Take a second look before throwing that pocket change into the tip jar! Coin collectors specialize in identifying rare and valuable coins, but you don’t have to be an expert to find a coin worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Some of these priceless coins could be sitting in your pocket right now. From doubling and die errors to misprints and omissions, there are plenty of clues that you’ve found a valuable coin. Some of the most valuable coins in the United States sit in museum collections for their beauty and historical significance. However, there are many coins to keep an eye out for circulating in the nation’s currency to this day.
Top 5 Highest-Value Coins in the US
In your daily life, you’ve probably never encountered most of the U.S.’s highest-value coins. Composed of valuable materials like gold and silver, these rare coins often feature ornate designs incorporating eagles, historical figures and symbols of liberty. Here are some of America’s highest-value coins:
1. 1849 Liberty Head Double Eagle
Also referred to as the Coronet Head Double Eagle, this $20 coin was designed in 1849 and entered circulation in 1850 after the discovery of large gold deposits in California. As the Philadelphia Mint received vast shipments of gold to produce $10 gold eagles, it decided to start making a greater denomination and a bigger physical coin. This coin features a Liberty head on the obverse and a large eagle and shield on the reverse.
Like many valuable coins, the Liberty Head Double Eagle has rare dates, condition rarities and different types, including motto and no-motto. The pattern or proof coin from 1849 that resides in the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institute is the only one of its kind, making it the most valuable coin in the U.S.
2. 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar
The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar features a portrait of Liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. After Congress established with first national mint with the passage of the Coinage Act of 1792, dollars began to serve as the cornerstone of the U.S. monetary system. The Philadelphia mint started producing the silver dollars in October 1794, when 1,758 Flowing Hair coins were reportedly struck in one day. Experts believe that just 130-140 of these coins remain in existence.
In 2013, an exceptionally well-preserved specimen of the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar sold for more than $10 million. At the time, this sale was the highest price ever paid at auction for a single coin.
3. 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle
In 2002, the 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle $20 gold coin sold for $7.6 million. The particular coin sold at the Sotheby’s auction in 2002 had previously belonged to King Farouk of Egypt and is the only one legally available for sale. The coin features Lady Liberty holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left. On the reverse side, it features a bald eagle in flight, backed by the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST.”
The coin is scarce because they were never released as legal currency and most were destroyed after the U.S. government left the gold standard in 1933. Most were melted down into gold bars, but two coins were presented to the Smithsonian Institute. However, these two 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle coins are not the only coins that survived. After an Egyptian diplomat managed to get an export license for one of the coins in 1944, nine more surfaced in the late ’40s and ’50s. The Secret Service seized them all.
In 2003, the Langford family discovered 10 more 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle coins. The government also seized these coins when the family brought them to the Philadelphia Mint for authentication. After several appeals, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the government stands.
4. 1822 Half Eagle
This $5 gold coin features a capped bust on the obverse and an eagle with the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” on the reverse. Only three 1822 Half Eagles remain in existence — two reside in the Smithsonian collection, while the remaining one is in a private collection. It sold in March 2021 for $8.4 million.
5. 1870-S Indian Princess Head
The 1870-S Indian Princess Head is a $3 gold coin and one of the most famous U.S. coins. Experts believe only one or possibly two 1870-S coins are in existence, intended to mark the cornerstone of the San Francisco Mint building. The Indian Princess Head $3 gold coin features a bust of Lady Liberty in a Native American headdress. On the reverse side, the coin features a wreath of wheat, cotton corn and tobacco, with the coin’s value and year of minting inside the wreath and an S denoting the San Francisco Mint below it.
Quarters to Keep an Eye out For
Apart from these incredibly rare and valuable U.S. coins, there are also many coins to look out for in pocket change. If you have many quarters lying around, some of them might sell for well over 25 cents. Here are a few rare quarters worth more money:
- 2004 Wisconsin State Quarter With an Extra Leaf: Though some experts disagree on the cause of this defect and the long-term value of the coin, it’s worth noting because it’s easy to find in pocket change and worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars right now. The coin exhibits a die defect on the reverse side, on the lower left-hand side of the ear of corn. The extra leaf is prominent, and you shouldn’t need a magnifying glass to spot it. The extra-leaf quarter comes in two varieties — low-leaf and high-leaf — and recently sold for $1,400 as a collector’s item.
- 1970-S Washington Quarter: It may look like an ordinary quarter, but if you notice a small “1941” on the tails side, you may have a priceless coin in your hand. At least one 1970 Washington quarter was accidentally struck over a 1941 Canadian quarter rather than a blank. One such quarter was available for $35,000 at auction in 2016.
- 2005 “In God We Rust” Kansas State Quarter: This quarter features a rare misprint of the motto “In God We Trust.” Caused by grease, dirt and other impurities stuck in the surface of the coin die, this error in the official motto of the U.S. means the coin is in high demand and could be worth up to $100.
- 1932-1964 Silver Quarter: Washington quarters minted between 1932 and 1964 contain 90% silver and 10% copper. If the quarter has been extensively circulated and shows signs of wear, it may only be worth the silver it contains. However, uncirculated 1932-1964 silver quarters in good condition may be worth a small fortune! Just be sure you do not have a counterfeit coin or a coin altered from a common Washington quarter.
Pennies Worth More Money
You may be tempted to throw those pennies into the wishing well, but some of them could be highly valuable. Much like the quarters mentioned above, pennies are worth money when they have particular defects, misprints and omissions, so be sure to take a second look. Here are a few pricey pennies worth keeping in mind:
- 1943 Lincoln Head Copper Penny: It may look ordinary, but an original 1943 Lincoln copper head penny is worth well over 1 cent. In the 1940s, pennies were generally zinc-coated steel. The few copper pennies from 1943 can be worth up to $10,000.
- 1943 Steel Penny: During wartime, the U.S. minted pennies out of steel, helping to preserve copper for the war effort. The switch lasted just one year. 1943 pennies struck in steel are worth up to $10 — a modest price, but much more than a penny.
- 1955 Double-Die Lincoln Head Penny: If the heads side of your penny looks a bit blurry despite your reading glasses, you may be in luck. Due to an alignment error during minting, the U.S. Mint produced several thousand “double image” Lincoln pennies that are now highly rare and valuable. Double-die pennies can be worth up to $1,800.
- 1969-S Double-Die Lincoln Head Penny: Like the 1955 double-die penny, this rare penny features a doubling of the Lincoln head on its obverse side. To identify this penny, look for a doubling of the entire obverse side, excluding the mint mark of “S.” The words “IN GOD WE TRUST” and the date should look visibly doubled. If the mint mark looks doubled as well, the penny is not a true double-die and therefore worth less. Good specimens of 1969-S double-die pennies can fetch up to $35,000.
- 1972 Double-Die Lincoln Head Penny: Double-die pennies from 1972 are also precious. These pennies exhibit doubling of all elements on the obverse side. You should also use a magnifying glass to look for a small gouge mark near the “D” in “UNITED” to identify this variety. 1972 double-die pennies can be worth several hundred dollars.
- 1992 Close “AM” Penny: Throughout America, just 15 of these 1992 Lincoln head pennies — with the “A” and “M” in “AMERICA” closer than usual — are in circulation. This rare error makes the coin highly valuable. A 1992 close “AM” penny sold in 2012 for over $20,000 at auction.
- 1999 Wide “AM” Penny: Though 1999 is the rarest, wide “AM” pennies also came about in 1998 and 2000 when the mint accidentally used a proof die to make regular circulation pennies. In ordinary pennies, the letters “A” and “M” in “AMERICA” are connected or very close to touching. In these rare wide “AM” pennies, the letters appear clearly separated. In circulated, well-worn condition, these coins are worth $5 to $25, but these coins can fetch several hundred dollars in better shape.
Coins to Look out for in Pocket Change
Aside from quarters and pennies, your pocket change may contain a few other rare, high-value coins. You don’t need expert knowledge or a magnifying glass to identify these errors and unique characteristics, so don’t hesitate to keep an eye out for these special coins.
- 1982 No-Mint-Mark Roosevelt Dime: When the U.S. Mint struck these dimes, the surface of the coin dies had mint mark letters indicating the individual branch mint. However, some dimes lack the mint mark because some mints used dies without a proper mint mark. The Philadelphia mint used the mint mark “P,” the Denver mint used “D” and the San Francisco mint used “S.” All dimes should have a mint mark, but because these dimes do not, they are reasonably rare and valuable. However, beware of counterfeit no-mint-mark dimes. Some individuals scrape off the mint mark to pass off a standard dime as more valuable.
- Presidential Dollar With Edge Lettering Errors: Since the issuing of the Washington Dollar in 2007, the coin has shown edge lettering errors. These errors occur when the edge lettering is applied to the coin after striking. The edge lettering may be completely missing, or it may have been applied more than once. To identify this rare coin, inspect the edge of your specimen: the lettering should be encased all around the coin’s circumference. Depending on the president depicted, presidential dollars with these edge lettering errors can be worth up to $3,000.
- Silver Half-Dollars: Despite a common misconception, U.S. coins continued to incorporate silver past 1964. Mints struck half-dollar coins with a significant percentage of silver up until 1970. If your half-dollar is dated 1964 or earlier, then it is 90% silver. Half-dollars dated from 1965 to 1970 are 40% silver. Silver coins will feature shiny, reflective faces with no copper coloration around the edges. If you find a silver half-dollar, it is worth the price of the silver it contains.
- Benjamin Franklin Half-Dollar: These coins feature the head of Benjamin Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell and an eagle on the reverse. In circulation from 1948 to 1964, these coins became less common after the U.S. Mint began striking a new half-dollar featuring the face of John F. Kennedy after his assassination. Though in circulation for about two decades and thus not incredibly rare, Benjamin Franklin half-dollar coins are still worth about $100.
- 1942-1945 Silver Nickel: The silver nickels that were in circulation during World War II are also valuable due to their silver content. These nickels contain about 35% silver, as the nation needed nickel for weapon manufacturing during the war effort.
Visit the Vault Jewelry and Loan
Whether you’re an avid coin collector or recently had some luck and found a priceless coin, the Vault Jewelry and Loan offers fair and straightforward prices. We provide cash loans small and large — from $10 to $100,000 and more. We are licensed, bonded and insured, serving your needs with excellent customer service and professional experience. Contact us or visit The Vault Jewelry and Loan today!
James (Jamie) F., is the manager of our Centerpointe Way location in Woodbridge, VA. With over 14 years in the pawn business, he is an expert in Diamonds, Gold, and Luxury Watches. He is fluent in Spanish and English and enjoys helping customers’ find the item they want at a great deal. Banks and Big Box stores have convinced many that new and expensive is the only way to buy. He aims to change that paradigm and provide exceptional service and quality products at a bargain price to every person who walks through our doors.