10 Most Valuable Pennies That Sold Recently

We're examining the auction block to show you what the most expensive old pennies are worth.

collection of valuable old pennies

If you’re a beginner coin collector, you may have dumped out a change bucket of potential hidden gems and sorted through it to see if you had any coins to sell for a profit. Maybe a story about someone finding a rare penny worth thousands in a vending machine got you hooked. But, unfortunately, the sad truth is that the most valuable pennies are no longer in circulation.

You might find a wheat penny worth $30 in your stash, but if you want to explore the world’s most prized pennies and cents, you’ll likely need to head to the auction house. We’re sharing a list of recent auction finds that include the most valuable US one-cent coins and pennies, starting with some well over 200 years old. Each lot was sold in the past three years or so and should give you a good look at the status of the current rare penny market.

1792 Silver Center Cent

1792 Silver Center Cent
Heritage Auctions

Auction Value: $2,520,000.00
Date Sold: 01/20/21
Note on Rarity: Historically Important Early Pattern
Metal: Copper With a Silver Plug

The 1792 Silver Center cent is one of the most iconic coins in US history. This pattern coin and the other 1792 patterns laid the foundation for the decimal-based monetary system that would become so successful worldwide. Yet, today, only 12 original examples are known to exist, and one is included in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

1943-D Bronze Lincoln Penny

1943-D Bronze Lincoln Penny with Error
Heritage Auctions

Auction Value: $840,000.00
Date Sold: 01/20/21
Note on Rarity: Famous Wrong Planchet Error
Metal: 95% Copper, 5% Silver

The 1943-D bronze Lincoln cent is one of the most renowned coins in numismatic history, with only a single known example. This extremely sought-after error coin is regarded as the “Holy Grail” of errors by many collectors, as it carries with it an allure that even goes beyond the traditional realms of numismatics. Even those who are not used to collecting coins find this coin fascinating, making it truly one-of-a-kind!

1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent

1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent
Stack’s Bowers

Auction Value: $660,000.00
Date Sold: 08/06/20
Note on Rarity: Finest of Just Four Known
Metal: 100% Copper

The 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent has become an iconic piece for coin collectors since it is incredibly rare, with only four known specimens in existence. This valuable and mysterious coin has remained out of the numismatic spotlight for decades before American Numismatic Rarities found it again. Out of the 295 die varieties of early cents, this one stands out as one of the 53 varieties deemed too rare to be collectible according to Dr. William Sheldon.

1793 Chain Cent

1793 Chain America Cent
Heritage Auctions

Auction Value: $528,000.00
Date Sold: 01/12/22
Note on Rarity: Finest PCGS Graded and Attributed S-2 Cent
Metal: 100% Copper

The iconic Chain cent, first released in 1793 by the U.S. Mint, is an incredibly scarce and collectible coin. The hardest to find of all its varieties is the Sheldon-2 die marriage, with a surviving population estimated to be only 100 coins. Leading experts in the area have awarded it AU55 grade, which is reflected in the Grading Guide for Early American Copper Coins. According to William C. Noyes’ 2006 census on 1793 large cents that was published in United States Large Cents, 1793-1794, out of the 12 Chain cents found so far, 6 of them are mid-grade or higher than AU55 grade.

1795 Liberty Cap Large Cent

1795 Liberty Cap Large Cent
Stack’s Bowers

Auction Value: $408,000.00
Date Sold: 08/06/20
Note on Rarity: Finest Lettered Edge
Metal: 100% Copper

Coins are highly sought-after pieces of collectible memorabilia. The Lettered Edge Jefferson Head cent, in particular, is a particularly rare and valuable coin, with only five known examples worldwide. Interestingly, each example contains two different die marriages and five different subvarieties. Currently, the ESM specimen of this type has been considered the finest quality example of the variety since 1979 and the first time that it will be offered at auction.

1856 Flying Eagle Cent

1856 Flying Eagle Cent
Heritage Auctions

Auction Value: $240,000.00
Date Sold: 09/17/20
Note on Rarity: Snow-3, Original Striking
Metal: 88% Copper, 12% Nickel

The Snow-3 variety of the 1856 Flying Eagle cent is a coin of great value among collectors. Distinguishable by the repunching on its left side of the 5, it is believed that these coins were distributed to members of Congress for their approval. There have been numerous other varieties minted from the 1850s through the 1870s but Snow-3 coins are often referred to as “originals” and are highly sought after.

1877 Indian Head Penny

1877 Indian Head Penny
Heritage Auctions

Auction Value: $114,000.00
Date Sold: 08/14/19
Note on Rarity: Tied for Finest Known
Metal: 95% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc

The 1877 Indian cent is an extremely rare coin, with only a few high-grade specimens existing. NGC has not graded any pieces higher than MS65 with full Red color, while PCGS has rated eight examples as MS66 Red. The present coin is one of these eight and shows vibrant copper-orange colors at the margins. These coins are an absolute must have for those dedicated to collecting the series, making this an excellent opportunity not to be missed!

1909-S VDB Lincoln Penny

1909-S VDB Lincoln Penny
Heritage Auctions

Auction Value: $108,000.00
Date Sold: 01/14/22
Note on Rarity: Famous Strike Irregularity
Metal: 95% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc

The 1909-S VDB is a coin that fascinates people of all ages. It was created by a sculptor named Victor David Brenner, who incorporated his initials in the design on the reverse. This sparked criticism and the release version of the coin had these initials removed. Only 484,000 coins were struck in total, making it one of the lowest mintage numbers in the series which has been around since 1909.

1914-S Lincoln Penny

1914-S Lincoln Cent
Stack’s Bowers

Auction Value: $57,600.00
Date Sold: 06/10/21
Note on Rarity: Top Pop Quality Badge
Metal: 95% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc

For coin collectors, this Gem is a highly coveted piece. Described as vibrant red-orange with hints of powder blue, it holds the number one spot on the PCGS Population Report for its grade and grade-category at MS-65 RD. Such availability is extremely limited, as only four examples have surpassed this quality, out of 4,137,000 pieces originally minted for circulation.

1943 Steel Lincoln Penny

1943 Steel Lincoln Penny
Stack’s Bowers

Auction Value: $33,600.00
Date Sold: 11/13/20
Note on Rarity: Virtually Pristine Example
Metal: 99% Steel With Thin Zinc Coating

This rare and valuable coin is a near-perfect example of the historic steel cent type of 1943. Any collector seeking the best technical quality and beauty for their coin collection would be happy to own it. It is completely blemish-free, with smooth surfaces and highly lustrous display with a combination of satin and frosted luster. The strike is very sharp, giving the coin a bright, fresh look that matches other high-ranking collections on the PCGS Set Registry.

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