Most Expensive Coins

The 13 Most Valuable Pennies Ever Sold At Auction

The 13 Most Valuable Pennies Ever Sold At Auction

One of the earliest coins issued in the United States was the one-cent piece, or penny, which is still a common feature of modern American currency.

Even though a penny only has a one-cent face value, many unusual or rare pennies are worth considerably much more and have been auctioned off for amazing amounts of money. Who would have known that just a small amount of copper could be so expensive? The interesting question is, just which pennies are valuable?

This article will start with a quick overview of the penny’s history, and then discuss what makes a penny valuable. Finally, it will provide a list of the top 13 most valuable pennies ever sold, along with some additional famous pennies that are also worth mentioning.

History of the Penny

The smallest denomination of money in many countries has been known as a penny for millennia. Although it is officially defined as a “cent” or a “one-cent piece” by the U.S. Treasury, it is often known as a “penny” in the United States. Benjamin Franklin designed the Fugio or Franklin Cent, the first American cent, in 1787. 

The Coinage Act of 1792 founded the U.S. penny, which started to be minted in Philadelphia in 1793. The half-cent coin, nowadays the smallest denomination of U.S. currency, wasn’t manufactured until 1857 and was made of copper. The penny originally contained 100% copper, but its copper was less than 88% in 1857. From 1982 onward, the penny has been plated in copper, usually with 2.5% copper.

What Makes a Penny Valuable?

The value of coins that were first produced at the U.S. Mint for a specific issue is indicated by the mintage number. Coins with a lower mintage may be difficult to find, which may increase their value. And then another main factor affecting value is the condition of coins. A penny increases in value when it goes to its original condition. For coin collectors, proof versions or other uncirculated coins may be valued more.

What Pennies Are Valuable? The 13 Most Valuable Pennies Ever Sold At Auction

This list will go from the least to the 13 most valuable pennies ever sold. We’ve limited the list to pennies estimated at five digits or more, though there are many examples of valuable pennies that are worth much more than their face value.

1. 1943-D Lincoln Bronze Cent ($1,700,000)

The coin sold for 1.7 million dollars and that was a new record for any small cent. The 1943-D Lincoln Bronze Penny was made by error during the minting process, so it was never completely circulated. In the early 1940s, the US transformed from bronze-alloyed to zinc-plated steel pennies.

2. 1944 S Lincoln Steel Penny ($55,000)

Only rare pennies graded MS 66 can cost about $500,000. NGC estimates that rare pennies in MS 64 grade are worth roughly $55,000. As always, the auction prices are the only things that matter. A single 1944 S MS Lincoln steel penny of two had reached $408,000 in 2021.

3. 1793 1C Wreath, Strawberry Leaf Cent

At Stack’s Bowers auction, it sold for approximately $862,500 in 2009, it broke the record for the most amount ever paid for a penny at an auction.

Rather than the typical three-leaf trefoil, the Strawberry Leaf cent features a four-leaf strawberry plant on its tail, making it highly uncommon. There are only four of these coins in the world, so you would be very lucky if you found one. More fortunate than finding a four-leaf clover, for sure. 

4. 1958 Doubled Die Obverse penny

In January 2023, a rare 1958 batch “doubled die” penny sold for $1.136 million at GreatCollections Coin Auctions, the official auctioneer of the American Numismatic Association, a nonprofit organization that offers educational resources and programming about coins, currency, tokens, and medals.

 5. 1943 Bronze Lincoln Penny (No Mint Mark)

At Heritage Auctions, an MS62 was sold for $372,000 in 2021. Another example of the rare 1943 cents struck in error on old-style bronze blanks has been discovered, despite the considerably low population. Approximately 10-12 examples are known as 1943 Cents on Bronze Planchets.

6. 1943 S Lincoln Bronze Penny

At a public auction of U.S. coins held in Orlando, Florida on Thursday evening, Jan. 10, Heritage Auctions, the largest coin auctioneer in the world, sold a rare 1943 Lincoln cent that was found in a teenager’s high school cafeteria pocket change for $204,000.

7. 1909 V.D.B. Matte Proof Lincoln Penny

Lincoln Cent, 1909 VDB Matte Proof ($258,500) Before the Treasury Department decided to have his initials removed off the pennies, designer Victor David Brenner had all three of his initials included on the bottom of the back side of the coin.

8. 1856 Flying Eagle Penny

Each one of the 800 newly minted pennies that the Mint produced for Congressional approval is a rare finding. This Flying Eagle Cent brought $172,500 at auction in 2004.

9. 1864 Indian Head Penny with L on the Ribbon

Although nearly 5 million of these coins have been made, just a few of them are still in uncirculated form. The “L” was attached to the end of the ribbon on Lady Liberty’s war bonnet about halfway through the year. The auction price of this coin was $161,000 in 2011.

10. 1914 D Lincoln Penny

 Legend Rae Coin Auctions sold one of these coins for $158,625 at auction in 2018. These coins were widely used in the 1930s and 1940s, when individuals would keep them on “penny boards” to collect coinage from circulation. As a result, most pennies are usually damaged.

It is therefore rare and valuable to find an uncirculated coin of this mintage in a mint state. Despite being almost a century old, the coin’s excellent condition makes it valuable. The coin’s surface is clear of any obvious bag marks, and its original vivid reddish-orange coppery penny appearance is still present.

11. 1926 S Lincoln Penny

This penny brought $149,500 at auction in 2006. This coin’s date and mintmark are its main sources of value. There was a very small mintage this year, and it’s hard to find uncirculated examples that still have its natural copper-red tint.

12. 1877 Indian Head Penny

This cent brought $149,500 at auction in 2007. Because of the 1873 slump in the economy, these Indian Head pennies are the rarest date available. Due to this economic crisis, most people were unable to save even pennies for collecting. For this reason, an uncirculated 1877 Indian Head penny is very rare.

13. 1873 Indian Head Cent 

 The auction value of the 1873 Indian Head Cent was $100,000. The Indian Head Cent from 1873 is a rare coin; there are just two known examples. With a price tag of around six figures, it became the most valuable penny ever sold at auction when it was sold in 2019.

Also Read – 1943 Steel Penny Value: How Much They Are Worth Now

Conclusion:

From the beginning, pennies, also referred to as cents, have been an important part of the U.S. Mint. As time passed, they have changed in size, style, and metal quality; likely rare ones have become highly sought after by collectors. There are still more gems to find for your collection, but the top 13 most valued pennies sold are highlighted in the list above.

FAQs:

What is the most expensive penny ever auctioned?

The most expensive penny ever auctioned are:

1.1943-D Lincoln Bronze Cent ($1,700,000)
2.1944 S Lincoln Steel Penny ($55,000)
3.1793 1C Wreath, Strawberry Leaf Cent
4.1958 Doubled Die Obverse penny
5.1943 Bronze Lincoln Penny (No Mint Mark)
6.1943 S Lincoln Bronze Penny
7.1909 V.D.B. Matte Proof Lincoln Penny
8.1856 Flying Eagle Penny
9.1864 Indian Head Penny with L on the Ribbon
10.1914 D Lincoln Penny
11.1926 S Lincoln Penny
12.1877 Indian Head Penny
13.1873 Indian Head Cent

How do collectors determine the value of rare pennies?

Collectors consider the value of rare pennies based on various factors, including mintage numbers, condition (such as mint state or proof), historical context, and demand within the numismatic community. Coins with lower mintage numbers, better preservation, unique features, or notable historical backgrounds tend to command more value in the collector’s market.

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