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Man Finds $126,500 Penny in Fifty-Cent Roll of Coins

By October 17, 2007

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1969-S Doubled Die Cent - Click to see entire coinUpdate: The 1969-S penny discussed here was ultimately graded PCGS MS-64 Red, which is tied with one other specimen for the finest known. It sold at a Heritage auction for $126,500 on January 10, 2008!

Searching pocket change for error coins can be fun and profitable, but searching whole rolls of uncirculated coins can sometimes turn up real treasure! Variety coin expert Ken Potter reports that a Michigan collector, Michael Tremonti, found a BU 1969-S doubled die penny while searching through a 50-coin roll of uncirculated 1969-S cents! The coin has been sent to PCGS for grading and encapsulation, and according to previous auction prices for a Mint State 1969-S doubled die obverse, Tremonti's lucky find is worth at least $44,000 and maybe as much as $100,000 or more depending on the grade it gets. Potter estimates that the number of known specimens of this 1969-S doubled die penny is only about 25 coins.

Potter was so excited about this find that he sent out a news release about it, in which he relates how he learned of this amazing find. Potter says that when Tremonti first called him, he was very skeptical. "I was unaware of Tremonti's level of expertise, so I just assumed the find was one of the exceedingly common examples of strike doubling encountered on this date. This date (along with the 1968-S and 1970-S cents) is the most notorious for this form of doubling damage occurring on Lincoln cents. I advised him of this but he shrugged it off as not being what he found. As I talked to him further he seemed to be knowledgeable with the subject. It seemed that for once there was a possibility that one of the folks making the common claim of finding a 1969-S doubled die cent might have actually done so. To my surprise, the coin turned out to be a beautiful brilliant uncirculated example of this rare variety."

The 1969-S doubled die cent has a notorious history. Around the time of its discovery in 1970, a pair of scammers had tried to cash in by making counterfeit 1969 doubled die cents. According to Potter, it was just a bizarre coincidence that forgers happened to be making fake 1969 pennies at the same time that a major genuine Mint error emerged from the same date! The U.S. Secret Service began confiscating specimens under the currency counterfeiting laws, including the genuine 1969-S specimens, perhaps not comprehending the significance of the "S" mint mark. It took the U.S. Treasury Department some time to sort the mess out and return the genuine specimens to their owners, but in the mean time at least a few genuine 1969-S pennies were reputedly destroyed as counterfeits.

As often happens when a certain coin gets a lot of press coverage, the demand intensifies and the coin rises in value. To this day, the major 1969-S doubled die obverse cent drives higher prices at auction than its contemporaries which actually display comparable doubling, such as the major 1972 doubled die obverse cent (although the 1969-S is believed to be quite a bit rarer.) What Tremonti's find makes clear to all of us is that there are still lots of very valuable error and variety coins waiting to be found, whether you are checking your pocket change or searching through rolls of original bank wrapped coins. As I like to put it, "Are you sure you didn't spend a $30,000 penny for your lunch yesterday?"

Rare Coins in Pocket Change - Suggested Reading

Photo courtesy of Ken Potter, NLG

Note: This version corrects some facts from an earlier version, the corrections for which I would like to thank Ken Potter. Potter provided further information about the source of the lucky roll of coins, too, and it seems Tremonti doesn't recall when or where he bought the roll. Tremonti is a regular cherrypicker who often buys rolls at coin shows so he can search them for die varieties. For additional information about this coin, please read Potter's original 1969-S penny news release.

Comments

October 17, 2007 at 6:56 am
(1) Michael Zielinski says:

A nice find indeed! But did he find it in a BU roll that only collectors would buy or have access to? Or a roll from the bank that anyone could get?

October 17, 2007 at 10:38 am
(2) Cherrypicker Dave says:

Just one word: WOW!

To suggest an answer to the first comment’s question. While I do not know the origin of the roll the lucky finder found, I do know that such rolls can usually be picked up for nominal costs at your local coin store or show. ANYBODY can go to the stores and shows to buy these rolls. I have done so with limited success, however, I know that it just takes looking, time and a good eye with a power loupe. I know this because I do well cherrypicking the die varieties in proof sets. This is my area of expertise. Congrats on the find!

October 17, 2007 at 10:40 am
(3) Susan Headley says:

Michael,

The collector found the coin in rolls he bought from a coin dealer, I believe. (I have asked Ken Potter for more information to clarify exactly where the roll came from.) It is fairly unlikely that you would get rolls this old from a bank, but it’s NOT unheard of! Especially if you ask the tellers to give you any rolls that other people brought in (although many banks nowadays unroll them to machine-count-and-wrap them again.)

You can buy OBWs (Original Bank-Wrapped Rolls) from coin dealers and on eBay at prices not far above face; many Lincoln Cent dates go for 90 cents to a dollar per roll, but you always run the risk of someone having already cherrypicked them. My best sources for these OBWs is local auctions, running ads in local “Nifty Nickel” type rags, and garage sales (yep, just ask!) People are thrilled to unload their old uncirculated Lincoln Cents for a little more than face value. I only buy pennies that have been lying around for at least 20 years or so (1985 and earlier.)

Anyway, I’m digressing. The 1969-S doubled die was found by a regular roll-searcher who probably bought the rolls from a dealer or somewhere other than getting them at face value from a bank.

Susan Headley
About.com Coins Guide

P.S. Cherrypicker Dave, I just saw your comment come through, too! Thanks for responding! =)

November 1, 2008 at 2:02 am
(4) Donald Key says:

I have four 1969 S pennies and were there any more s series made for 1969 and I also have 2 1970 s pennis, 2 1971 s pennies, 2 1972 s penies are they worth anything

December 5, 2008 at 5:59 pm
(5) ivy kaanana+ says:

I have a=1943 penny and it’s not copper

December 15, 2008 at 9:29 pm
(6) Rich furler says:

I HAD ALLSO FOUND A 1969S DOUBLE DIED PENNY I ALLSO FOUND IT IN A BU ROLL I HAVE NOT HAD IT GRADED YET BUT IT HAS MORE DOUBLEING THEN JUST THE 1969S LIBERTY IN GOD WE TRUST IS ALLSO DOUBLED

October 22, 2009 at 11:00 pm
(7) Charles Williams says:

I have a 1969 s penny how do find out it’s worth?

April 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm
(8) Johanna Wessel says:

I recently acquired a 1969 s penny as change from a purchase i made. I would like some feedback to whom is recommended that i contact regarding this matter.

May 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm
(9) sherry says:

i have a 1969s,1970s 1920,1926,1941,1942,1936,1937 are they worth anything

June 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm
(10) Angela R. Mccloud says:

I have one 1970 S penny and a 1972 S gold looking pennies. I have a 1945, 1950, and a 1956 gold looking US wheat pennies. I have a Rust 1940 nickel and a gold looking 1982 P nickel. I have a gold looking 1967 dime.

November 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm
(11) george rosario says:

Just found a 1969s penny would like to know how can I find the worth of the penny and if it real or not

December 2, 2010 at 10:42 pm
(12) Angela Mccloud says:

Happy Holidays. I Angela Mccloud have alot of 1969 Liberty pennies and one is Red and no mintmark on it.

January 25, 2011 at 11:14 pm
(13) Angela Mccloud says:

I Angela Mccloud found more Red pennies. I founded a 1974 and a 1973 Reddish Purple LIBERTY penny with No Mint Mark. My 1969 D LIBERTY dark and Red looking penny is not as Reddish Purple as my 1973 and 1974 LIBERTY pennies. My other LIBERTY Reddish Purple looking coins with ( No Mint Mark ) are my 1972, 1950, 1959, 1935; and my 2000 D LIBERTY penny; All with errors in ( LIBERTY ). After i research the Color of my coins; i founded out my other Liberty pennies are Colorized coins; and i have a 1999 1/2 Silver LIBERTY penny. I also have Yellow/Gold looking Liberty pennies year from 1970 S to 1982.

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