Every one of us has that jar of change atop the refrigerator with pennies—accumulated over the years—that we are not planning to spend any time soon.
The extremely tiny value of a penny (one cent) makes it quite impractical to spend, as miniscule value you extract from a bunch of them is often not worth the stress of sorting them out or hauling them around.
However, this trope is not valid for all pennies.
Every seasoned coin collector knows that even with the most inexpensive coin types, there is always a tinyl percentage of superior specimens (either by grade or rarity) that attract significant price premiums.
With the penny existing since the inception of the U.S. monetary system in 1792, it is no surprise that several such valuable one-cent coins exist.
Collectors have been collecting these precious pennies for decades now, so your chances of finding any such specimen in circulation today are tremendously low. However, if you are looking to peruse the top echelon of collectible pennies money can buy, we have got you covered.
Here is a comprehensive overview of the most prominent pennies worth money.
11 Rare Pennies Worth Money
For this section, we are going to focus on the creme de la creme of one-cent coins. These are the rarest and the most expensive pennies available today.
1792 Birch Cent: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $2.6m
With the establishment of the United States monetary system, the financial arm of the Federal government sought to make new currencies that were truly American—made by us and representing the ideals of the new federation.
The 1792 Birch cent is one of the experiments that resulted from this process.
Before the release of the first pennies in 1793, the United States Mint produced several prototypes of the new coin.
The most prominent of these proto-pennies is the Birch Cent, named after its designer, British artist William Russell Birch.
The coin features a profile of Liberty with curly, flowing hair in front. The coin’s obverse also sports a unique motto; “Liberty Parent of Science and Industry.” On the reverse, you will find the coin’s denomination “One Cent” engraved boldly in the center, surrounded by an encircling wreath, nested inside an edge inscription of the “United States of America.”
However, this coin never entered circulation as, by 1793, its design was replaced with a modified version created by Mint chief engraver Henry Voigt.
There are only ten known examples of this super rare cent, and the most valuable of these sold at auction for $2.6m to a Beverly Hills rare coin dealer, Kevin Lipton of Lipton Rare Coins Inc., in 2015.
1793 Liberty Cap Wreath Cent: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $940,000
With three different penny designs produced in 1793, it is pretty easy to discern that there were issues with the public acceptance of the inceptive United States penny design.
After the Mint shelved the Birch cent for the flowing hair chain penny, objections raised by the public over the chain element in its design led to its abandonment in favor of the new flowing hair wreath penny.
However, this change lasted only a short while as more protests led to its eventual switch to another design, the Liberty cap wreath penny, in the same year.
Finally, this new style found a bit more favor amongst the public than its precedents and managed to stay in production up until 1796.
Today, these coins are even more coveted by collectors nationwide. With a total mintage of only 35,000 pieces, this coin type is quite rare, and with the coin being over 200 years old, high-grade specimens are almost impossible to find.
Consequently, the 1793 Liberty cap wreath cent is heavily sought after by all coin collectors.
Currently, even heavily corroded specimens of this coin type can easily retail for a few thousand bucks, while a near uncirculated piece rated MS58 sold at auction for $940,000 in 2017.
1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $862,500
1793 was a year of constant change for the United States penny.
After the 1792 Birch cent was abandoned by the Mint, they went on to try out two other variants of the penny—1793 flowing hair chain penny and 1793 flowing hair wreath penny—before settling for the Liberty cap penny, which stayed in production for three years from 1793 to 1796.
These two penny types are rare in their own right, as only a limited amount of these coins were struck in these test runs. For example, with the 1793 flowing hair wreath penny, only 63,253 specimens were produced by the United States Mint.
However, it is one specific variant of the 1793 flowing hair wreath penny that takes the cake amongst the coins produced that year when it comes to rarity.
The 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent is a remarkable variant of the 1793 flowing hair wreath penny that features a unique, recognizable deviation in the design of the coin’s reverse.
The 1793 flowing hair wreath penny has several variants, some of which feature a lettered edge while others, including the Strawberry cent, sport a stylized vine that forms a wreath around the “One Cent” inscribed in the center.
When the Strawberry cent differs from the rest is that that sprig that rises above the coin’s date looks like a strawberry leaf.
Currently, less than ten specimens of this rare coin variant are known to exist, with the record auction held by the finest piece found yet, which sold for $862,500 in 2009.
1943 Bronze Lincoln Penny: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $372,000
In 1943, the most powerful countries in the world, including the United States, were all locked deep in the throes of World War II. This period of extreme conflict brought with it an intense economic strain on all the countries that were involved.
One of the ways this financial pressure affected the U.S. was in the metal shortages that occurred country-side due to the depleting of the country’s metal reserve for use in the production of ammunition and other forms of gear to support the war effort.
Copper—the then favored based metal for producing pennies—became exceedingly valuable due to its critical role in producing telephone lines, electrical wirings, and munitions for use on the war front.
Consequently, in 1943, the United States Mint abandoned the copper-based Lincoln penny for a new steel version.
The 1943 steel pennies were the only steel cents ever produced by the United States Mint to date. Subsequently, the Mint opted for other copper replacements like nickel when it was necessary.
However, like with all transitionary periods in the Mint’s production system, coin errors became prevalent.
The most notable of these errors are 1943 copper pennies produced as a result of some of the bronze planchets from the previous year mixing in with the new steel ones. The United States Mint estimates that around 40 of these rare coins produced that year still exist today.
While the United States estimated a survival rate of up to 40 for the 1943 bronze Lincoln penny, less than ten specimens are known to exist today.
Every one of them attracts a considerable ransom from collectors as these coins are extremely sought after.
Today, the most decently preserved 1943 Bronze Lincoln Pennies will sell for at least $200,000. The auction record for this coin type is currently held by a specimen rated MS62 that sold for $372,000 in 2021.
1944 Steel Lincoln Penny: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $180,000
The following year, the transition from steel pennies back to their original copper composition wrought a similar error in reverse.
In 1944, as World War II was nearing its end, the Mint returned to producing copper pennies using recycled shell casings recovered from the battlefield.
This time a handful of zinc-coated steel planchets from the 1943 steel penny production the year before mistakenly found their way into the batch of bronze planchets used in striking the 1944 penny.
This error produced steel pennies in 1944 that were almost as rare as the 1943 copper pennies.
Currently, the 1944 steel Lincoln penny retails for between $25,000 and $180,000 on the collectors market.
1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $336,000
Rare varieties of specific coins are sure to appear on any list of expensive coins, and pennies are no exception. With varieties in the Lincoln pennies over the years, none is as spectacular, and few are as rare as the 1958 doubled die obverse Lincoln penny.
Due to a standard doubled die error that affects the front of the penny, this rare variety shows marked, clearly visible doubling on the words “Liberty” and “ In God We Trust” that appear on the coin’s obverse.
Currently, there are only three known varieties of this specific variant of the 1958 Lincoln penny, making it one of the rarest United States coins of the 20th century.
Unsurprisingly, the coin is extremely coveted by collectors everywhere, and it attracts an appropriately exorbitant ransom. Only one of the three known specimens has ever appeared in a public auction; an MS64-rated piece that sold for $336,000 in 2018.
1909 VDB Proof Lincoln Penny: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $258,500
Every coin collector immediately understands why proof coins are more valuable than the regular strike edition of any particular coin type.
Proof coins are coins specifically produced by the Mint for collectors.
In creating these special commemorative coins, the United States mint uses hand-finished dies to punch these coins multiple times, cleaning the dies after each strike to ensure an end product with the highest possible level of craftsmanship and an unrivaled amount of detail.
The 1909 VDB proof penny ranks up there as one of the rarest and most sought-after specimens of this coin type the Mint has produced yet.
This coin which was designed by American Sculptor and engraver Victor David Brenner and bore his initials, VDB, on the reverse, was struck in an extremely limited quantity, with only 1,194 pieces produced.
The reason for this small supply is that after this first batch of coins was produced, the Treasury Department of the United States Mint opted to remove the designer’s initial from the coin’s reverse for subsequent productions.
Numismatic experts speculate that most of this coin variant’s supply was destroyed while the remainder was stored in their pristine mint condition.
Today, only around 200 of these coins are known to exist, and their extreme rarity combined with their supreme aesthetics makes them every coin collector’s dream.
1909 VDB Proof Lincoln pennies sport a distinct eye-catching surface, complete with brilliant colors and aesthetically pleasing rainbow oxidation across both faces of the coin that helps to further bolster its mystic.
Currently, most coins from this collection retail for between $34,000 and $70,000, and the current auction record is held by an immaculately preserved MS67-rated specimen that sold for $258,500 in 2014.
1856 Flying Eagle Cent: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $172,500
Our first currencies were unsurprisingly modeled after those of the British, who ruled the American colonies until the declaration of independence. Consequently, we also inherited some of the more problematic parts of their currency, such as the case of exceptionally large cents fashioned in the form of the British penny.
The large cents produced during the first century of American independence became increasingly unpopular by the middle of the 19th century due to their many impracticalities.
The large cent was not considered legal tender by many and was often rejected by businesses, merchants, and banks in favor of higher-denominated gold and silver coins. Plus, these coins were not doing the Mint any favors either, as they were becoming more expensive to produce than their face value.
The 1856 Flying Eagle cent embodies the switch from these disliked large cents to the smaller pennies we know today, and this symbolism is valued at a premium on the collectors market.
These coins were struck as demonstrative pieces presented to members of Congress and other arms of the government as examples of what the new coins would look like. According to the United States Mint records, at least 634 specimens of the 1856 Flying Eagle cent were produced for this use case.
However, it is believed that more sample units of this coin were minted in the following years for collectors, politicians, and other dignitaries.
While there is no exact record of the total supply of this coin, numismatic experts estimate that anywhere from 1500 to 4000 pieces of the 1856 Flying Eagle cent may have been created.
Nevertheless, this ambiguity around the coin’s supply does not detract from its popularity amongst collectors. This high demand for this historically significant coin reflects heavily in its pricing, with most specimens selling for at least $15,000.
The auction record was for an 1856 Flying Eagle cent rated MS66, which sold for $172,500 in 2010.
1914-D Lincoln Penny: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $158,625
While the 1914-D Lincoln Penny does not have any unique elements or quirks in its design that make it special, it is the peculiarities around its total supply at issuance that earn it a spot on this list.
While a massive 80,569,797 pennies were produced for the 1914 issue, only a meager 1,193,000 of these were struck in the Denver Mint and consequently bore the “D” mint mark.
This huge disparity in supply meant that coins from the Denver Mint were relatively much harder to obtain. And since the vast majority of the pennies from that year were released into circulation, finding a 1914-D Lincoln penny in an uncirculated or near uncirculated state is at least five times as hard.
Today, most of the surviving 1914-D cents are well-worn units that were kept in circulation for at least 50 years. However, even these low-grade coins can easily attract prices of $200 and higher.
Higher grade 1914-D Lincoln pennies typically retail for between $5000 and $15,000, while the highest grade uncirculated offerings can reach higher prices still. The auction record for a 1914-D penny was set in 2018 by an MS66-rated coin that sold for $158,625.
1864 Indian Head Penny With L on the Ribbon: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $34,075
This coin variety sports a unique peculiarity, an “L” tag on its obverse that sets it apart from the other pennies produced that year.
Unsurprisingly, any coin produced in 1864 will today be rare enough to attract a significant premium on the collector’s market. However, the 1864 Indian has a considerably large mintage rate of 39,233,714, which can limit the upward potential of specimens from this batch.
Here, the variety with L on the Ribbon shines as it only makes up around 9% of the total supply, amounting to only around 5 million coins.
Consequently, this variant of the coin attracts considerably higher demand from collectors and often reaches fairly high prices. Most 1864 Indian Head Pennies With L on the Ribbon can sell for between $4000 to $8000, while the uncommon uncirculated specimen can reach the $10,000 to $35,000 range.
The “L” tag, which is placed on the ribbon of Liberty’s war bonnet, is the initial of James Barton Longacre, the then official Mint engraver.
1992 Close AM Reverse Lincoln Penny: Most Expensive Finalized Price: $20,000
The most recent penny that is valuable enough to feature on this list is the 1992 Close AM Reverse Lincoln Penny, a rare variant from the pennies produced that year.
In the 90s and 2000s, the United States Mint began producing proof coins with dies that were different in design from those dies used for regular business strikes. One of the key differences between both die types was that, with the proof dies, there was no distance between the feet of the letter “AM” in America, with both letters often touching.
The 1992 Close AM Reverse Lincoln Penny is a unique variant created mistakenly by the use of a proof die for the reverse of a batch of regular business coins. Numismatic experts estimate that around at least 250,000 pennies (the number of pennies produced in a die run) were struck with this error.
Currently, these coins sell easily for between $2000 and $3000 in their circulated state and can reach prices of $15,000 or higher in a finer uncirculated grade.
Rare Pennies Worth Money Chart
Here is a simple chart showing a brief overview of all the extremely valuable pennies covered in this report.
|COIN TYPE⬇\QUALITY➜||Good||Uncirculated||MS 65 or Higher|
|1792 Birch Cent||$100,000 – $500,000||$500,000+||$1,000,000+|
|1793 Liberty Cap Wreath Cent||$5000 – $10,000||$400,000 – $100,000||$300,000+|
|1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent||–||$400,000+||$400,000+|
|1943 Bronze Lincoln Penny||$10,000 – $50,000||$200,000+||$200,000+|
|1944 Steel Lincoln Penny||Less than $18,000||$18,000 – $35,000||$100,000+|
|1958 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny||–||–||$300,000+|
|1909 VDB Proof Lincoln Penny||$20,000 – $35,000||$50,000 – $70,000||$250,000+|
|1856 Flying Eagle Cent||Less than $15,000||$15,000 – $30,000||$150,000+|
|1914-D Lincoln Penny||Less than $5000||$5000 – $15,000||$100,000+|
|1864 Indian Head Penny With L on the Ribbon||$4000 – $8000||$10,000 – $15,000||$20,000+|
|1992 Close AM Reverse Lincoln Penny||$2000 – $3000||$10,000 – $15,000||$15,000+|
Are there new pennies worth more than their face value?
While most of the pennies we covered in this article are older rare variants worth several thousands of dollars, some newer pennies can also command a premium, albeit a small one, on the collectors market.
Newer pennies are typically worth around their face value because they do not pack on any extra sentimental value. Nevertheless, some variants with unique mint errors and rare traits can often sell for a few ten to a hundred bucks.