Are There Valuable Coins in Your Pocket?
Most people have, at one time or another emptied the coins out of their pockets and wondered if there were any valuable coins in the mélange. Walking along the street you may find a wheat penny and dream that it is worth a small fortune.
In fact, many collectors with huge coin collections started out with a few unusual pennies. Why?
Well, pennies are everywhere. They have little value and people often don’t bother to even pick them up if they drop. There are many variations of pennies and they are, for the most part, quite affordable.
Are Pennies Valuable?
The more unique a penny is the more likely it is to be valuable.
As recently as 1995 pennies were released with double die errors; coins that have a double image. There were so many released into circulation that they are pretty easy to come by and therefore quite affordable. You may even find one of these in the change you get from the grocery store if you look carefully.
Indian head and wheat pennies are two other collectible penny variations that are still in circulation. Once you begin to look for them you are more likely to find these collectible pennies.
Where to Find Collectible Coins
If you are looking for a particular type of coin to add to your collection it is best to buy from a reputable coin dealer and not an auction online. This is especially true if you have little experience with coin collecting.
Other possible sources for coins are:
- Estate auctions
- Flea markets
- Garage sales
- Other collectors
Interesting Mint Errors
Hunting for Treasure
For most inhabitants of the 21st century a treasure hunt is something read about in fiction books but for coin collectors, and especially those that enjoy picking up the odd penny on the street, it can be a daily occurrence. Pennies can be found everywhere from cash registers to sidewalks and you never know when you will find one that is worth a lot of money. Be careful, though. Once you begin looking for unusual and collectible coins you may be hooked for life.
Pennies to Look For
Of course some pennies are rarer and more valuable than others.
The first penny was made out of copper and issued in 1787 and legend has it that Paul Revere provided the copper (or at least some of it) that went into the making of these first pennies. This first American penny is somewhat rare and is referred to as the Fugio cent.
Introduced in 1859, the Indian head cent was made for the next 50 years. The last Indian head penny was minted in 1909. Their composition changed from pure copper to a 95/5 combination of copper and zinc in 1864.
The Indian head cent is easily identified by the likeness of an Indian princess with headdress on one side and “one cent” stamped on the other.
The first Lincoln portrait penny was put into circulation in 1909. It was a commemorative cent, minted to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday. This was the first time that the words “In God We Trust” were added to the penny.
The designer’s initials, VDB, were on the coin in 1909 and then removed in subsequent mints. The initials were added back to the penny in 1918.
Until 1959 the words “one cent” appeared on one side of the penny encircled by two heads of ripe wheat. In 1959 this was changed to an image of the Lincoln Memorial. The Memorial design was created by Frank Gasparro and his initials can be found in the shrubbery around the Memorial if you look carefully.
The steel cent is easy to recognize because it is a silver colored penny. These pennies were put in circulation in 1943 because of World War II and a shortage of copper. They were made of low-grade steel with a zinc coating. Other than the color the pennies looked like the Lincoln head penny.
Until 1950 when the Memorial penny was introduced a double head of wheat could be found on the back of the penny. While these are somewhat common, some wheat pennies are worth much more than others.
- 1909 – S VDB
- 1909 –S
- 1914 – D
- 1922 with no mint mark below the date
- 1931 – S
- 1943 Bronze/copper
- 1943 – D Bronze/copper
- 1943 – S Bronze/copper
- 1944 Steel
- 1955 Double Die
1972 Double Die
In 1972 a group of pennies were minted that had the date and motto doubled. This is a favorite of coin collectors.
In 1982 copper was no longer used in the same percentage as before. The composition was changed for the first time (other than World War II) since 1864. The penny had been 95/5 copper to zinc but in 1982 it was changed to 97.5/2.5 copper to zinc because of the rising costs of copper.
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