Top 10 Most Valuable U.S. Coins Found in Pocket Change
From Susan Headley, former About.com Guide
There are a number of fairly valuable U.S. error coins and die varieties in circulation today. These coins are overlooked by people because they have small distinguishing characteristics, such as a modest doubling of the coin image, or minute differences in the size or spacing of the letters in the legends. Learn which of your pocket change coins is worth a large premium over face value, and why.
Note: Click on the images to greatly enlarge them and see details.
Tip: Be sure to do your hunting with at least a 6x power magnifier so you don't miss anything!
1. 1969-S Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse
"Valuable Coin 1 - 1969-S Doubled Die Cent"Photo courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
This coin is exceedingly rare. The early specimens were confiscated by the Secret Service until the U.S. Mint admitted they were genuine. Counterfeits abound, but usually have the wrong mint mark.
How to Detect: Look for clear doubling of the entire obverse ("heads" side) except for the mint mark. If the mint mark is doubled, it is probably a case of strike doubling, rather than a doubled die, which isn't worth much. (Mint marks were punched in the dies separately in 1969, after the doubled die itself had already been made.)
Approximate Value: Around $35,000 or more in EF-40 or so.
2. 1970-S Small Date Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse
As with virtually all true doubled die varieties, only one side of the coin shows doubling. If both sides exhibit doubling, the coin probably exhibits strike doubling instead, and is worth little.
How to Detect: The rarer Small Date variety is most easily distinguished from the common type by the weakness of LIBERTY. The Doubled Die Obverse is best demonstrated by doubling in LIB and IN GOD WE TRUST.
Approximate Value: Around $3,000 in EF-40 or so.
3. 1972 Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse
The 1972 (no mint mark) Lincoln Cent doubled die variety shows strong doubling on all elements. The "Cherrypicker's Guide to Rare Die Varieties", which was an important source for this article, suggests using a "die marker" to help verify your finds. A die marker is a gouge or crack that identifies a particular die.
How to Detect: Clear doubling of all obverse elements; look for a tiny gouge near the edge above the D in UNITED as a die marker.
Approximate Value: About $500 in EF-40 or so.
4. 2004-D Wisconsin State Quarter With an Extra Leaf
Variety experts disagree about the cause and long-term value of this type, but I've included in the list because it is very findable in pocket change and worth hundreds of dollars right now.
How to Detect: There is some defect on the die that makes it appear as if there's an extra leaf on the lower left-hand side of the ear of corn on the reverse. The leaf is very clear. Known in two varieties, the High Leaf and the Low Leaf type.
Approximate Value: $200-$300 in MS-60 or so.
5. 1999 Wide "AM" Reverse Lincoln Cent
This variety is known for 3 dates, 1998, 1999, and 2000, with 1999 being by far the rarest. The mint erroneously used a proof die to strike normal circulation coins.
How to Detect: The AM in AMERICA on the reverse is clearly separated in the Wide variety. In the normal variety for these dates, the letters AM are very close or touching.
Approximate Value: $5 to $25 in circulated condition, $75 to $600 in MS-63 or better depending on color. 1999 brings the highest prices, with 2000 being second.
6. 1982 No Mint Mark Roosevelt Dime
At the point in time that these coins were made, the dies sent to the individual branch mints would be punched with the proper mint mark letter for that branch. This variety is believed to be caused because one or more non-punched dies were used to make coins. (The letter P was being used for Philadelphia on dimes at this time.)