Most Wanted Coins

Circulated U.S. wheat pennies (1958 and earlier) are one of the most wanted Coins.

Most dated 1940 or later are purchased by dealers for less than 2 cents each. Some of the earlier dates are worth more (a few cents to several dollars), and checking a price guide is a good idea if you have them.

The current design replaced the wheat stalk reverse in 1959, and this is also the dividing line between normal pennies and those worth more than a cent. A handful of the wheat pennies are quite scarce and command large sums of money. This design was first used in 1909, and any penny from 1909 will be worth several dollars at least. A few of the rarer 1909 varieties, however, are worth anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

There are other scarce dates in the series, too, all the way up to the standard-issue 1932 pennies and some of the World War II era error coins. A 1942 over 41 (the 1942 on the coin appears to be written over 1941) penny will be worth hundreds of dollars in any condition. You never know, it may be worth it to take a closer look at your pocket change once in a while.

1943 "steel pennies"

Zinc plated steel cents were minted only in 1943. A syndicated radio program incorrectly reported in early 1999 that these coins are rare and valuable. In fact, more than one billion were minted. What is rare and valuable is a 1943 cent struck on a normal bronze planchet.

Any 1943 cent that appears to be bronze should be tested to determine if it is attracted to a magnet - if so, it's a steel cent that has been copper plated. Steel 1943 cents, with or without a mintmark, may be worth less than 5 cents up to about 50 cents if circulated, and up to a dollar or two if un-circulated. Steel cents that have been "re-processed" (given a new zinc coating) are not worth un-circulated prices.

Silver dimes, quarters and halves

U.S. dimes, quarters and half dollars dated 1964 or earlier are 90% silver and were made with 0.723 ounce of silver for each dollar in face value. As some metal may have been worn off from circulation, 0.715 ounce/dollar is often used to estimate the amount of silver still present.

Even if the coin is a common date (and most dated 1934 or later are), it's still worth more than face value because of its silver content. The amount varies with the spot price of silver.

Precious metals spot prices are available at Kitco Inc. Multiply the current spot price of silver by 0.715 and by the total face value. For example, if spot is $4.00 per ounce, the bullion value for $100 face value is $4.00 x .715 x 100 = $286.

Many un-circulated silver coins and some circulated ones may be worth a premium over the silver value. Check a price guide to see if you have any better dates. U.S. half dollars dated 1965 through 1970 are 40% silver.

Silver dollars

U.S. silver dollars (1935 and earlier) were made with 0.77 ounce of silver each. These coins are popular with collectors and, unless damaged or severely worn, can usually be sold for more than their silver value. Less common dates and higher grades can be sold for considerably more. Check a price guide to see if you have any better date(s).

Susan B. Anthony dollars

If you received it as change, it's most likely worth one dollar. Proof SBA dollars are worth more, but proof coins are rarely found in circulation.

Bicentennial quarters, halves and dollars

Because billions of these coins were made, they're generally worth only face value. A few dealers pay about 10% over face for rolls of lightly circulated bicentennial coins and a bit more for un-circulated ones. Special 40% silver bicentennial coins were also minted for sale to collectors (they're easily detected by the absence of copper on the edge). They're worth more than face value but are unlikely to be found in circulation.

Coin commemorating the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana

Many millions were made by several British Commonwealth nations. The current price range for most is $5-25.

A coin with two heads, two tails or designs of two different coins

With few exceptions, these pieces are novelty items sometimes called magician's coins. They're created by hollowing out one coin and trimming down another to fit inside. A seam can be found along the inside edge of the rim on one side. Because they're altered coins, they have no value to coin collectors.

However, a small number of legitimate error coins known as "mules" were discovered in 2000. A mule is produced when dies intended for different denominations are paired to strike the two sides of a coin. The recently discovered mules include:

 - At least one specimen of a1999 Lincoln cent with the reverse of a Roosevelt dime

- At least six specimens of a Sacagawea "golden dollar" with the obverse (portraying George Washington) intended for a state quarter

- A single Indian cent struck by two obverse dies, both dated 1869

If you have a coin like one described in the previous paragraph or cannot find a seam even under magnification, a coin collector or dealer in your area may be able to assist you in determining if it's genuine. Once professionally authenticated, you would be well advised to offer or consign the coin at auction to get the highest price.

An un-struck coin

Un-struck blanks or planchets are relatively common. Most retail for a couple dollars or less.

A "mis-struck" coin

There are many types of striking errors. Additionally, a lot of coins look unusual because they have been altered after striking. Altered coins have no value to coin collectors.

Prices for legitimate striking errors cover a broad range. Minor errors, such as a raised crack, will generally bring little or no premium. Incomplete planchets (known as clips) and off center strikes typically sell for a few dollars.

Rare, dramatic errors may sell for several hundred dollars. The first step towards determining the value an unusual looking coin is to have it examined by one or more professionals.