An Old Penny for Your Thoughts

penniesIf you handed me a bucket of old pennies, I would probably spend the afternoon analyzing each one with a magnifying glass. In fact, I’ve been collecting pennies since I was a kid. Back then, it wasn’t so much about finding rare pennies that were worth something. It was about their history. A penny that dated back to 1919 (or earlier) just fascinated me. How far had that penny traveled? How much could you buy with that penny when it was first made?

Now that I’m all grown up, I’m still collecting old pennies, but with more of an investor’s eye. Canadian pennies, for example, ceased production last year. The demise of the Canadian penny inevitably drives up the value of existing pennies, so it’s probably worth keeping a few of them around. I wouldn’t count on it to fund your retirement, but you never know.

US pennies, on the other hand, are not disappearing anytime soon, and in my opinion, they shouldn’t. Even though the cost to produce them is more than their face value, certain US pennies from bygone eras are are worth holding onto, as noted in this recent NY Times article, which tells the story of a man who developed a fascination with pennies as a young child.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about moving forward when it comes to technology or the economy, but pennies have a place in our economy, our personal lives, as well as US history. The Lincoln penny, for example, dates back to 1909, and was designed at the time to commemorate the centennial of his birth.

What are some US pennies worth? A 1943 copper-alloy wheat penny is worth about $100,000 (or more), but only 40 of them are in existence. (BTW, “wheat” is a reference to the design of two ears of durum wheat on the back of a Lincoln penny.) A 1914 “D” wheat penny could be worth $3-4,000. A 1955 “double die” penny could be worth anywhere from $300-$25,000. Double dies are the result of a misalignment during coin production, which made the lettering and numbers look a bit blurry.

So, the next time you see a penny on the sidewalk, pick it up, and look at it. You might just have a good investment in your hand.

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One Response to An Old Penny for Your Thoughts

  1. This brought back childhood memories (I’m 61) of finding the old World War II zinc pennies, and pennies from the 1920’s and 1930’s. My husband (62) even found an Indian Head penny in his change once as a child. I remember Buffalo nickels and Standing Liberty quarters, too, in my childhood change, before the end of silver coins in 1965 caused every silver coin to be hoarded. All things my son missed!

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