemorate Lincoln's 100th birthday.
The U.S is still minting coins under the one-cent denomination and has released the following special mintages:
- In celebration of the Mint’s 225th anniversary in 2017, pennies produced in Philadelphia received for the first time a “P” mint mark.
- In 2019, the West Point Mint made special collectible pennies with a “W” mint mark.
Now that you know the penny's history, let's discuss why the pennies on the list below are so valuable.
Whether you are a coin dealer or collector, you might already know that the main factor affecting value is rarity or how many of a particular item exists. The amount in which the coins were originally produced is what makes a coin extremely rare, the surviving population (how many are left), and whether the penny has any errors or is unusual in any way.
The other main factor affecting value is condition. The closer a penny is to mint condition, the more valuable it will be. Proof versions or other uncirculated coins may also be more valuable for coin collectors.
Now that you know the history of pennies and why some pennies are rare coins worth a lot of money, let's dive into the 19 most coveted pennies ever sold.
This list will go from the least to the most expensive penny ever sold. Although there are many examples of valuable pennies worth far more than their face value, we've narrowed the list down to coin values of five figures or more.
19) 1914 S Lincoln Penny
Normally, the 1914 S penny would not be a rare find because 4 million of them were minted in San Francisco. What made this particular coin valuable is its nearly mint condition because most coins from this year are well-worn.
Value: One of these mint condition coins sold at auction in 2006 for $105,800.
18) 1944 D Steel Lincoln Penny
The 1944 Steel Lincoln Penny is a transitional error coin. In 1943, due to the war efforts, all copper supply was redirected to the production of artillery and other war-related products. Therefore, the US Mint changed the composition of the penny to a zinc-coated steel alloy.
However, the 1943 Steel Cent was highly unpopular at the time, and the copper content officially returned in 1944. These Steel cents with the 1944 mint year were leftover steel planchets that ended up accidentally fed to the pressing machines. The specimen above is the Denver Mint version of the 1944 Steel penny, proving the transitional error with the penny composition occurred in multiple branches of the US Mint. Only a handful of the 1944-D Steel Lincoln Penny are known to exist.
Value: This penny sold at auction in 2007 for $115,000.
17) 1872 Indian Head Penny
As with the 1877 Indian Head penny, the 1872 version came when people were unable to afford to collect. Thus, most of these pennies can be found in circulated condition. This particular example is in excellent condition and retains its red copper color.
Value: This example sold at auction in 2007 for $126,500.
16) 1969 S Double Die Obverse Lincoln Penny
This is the newest penny on this list, but its value comes not from its mintage year but its double die error. It was initially believed that these were counterfeit coins, and five examples were destroyed before it was realized that these were genuine coins. Uncirculated examples of this coin with the double die are scarce.
Value: One of these uncirculated coins sold at auction in 2008 for $126,500.
15) 1926 S Lincoln Penny
This coin is valuable primarily because of its date and mintmark. This year, there was extremely low mintage, and it's rare to find an uncirculated example with its original copper-red color.
Value: This penny sold at auction in 2006 for $149,500.
14) 1877 Indian Head Penny
This is the rarest date of the Indian Head pennies, resulting from an economic slump in 1873. This slump meant that saving even a penny for collecting was not an option for most people. Thus, an 1877 Indian Head penny in uncirculated condition is exceedingly rare.
Value: This penny sold at auction in 2007 for $149,500.
13) 1914-D Lincoln Penny
There were a large number of these coins circulated, and most pennies are typically worn because they were commonly kept in “penny boards” in the 1930s and 40s, which people used to collect coins from circulation.
Thus, an uncirculated coin of this mintage in a mint state is rare and valuable. This coin is valuable because of its excellent condition despite being more than 100 years old. There is no noticeable bag mark on the coin's surface, and it has retained its original bright red-orange copper colored penny visual.
Value: One of these coins sold at auction in 2018 for $158,625 at Legend Rae Coin Auctions.
12) 1864 Indian Head Penny with L on the Ribbon
James B. Longacre designed the Indian Head penny, which was first issued in 1859. The Civil War was still dragging on in 1864, and many people hoarded precious metals to store wealth, making it difficult for the Mint to make coins. The “L” was added on the end of the ribbon on Lady Liberty's war bonnet about halfway through the year, and while around 5 million of these coins were made, few of them remain in uncirculated condition.
Value: This coin sold at auction in 2011 for $161,000.
11) 1909-S VDB Lincoln penny
The 1909-S VDB Cent ranked 14th in the second edition of "100 Greatest U.S. Coins" by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, which proves the popularity of the date.
During the brief timeframe when the VDB coins were minted in San Francisco, the coin gained its second coveted characteristic: a limited mintage. A mere 484,000 Cents bearing the VDB initials were released, resulting in an immediate sense of rarity.
Value: in 2022, an MS 67 individual was sold for $168,000 at Stack's Bowers.
10) 1856 Flying Eagle Penny
The price of copper rose during this year, making it cost more than a penny to produce. Previous pennies were about the size of a half-dollar, so to cut costs, the United States Mint reduced the penny's size to its current size.
The Mint produced a batch of 800 of the new pennies for Congressional approval, and any of these pennies is a rare find.
Value: This Flying Eagle Cent sold at auction in 2004 for $172,500.
9) 1944 Steel Lincoln Penny (No Mint Mark)
As previously mentioned, the 1944 Steel Cent is an exceptionally rare off-metal strike. This coin came about when a steel blank from 1943 was accidentally struck with the 1944 Die and mixed with bronze cents by mistake. Experts believe around 25-30 of these coins exist today, approximately double the known population of 1943 Bronze Cents.
Value: An MS64 was sold for $180,000 in 2021 at Heritage Auctions.
8) 1909 V.D.B. Matte Proof Lincoln Penny
The wheat pennies and the Lincoln Head design debuted in 1909. One version of this mintage year had the initials of the engraver, Victor David Brenners (V.D.B.), on the coin's reverse side. Any one of these coins in circulated or uncirculated condition is very rare.
This proof penny has all three of the coin designer's initials, and only 1,194 were struck at the Philadelphia Mint before the initials were removed. This coin is not only rare, but this particular one features brilliant colors from being stored for more than 100 years.
Value: This bright colore penny was sold at auction in 2014 for $258,500.
7) 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Penny
This is yet another rare penny, but this time the rarity is due to its die variety. Only three of these pennies are known to exist, and all three are in mint condition. The condition has led some to speculate that these may have been smuggled out of the United States Mint by an employee.
Value: One of these pennies sold at auction in 2018 for $336,000.
6) 1943 Bronze Lincoln Penny (No Mint Mark)
With a considerably low population, this is another example of the rare 1943 cents that have been discovered struck in error on old-style bronze blanks. Approximately 10-12 examples are known as 1943 Cents on Bronze Planchets.
Value: in 2021, an MS62 was sold for $372,000 at Heritage Auctions.
5) 1944-S Steel Lincoln Penny
The 1944-S Steel Cent is the last and most expensive variation of the 1944 Steel pennies. An exceedingly uncommon off-metal striking that was created when a remaining steel blank from 1943 was struck in the regular production run of 1944-S Bronze Cents.
These pennies were not supposed to be produced at all but rather were the result of zinc plated steel planchet somehow ending up in the coining press at the San Francisco Mint facility.
With a current population of only two specimens, according to PCGS, the flawless coin illustrated above is now a part of the Simpson collection of off-metal 1943 and 1944 Cents, the only complete collection ever assembled of these hugely acclaimed coins.
Value: In 2021, an MS66 specimen was sold for $408,000 at Heritage Auctions.
4) 1943 S Lincoln Bronze Penny
The 1943-S Bronze Cent has only five examples known to the date of this article. This is an extremely rare coin that is not as accessible as the no mint mark version of the 1943 Bronze Cent, despite the intense searching.
This coin has proven to be the second most difficult of all the 1943/1944 off-metals to find in good condition. The discovery date for this error coin seems to be 1944 when a young 14-year-old collector found a 1943-S Bronze Cent in circulation.
Value: in 2020, an MS63 was sold for $504,000 at Heritage Auctions.
3) 1793 1C Wreath, Strawberry Leaf Cent
In 2009, the Strawberry Leaf penny broke records for the most money paid for a penny at an auction, going for $862,000.
The Strawberry Leaf cent is extremely rare, bearing a four-leaf strawberry plant on the tail of the coin instead of the normal three-leaf trefoil. Only four of these coins exist, so if you find one, you’d be very lucky indeed. It would be luckier than finding a four-leaf clover.
Value: in 2009, it was sold for $862,500 at Stack's Bowers auction.
2) 1943 D Lincoln Bronze Penny
The second most valuable Lincoln penny on this list is the 1943 D Lincoln Bronze penny, which resulted from an accident. Only a handful of these bronze pennies have been discovered.
The United States Mint replaced the bronze planchet with zinc-plated steel pennies in 1943, as previously mentioned, to accomodate the copper demand for the war. However, a few leftover bronze blanks from 1942 slipped through, resulting in these bronze pennies. Less than 20 are estimated to have been released by the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints. The rarest was the penny illustrated above, the single example known to have been produced at the Denver Mint.
Despite many believing that the mint workers struck these coins on a bronze alloy planchet instead of zinc-plated steel planchets on purpose, the most plausible option is that a few bronze alloy planchets from the previous year got stuck on a conveyor belt or tote and were used in the striking process by pure mistake.
Value: This penny sold at a private sale in 2010 for $1.7 million. However, in 2021, the same specimen was auctioned for $840,000 at Heritage auctions.
1) 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny
According to PCGS, This is one of the mega-rarities of the 20th century. There are only three known examples. Which makes this coin extremely valuable.
The 1958 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent variety is such a scarce coin, so hard to pin down, that few ever really even attempt to collect it. This variety is a true challenge for even the most financially prepared collector.
From the pure standpoint of the coin being a doubled die, this 1958 variety is quite impressive. The doubling is visible and recognizable to the naked eye in the obverse inscriptions IN GOD WE TRUST and LIBERTY, with doubling also evident upon closer inspection of the date.
The most sought-after doubled dies are the ones that don’t require magnification to notice clearly. Impressive how there are only three of these valuable coins out there, considering that the outstanding doubling visual could startle the less experienced eye.
Value: As of January 22, 2023, Great Collections Auctions sold a PCGS MS65 Red extremely valuable penny for an impressive $1,136,250.
It is true that the 1943-D Bronze Penny still holds the record for the highest price for that private sale in 2010 ($1.7 million). However, because it was reauctioned in 2021 for $840,000, we can state that the 1958 Double Die Obverse Penny has taken the throne as the current most valuable penny.
Pennies, formally known as one-cent pieces or simply cents, have existed since the inception of the U.S. Mint.
The penny has gone through many different designs, sizes, and metal compositions throughout the years, and there are many of the rarest coins out there that will cost coin collectors, well, a pretty penny.
The list above covers the 20 most valuable pennies ever sold, but there are plenty more out there to keep an eye out for your collection.
What pennies to look for that are worth money?
The top valuable pennies are the six off-metal cents from 1943-1944, made in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco facilities, with prices in the five to six-figure range. In 1943, all should have been zinc-coated steel, but some were bronze. In 1944, with bronze reinstated, a few were mistakenly zinc-coated steel.
Why is a 1982 penny worth $ 10,000?
The 1982 D Small Date bronze Lincoln penny is worth about $ 10,000 due to its extreme rarity resulting from a transitional error. The U.S. Mint's shift from copper coins to zinc core-coated coins in 1982 led to distinct Large Date and Small Date designs. Denver avoided striking the Small Date on copper planchets, making it highly sought after. A 2019 auction saw one for $18,800.
Why is the 1977 penny worth so much?
The 1977-D Lincoln Cent is common up to MS65 grade. Yet, it becomes challenging in MS66 and even scarcer in MS67 or higher. There are only three MS68 examples certified by PCGS. In 2016, an MS68RD sold for $7,050 at Heritage Auctions.
What makes a 1999 penny valuable?
Some of the 1999 business strikes for pennies were struck with a reverse proof die accidentally. From 1994 to 2008, all regular proof Lincoln cents should display the letters AM of AMERICA separated from each other, in the so-called Wide AM style reverse. Anything different is considered a variety or a Mint error, which can be worth up to $1,450.00, in good condition, according to PCGS.
What penny is worth over $1000000?
According to PCGS, the 1958 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent variety is one of the mega-rarities of the 20th century. There are only three known examples. In 2023 GreatCollections Auctions sold a PCGS MS65 Red example for $1,136,250.
What are the top 10 rare pennies?
The top 10 rarest pennies worth money are:
- 1943 D Lincoln Bronze Penny
- 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Penny
- 1793 Wreath, Strawberry Leaf Cent
- 1943 S Lincoln Bronze Penny
- 1944-S Zinc-Coated Steel Lincoln Penny
- 1943 Bronze Penny
- 1958 Doubled Die Obverse Penny
- 1909 V.D.B. Matte Proof Lincoln Penny
- 1944 1C Steel Lincoln Penny No Mint Mark
- 1856 Flying Eagle Penny
What year penny is most valuable?
The most valuable error penny is 1958 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent variety. According to PCGS, on January 22, 2023 GreatCollections Auctions sold a PCGS MS65 Red for $1,136,250.