homepage logo

Check Your Coins

By Staff | Feb 4, 2009

My dad was an avid coin collector.

One of the last things he did each night was to go through the coins in his pockets. He kept his collection is a handsome wooden box, hidden in his bedroom closet. I can remember as a little girl, asking if I could look at his coins. The response was always the same. I had to sit on the couch to look at them.

My dad had a heart condition and had a massive coronary.

A few days before he died he told me that he wanted me to have that coin collection. Needless to say I was shocked and so pleased. I have passed it on to other family members.

When I found this information about which coins are collectable now, it reminded me that I might have a lot of money in the bottom of my purse. I seldom use them, so I just drop them in my purse. I think I better pay attention to my dad’s habit, and start checking mine.

Top 10 Most Valuable U.S. Coins Found in Pocket Change

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.

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

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. 2005-D Speared Bison Reverse New Design Jefferson Nickel

This variety results from a gouge or crack in the die that has created a long, straight line from the edge of the reverse, all the way through the bison, and ending between the bison’s front and hind legs. It looks like a spear has been sent through the bison!

How to Detect: Beginning at an angle aligned along the E in STATES, the “spear” continues in a straight line all the way through the bison.

Approximate Value: From $75 in AU-50 to $1,400 in MS-66

6. 1999 Wide “AM” Reverse Lincoln Cent

This variety is known for three 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 middle grades, $75 to $600 in MS-63 or better depending on color. 1999 brings the highest prices, with 2000 being second.

7. 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 sent to one of the branches. (The letter P was being used for Philadelphia on dimes at this time.)

How to Detect: The 1982 dime is missing a mint mark.

Approximate Value: About $30 to $50 in AU-50, more for higher grades.

8. State Quarter Die Axis Rotation Errors

This error has been seen in many different State Quarter types, so it’s worth checking them all for this oddity.

How to Detect: When you hold the coin with the head straight up and turn the coin over from top to bottom, the reverse design should be right-side up. If the dies weren’t set properly in the machine for striking, the reverse will be rotated somewhat from true.

Approximate Value: Full 180 degree rotations are worth about $20 in EF-45 or so. Lesser rotations are worth much less.

9. 1995 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent

This doubled die variety generated a lot of mainstream interest when it was featured as a cover story in USA Today. Specimens are still being found in circulation all the time!

How to Detect: Clear doubling in LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST.

Approximate Value: About $20 to $75 in AU-50, more in higher grades.

10. Various “Old Style” Jefferson Nickels

You might be surprised to discover that you can still find dates as early at 1938 in circulating Jefferson Nickels! These nickels aren’t very popular, though, so fewer people pay attention to them. I always save the following mint mark varieties because they have to go up sooner or later. (Don’t they?)

What I Keep: 1941-Doubled-D, 1941-Large-S, 1942-D-over-horizontal-D, 1949-D-over-S, 1955-D-over-S, and the 1964-Doubled-D. These are all in circulation today!

Approximate Value: $5 to $75