In the world of numismatics, the market value of a coin depends on several factors. Chief amongst these factors is the rarity of the coin and the demand by top collectors. If a penny is rare and its demand is high, then invariably the value of the 25-cent coin would be high as well.
In addition to rarity and demand, the condition of the coin graded by professional coin grading bodies, such as:
- Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS),
- American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS),
- or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) would also go a long way in spiking up the value.
This post reveals the top 10 most valuable U.S pennies according to their auctioned value, starting with the penny with the least auctioned value to the U.S penny with the highest auctioned value.
Top 10 Most Valuable U.S Pennies
#1. Indian Head Penny (1877)
The copper-red 1877 Indian Head Penny is one of the rarest of the minted Indian Head pennies. Back in the late 19th century, the U.S faced an economic recession that began in 1873 and lasted for at least four years.
At this period of time in U.S history, there was a low demand for U.S coinage. This was a tough time for a lot of families in the United States and a time when many families spent more money than they could save.
If you are able to get a 1877 Indian Head Penny that is in great condition (uncirculated quality) and graded by a recognized coin grading services organization, you could earn yourself a lot of money.
In August of 2017, a PCGS (MS-66) graded Indian Head Penny was sold at Heritage Auctions, Milwaukee for USD $149,500.
#2. Lincoln Penny (1914, Denver)
The Lincoln Penny is a red colored coin that had a large quantity in circulation when it was first minted in 1914.
However, during the 1930s up to the 1940s, many collectors made use of the services of “Penny Boards” to collect the Lincoln Pennies that were in circulation at the time and because of this it is difficult to find a penny in uncirculated mint condition. In August 2017, a PCGS (MS-66+) graded 1914, Denver minted Lincoln Penny sold at Heritage Auctions, Denver for an outstanding USD $152,750.
#3. Indian Head Penny (1864)
The U.S economy during the civil war was on an all-time low with the currency having very little value as a medium of exchange. Many Americans resorted to keeping hold of precious metals like copper, silver and gold which they traded for essential commodities.
This made it hard for the Federal Government to get the kind of metal required to mint coins.
The first Indian Head Penny was minted back in 1859. The design of this penny was then modified in 1864 by James B. Longacre, a mint engraver at the time.
Engraved in the 1864 Indian Head Penny, Lady Liberty can be seen wearing a war bonnet on her head with a ribbon and attached to the tail end of this ribbon is an “L” shape.
While approximately 5 million 1864 Indian Head pennies were minted, it is quite hard to find many of this coin in mint condition. In October 2011, a PCGS (PR-65) graded 1864 Indian Head Penny was auctioned off at Heritage Auctions, Pittsburgh for USD $161,000.
#4. Lincoln Penny (1943)
The copper-red colored 1943 Lincoln Penny were made using bronze alloy planchets instead of the more commonly used zinc-plated steel planchets (at the time).
There were many speculations as to why this was so with some people suggesting that the coins were intentionally struck on bronze alloy planchets by the workers at the mint.
Others speculated that the bronze alloy planchets were inadvertently used because of the urgency to mint and have the pennies circulated.
Whatever the case may be, eager coin collectors were quick to recognize their value and pull out a significant number from general circulation. In January 2013, a PCGS (MS-63) graded 1943 copper-red Lincoln Penny sold in an auction for USD $164,500 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries.
#5. Flying Eagle Cent (1856)
Before 1856, the copper pennies minted were large and quite bulky in appearance. However, due to the rise in the value of copper in 1856, the size of the Flying Eagle Cent minted at the time had to be significantly reduced.
But before minting could commence, the U.S Mint first had to get the approval of the U.S congress and a small batch consisting of 800 coins would be minted and presented before congress.
The rarity of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent has only risen its value with a PCGS (MS-66) graded coin sold at Heritage Auctions, Orlando for USD $172,500 back in January 2004.
#6. VDB Lincoln Penny (1909)
The 1909 VDB Lincoln Penny had just 1,194 proof copies minted by the Philadelphia Mint prior to an edict by the Treasury Department that the initials of the designer – “V.D.B” should be taken off the penny.
With just under 2,000 minted copies in existence, the rarity of the VDB Lincoln Penny makes it a highly valuable collectors item indeed. In August 2014, a PCGS (PR-67) graded VDB Lincoln Penny sold at Heritage Auctions, Chicago for USD $258,500.
#7. Lincoln Cent (1943)
The 1943 Lincoln Cent was struck on bronze alloy planchets rather than zinc-plated steel planchets in the San Francisco Mint back in 1943.
While this was considered a minting error back then, it did little to disused collectors from hoarding the copies minted and making this cent a pricey item to have. In February 2016, a PCGS (AU-58) graded 1943 Lincoln Cent sold for USD $282,000 at Heritage Auctions, Long Beach.
#8. Doubled Die Obverse Cent (1958)
The 1958 Double Die Obverse Cent is one extremely rare coin with only 3 copies minted at the Philadelphia Mint. It is rumored that these three copies could have been stolen and smuggled out by an employee of the Mint.
Apart from the number minted, what is also fascinating about this coin is the die variety. At Stack’s Bowers, Baltimore in March 2018 one of these three extremely rare PCGS (MS-64) graded coins was sold for USD $336,000.
#9. Lincoln Steel Penny (1944)
While the 1943 Lincoln Pennies were struck on bronze alloy planchets instead of zinc-plated steel planchets in error, by 1944 these pennies would be minted on bronze alloy planchets, only deliberately this time.
However, a couple of zinc-plated steel planchet coins still made it out of the mint. A collector would pick up an uncirculated Lincoln Penny by a collector and this NGC (MS-66) graded coin would be sold for USD $373,750 in August, 2008 at Heritage Auctions, Baltimore.
#10. Lincoln Bronze Cent (1943)
The few bronze alloy planchet Lincoln Cent coins minted in 1943 were clearly done in error as they were meant to be minted in zinc-plated steel. It is estimated that about 20 of these coins were minted in San Francisco and Philadelphia Mints.
However, the Denver Mint also had at least one bronze Lincoln Cent coin minted and in September 2010 a PCGS (MS-64BN) graded bronze Lincoln Cent was sold for USD $1,700,000 at a private sale by Legend Numismatics.
When it comes to the top 10 most valuable U.S pennies, the 1877 copper-red, Indian Head Penny which was sold for just under USD $150,000 is ranked at number 1 on our list.
While the extremely rare 1943 Lincoln Bronze Cent that was sold for more than 1.5 million USD in 2010 is ranked at number 10 and is the most valuable penny of them all.