10 Pennies Worth a Second Look
When you take your metal detector coin-shooting, pennies are one thing you have no problem with running across. Right up there with beverage pull-tabs as the most common find. But some kinds of pennies, even from recent years, are more valuable to collectors because of flaws in the mint striking or other oddities. While the odds are against your finding the really rare pennies and they won't be too distinguishable for the rarity unless they're in really good condition, here's some dates and types to keep an eye peeled for before you chuck them in your bag:
1998, 1999, and 2000 - no mint mark. Check for a wide spacing on the letters "AM", a sign that these were some of the pennies from those years with proof dies. Mildly valuable.
1995 - no mint mark. Look for the double-die obverse. A "double-die" is coin-speak for a coin that was struck twice, usually while the machine was moving or vibrating or to correct for a weak first strike, producing an outlined look on some details of the coin. The more obviously it doesn't look like a "normal" penny, the more valuable. This one is mildly valuable.
1984 - no mint mark. Check for a double-ear! A double-die most noticeable on Lincoln's ear - it looks like he has two ears mixed together on the side of his head! Very famous. Considerably valuable, depending on how much the flaw stands out.
1972 - no mint mark. Double-die obverse. Recognizable all over the face of the coin: the lettering is double-printed and Lincoln has an "aura" around his outline. Highly valuable, the more freakish, the better.
1970 S. An almost unnoticeable variation in the '7' in the date; the small dates (with the 'high' seven) are more valuable. Not too exciting. Mildly valuable.
1955 - no mint mark. Double-die obverse. The most noticeable of double-dies, this one clearly looks like the design on the front was skewed or smeared. Extremely valuable, even in poor condition, provided the error still stands out.
1946 S. Under the 'S' mint mark is the 'D' mint mark. Yes, some pennies minted in San Fransisco this year started out with the Denver die and when they caught it, they just backed up the belt and replaced the die and struck them again. The 'D' is visible under the 'S', here. Mildly valuable.
1944 D. 'D' over 'S'. See last coin. It was Denver's turn this year. Considerably valuable.
1931 S. Nothing remarkable about this penny, just that an extremely low mintage this year makes this a rarer penny than most. Worth something considerable in any condition at all.
1922 - no mint mark. Hey! Unlike the other pennies without a mint mark, which normally means they were minted in Philadelphia, this series was supposed to have the 'D' mint mark! But they forgot it on some. Considerably valuable, as long as the condition is fair.
Any pennies found which are older than this (and are in good enough condition to show the date) are best to have them appraised. By the way, wheat ear pennies aren't automatically valuable, contrary to what many believe.