Make Money Rolling Coins: Pennies Edition

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rare pennies

Over the past few years, we’ve been collecting our change rather than spending it.  Saving it up really makes you appreciate how much you let slip through your fingers each day.  We roll our own rather than taking them to the bank, so while I’m at it I try to make sure I don’t let anything really valuable go for less than it’s worth.  The first time I looked for higher than face value coins I wrote about how I tredecupled the value of some coins I found.  Since then I’ve really been researching what to keep an eye out for, and I’ll be sharing it in a weekly series here on the blog for the next month.

Today’s focus?


The rarest of rare.

A good rule of thumb is, if there’s anything other than Lincoln on the face, you’ve struck penny gold.  Your coin is probably old as all get out, and there aren’t a lot of those around anymore.  We are accustomed to the small cent, and back in the day the small cent had pictures of the Flying Eagle or Indian Head.  But their contemporaries and predecessors were larger, and are known by the names of Flowing Hair Chain, Flowing Hair Wreath, Liberty Cap, Draped Bust, Classic Head, Coronet, and Braided Hair.  These coins are well over 100 years old, worth hundreds to thousands to even a million dollars, and you’re not likely to find them in your change jar. But it never hurts to look.

Wheat pennies.

Let’s say you’ve got Lincoln on the front, but on the back you have something that looks like this:

wheat penny vdb

You have a wheat penny. Not all of them are valuable.  But some of them are.  They’re where I’ve had my best luck in my searches.  If you look at the one above, you’ll see at the very bottom between the two stalks the initials of the artist who designed it:  VDB.  These coins were only made in 1909, and if you can find one made in San Fransisco (notated by the ‘S’ mint mark,) you’ve got somewhere between $300-$600 (if it’s in somewhat decent condition.)

Here’s the other wheat pennies to look out for.  As a general rule, I always trade in wheat pennies.  A coin dealer/store will often pay you up to six cents even for the most mundane ones, which is six times the money you would have had when you walked in the store.  (You’re rolling change anyways, right?)  But  here are some of the more lucrative finds, with estimated pay-outs from About, who I’ve found to be fairly accurate.  (Listing anything above 50 cents, because in my opinion, that’s a huge return.)

  • 1909 (with no mint mark, which means it was minted in Philadelphia at that time)–$1.90
  • 1909 with the VDB, no mint mark–$6.20
  • 1909 with the S mint mark, no VDB–$75
  • 1910 S mint mark–$8.80
  • 1911 no mint mark–$.70
  • 1911 D mint mark (meaning it was minted in Denver)–$6.10
  • 1911 S mint mark–$25
  • 1912 no mint mark–$2
  • 1912 D mint mark–$7.40
  • 1912 S mint mark–$17
  • 1913 no mint mark–$1.30
  • 1913 D mint mark–  $3.30
  • 1913 S mint mark–  $9
  • 1914 no mint mark–$1.40
  • 1914 D mint mark–$160
  • 1914 S mint mark–$14
  • 1915 no mint mark $4
  • 1915 D mint mark–$2.50
  • 1915 S mint mark–$13
  • 1916 no mint mark–$.60
  • 1916 D mint mark–$1.40
  • 1916 S mint mark–$2.50
  • 1917 no mint mark $.60
  • 1917 D mint mark–$1.20
  • 1917 S mint mark–$.70
  • 1918 D mint mark–$1.30
  • 1918 S mint mark–$.60
  • 1919 no mint mark–$.70
  • 1919 D mint mark–$.70
  • 1919 S mint mark–$.60
  • 1920 D mint mark–$.70
  • 1920 S mint mark–$.60
  • 1921 no mint mark–$.70
  • 1921 S mint mark–$2.70
  • 1922 no mint mark–$500
  • 1922 D mint mark–$9.20
  • 1923 no  mint mark–$.60
  • 1923 S mint mark–$2.70
  • 1924 D mint mark–$20
  • 1924 S mint mark–$2
  • 1925 D mint mark–$1.20
  • 1925 S mint mark–$.70
  • 1926 D mint mark–$.70
  • 1926 S mint mark–$2.50
  • 1927 D mint mark–$.70
  • 1927 S mint mark–$.60
  • 1928 D mint mark–$.70
  • 1928 S mint mark–$.60
  • 1931 no mint mark–$.70
  • 1931 D mint mark–$1.90
  • 1931 S mint mark–$52
  • 1932 no mint mark–$1.30
  • 1932 D mint mark–$.70
  • 1933 no mint mark–$1.30
  • 1933 D mint mark–$1.90
  • 1943 no mint mark BRONZE–$23,000
  • 1943 D mint mark BRONZE–  After you make sure it’s not counterfeit, just party like you never have before.  These are never found, and therefore will yield you more cash than even the Philadelphia mint.
  • 1943 S mint mark BRONZE–$78,000
  • 1944 D mint mark in copper–$60
  • 1944 S mint mark in copper–$60
  • 1944 no mint mark STEEL–$4,000
  • 1955 no mint mark double die (which means that they printed the face of the coin twice, but not exactly in the same place, so there’s some fuzziness or extra thickness to the print)–$950

Whoops!  Goes the Mint.

As a rule, if I find a penny printed before 1955 I keep it as it most likely has some value.  Most coins after that are valuable hold their worth because the mint made an error while printing them.  They’ll look just like your regular penny that you’re used to with slight, but important, exceptions.

1960 D over D- This is a Denver mint coin that looks like it has a very faint ghost “D” printed right around where the normal D appears.  The value is somewhere around $100.  I’ve never come across one, though, so I don’t know how much a dealer would actually give you.  The same goes for the rest of the coins in this section.

1972 Double Die- The easiest place to see the double die for this particular coin is usually the word “LIBERTY.”  $300-ish!

1984 Double Die-  Look for double earlobes on Abe.  Around $75.

1992 with closer AM- If the “A” and “M” in your “America” is a bit closer together than normal, you may have just hit the motherload.  One of these sold for $20,000.

1995 Double Die-  You’ll notice this one if you look extremely closely at the “BER” in “LIBERTY.”  Somewhere around $7.

Not Losing Your Mind When Rolling

If it’s got a date before 1955, set it aside.  Then you just have to keep an eye out for five dates:  1960, 1972, 1984, 1992 and 1995.  I set all of mine aside judging by their dates, and then when I’m done rolling I’ll go back and examine them to see if they need to go to the numismatic.  If I ever have a question about one, I’ll take it in anyways…just in case.  🙂

Related Posts

New to rolling your own change?  Learn how to get started here.
What are Mint Marks?
Make Money Rolling Coins: Nickels Edition
Make Money Rolling Coins: Dimes Edition
Make Money Rolling Coins: Quarters Edition


24 thoughts on “Make Money Rolling Coins: Pennies Edition

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      A coin star with no fees? Yet another reason to use a credit union!!! That’s actually how all of this started…I was sick of losing $10-20 every time we used one of those dang machines. I figured paying myself $10-20 to do the chore myself was worth the time. Then I just started looking for treasures as I was rolling.

  1. donebyforty

    Looking through that list, it seems like most of the payoffs aren’t that great…and then there are a few that pay in the five figures. I can only imagine how many of these get put into coin machines and maybe even melted down/destroyed once they get back in the hands of the government.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Here’s the way I look at it: if I’m sitting there literally rolling up pennies anyways, $.70 on something that was supposed to only be worth $.01 is huge. That being said, I only take them in periodically….the coin place has to be on my way to something else, otherwise I’d probably end up wasting gas money on most of my trips in the long-run.

  2. christinemhutchinson

    I am off to find my change! I love this post!!! Thank you for giving us the lowdown. I have some really old coins that I found in a teapot when we moved to a new house when I was a kid…I have no idea what they are worth but I can’t wait to see the rest of this series!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Oh, that’s seriously awesome! I’ll be sure to let you know when the dimes, nickels and quarters come up! And I’ll let you know where I take them, too, since we’re in the same locale. 🙂

  3. The Frugal Exerciser

    The best way to get old coins would be to go to a site where they have torn down an old building and then use a metal detector to find coins. How do I know this? I met two men who were doing that in Chicago. I asked them what they were looking for and they told me the best way of getting old coins. I wanted to join them but I need a metal detector.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      That’s so crazy! I wonder why that is. Do people stick coins in the wall or something? Or maybe they just end up under carpets???

  4. Meredith

    This is so cool! My husband’s grandfather is so into old coins, but it has always seemed so overwhelming. This? I could handle. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and props to you on that awesome graphic, BTW!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I have to make things simple. His knowledge might just put me to shame. He’d probably balk at my rule: if it’s old as heck, keep it. Haha. And thanks! I’ve been working on the whole PicMonkey thing.

  5. jlcollinsnh

    Very cool, FF…

    …now if only I had some change! 🙂

    Hope you follow up with a post of tips on how and where to sell them without getting cheated. My guess is dealers aren’t going to give full retail value, they have to make a profit after all. So what is a fair and realistic price?

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      You always have such great questions! To be honest, I’m not really sure what the right answer is. My best advice would be to shop around. See what people will give you. Get them to give you an appraisal for a valuable personal property insurance policy, then ask what they’d actually pay you. Do it at a lot of places if you have something you think is really valuable. There’s a chain I like a lot around here. Every time I’ve gone there they’ve given me pretty close to the amounts I’ve seen on About, and I haven’t struck gold and/or had a coin worth thousands yet, so I’ve been pretty satisfied.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I’m the same way…I haven’t struck the coin lottery or anything. Small returns. If you have a good collection going it might be a great heirloom…could be worth a ton someday!

  6. Mel

    My grandfather used to collect coins, but it was never really something that appealed to me. It seemed so overwhelming to keep track of so many different years and flaws, etc. Your breakdown makes it seem a lot less overwhelming.

    So what was your best find so far?

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      As far as pennies go, I found one that I got around $5 for. Which I know isn’t huge. But $5 for a penny? I’ll take it. I have a few I have to take in that are either worth hundreds or absolutely nothing. I’m leaning more towards the nothing side, but figure I better check before I roll it up.

  7. Pingback: Make Money Rolling Coins: What Are Mint Marks? | Femme Frugality

  8. Pingback: Make Money Rolling Coins: Nickels Edition | Femme Frugality

  9. Pingback: Make Money Rolling Coins: Dimes Edition | Femme Frugality

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Holy, moly, Kelly! Sorry for the delayed response…you got caught in my comment filter! I may have better advice for you in the next coming months, but initially what I’d do is find a dealer in your area, take it in for a quote for insurance purposes. That way you know what you actually have. Then immediately get it insured. Then you can shop around for the highest bidder, but you may want to sit on it for a minute to think things through. (You’ll most likely get less than the insurance amount, but if it’s really bronze that still an insane amount of money.) Let me know where things land after the quote and I may be able to give you better advice then!


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