To find out how much your U.S. penny is worth, we first need to determine its type. The U.S. has made two major types of pennies, the Large Cent and the Small Cent
. The Large Cents are dated 1857 and earlier, and are much bigger and heavier than our current penny type, the Small Cent. If you have Large Cents in your collection that you need information or values for, I recommend that you find an honest coin dealer
to help you evaluate them, as Large Cents have many different varieties for most dates, and shouldn't be priced using an online price guide if you want maximum money for them.
Determine Your Penny Type
If your penny is the Small Cent type, it will be about the same size as the ones we use today although it might be a tiny bit heavier. To find your penny type, you can look it up here:
What is My Flying Eagle Cent Worth?
If your small-sized penny is dated 1857 or 1858, it is a Flying Eagle Cent. A Flying Eagle Cent in pretty worn-out condition is worth about $15 to $25 if you sold it to a coin dealer. (Note: All of my coin prices are realistic amounts that a dealer will pay you. They're not retail or "catalog" values like you find virtually everywhere else. Most people looking for coin prices want to know how much they can sell their coins for today.)
If your Flying Eagle Cent is dated 1856, you need to take it to a dealer to get an appraisal. This penny is very
rare, with a mintage of only 2,000 specimens, and forgeries and alterations of this date are far more common than the genuine 1856. The 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is considered to be a pattern coin
(rather than a circulation issue) by many experts.
Indian Head pennies are dated from 1859 through 1909, and have a depiction of Lady Liberty wearing an Indian-style feathered headdress, hence the misnomer "Indian Head" Penny. In general, all Indian Head Pennies are worth at least $1 each, even in very worn condition, as long as they're not badly damaged. For a full chart of Indian Head Penny prices, see:
Wheat Pennies are dated from 1909 to 1958, and have a portrait of Lincoln on one side, and a wreath-like design of wheat heads on the other. Sometimes called "Lincoln Cents" (without mentioning the Memorial as described below,) they are made of almost pure copper (95%) except for one year, the 1943 penny
, which is made of zinc-plated steel. All Wheat Pennies are worth at least 3 times face value, but of course many are worth substantially more, especially the key date Wheat Pennies
Lincoln Memorial Pennies are dated 1959 to current, and have a portrait of Lincoln on one side with the Lincoln Memorial building on the other. They were made of 95% copper until 1982. During 1982 the composition was changed to 97.5% zinc, with a thin copper plating, so that you have pennies dated 1982 made of both metal types. From 1983 until today, all U.S. pennies are made of mostly zinc. Most Lincoln Memorial Pennies are only worth face value unless they have their original copper luster from the Mint.
In 2009, the U.S. Mint will issue a special commemorative set of 4 pennies to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Cent design. At this time, Lincoln Cents are expected to enjoy a surge in popularity, which will hopefully mean higher values for these incredibly popular pennies.