The cashless economy has grown significantly in recent years. According to a Pew Research Survey, the percentage of Americans who regularly use cash shrank to only 14% in 2022.
But that doesn’t mean your coins are worthless. On the contrary — rare and misprinted coins can go for hundreds or even thousands on the market.
In 1959, for example, the Denver mint accidentally struck a penny on a dime planchet. A planchet is the blank metal disk used to create a coin. When planchets from one container mix during production, you can end up with errors like silver pennies and copper dimes. This specific error coin sold for $2,115 in a 2013 coin auction.
So if you find a misprinted coin in your piggy bank, you might be sitting on some quick cash. This quick guide explains some of the most valuable error coins in circulation today.
George Washington only started appearing on the quarter in 1932. His head replaced the previous Standing Liberty design, which had been circulating since 1916. While the mint has produced several variations of the Washington quarter over the years, the first President remained on the obverse (heads) with few changes until 2023, when the design flipped to face the right side.
Here are some of the most common quarter errors you might find.
1997 Washington Quarter
Several 1997 quarter errors made their way into circulation, including:
- Double die: These quarters show doubling on some parts of their design and can be worth anywhere from $50 to over $100.
- No ridges: Some error quarters were minted without ridges. Known as “broadstrikes,” 1997 quarters without ridges are often valued at $15 to $30.
- Off-center design: These quarters are missing parts of their design because of a misalignment between the die and the planchet during production. Depending on how off the design is, you could be looking at a value of anywhere from $20 to $200 and up.
Another valuable 1997 quarter is the 90% silver proof from the San Francisco mint. While this coin does not have an error, it’s quite rare — the mint only produced 74,168 pieces. If you have one of these pieces, it could be worth quite a bit.
2015 Homestead Quarter
The U.S. Mint produced the America the Beautiful (ATB) quarter series from 2010 to 2021, honoring different states on the reverse (tails) side of each coin. While there are several errors throughout the ATB series, the Homestead quarter errors are some of the most notable.
Designed to honor Nebraska, the 2015 Homestead quarter features the Homestead National Monument of America and the three necessities for survival:
- Food: Two ears of corn frame the coin’s main design.
- Shelter: A wooden cabin with two windows occupies the center of the coin.
- Water: A pump in front of the homestead fills a bucket with water.
There are more than 100 different 2015 quarter errors, all from the Philadelphia mint. Most of these errors involve a double image of the pump in the monument’s windows. This error is known as the “reflected pump” and is one of the most valuable errors you can find on this coin. Additionally, coins with the “snow” error have a small deposit of metal on the homestead’s roof.
Experts usually value 2015 Nebraska quarter errors around $20 to $50 depending on the type of error and the coin’s condition.
The Lincoln penny is notable because it is the first U.S. coin to feature a historical figure on its obverse. Before 1909, the penny had a flying eagle on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse. Here are a few recent examples of valuable error pennies you might find.
1955 Double Die Penny
This iconic error penny is one of the most well-known in the coin-collecting world. Depending on its condition, it can sell for anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
This penny’s reverse design, known as the “wheat penny,” features the words “ONE CENT” flanked by two ears of wheat. Some pennies produced in 1955 at the Philadelphia mint have a major error on the obverse side. When you look at the obverse side, you’ll see that the date, “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” are clearly doubled. There are no errors on the reverse side.
So what caused this error? It’s actually a simple mistake. The craftsman working the line accidentally misaligned the coin hub and the die for the final impression, causing the coin to rotate and the lettering to double. Lincoln’s image, though, is the same — because his image is higher than the text and the date, the rotation didn’t affect it.
Due to its popularity, scammers have produced counterfeits of this coin. The differences between a fake and a real coin are incredibly subtle, so if you happen to find one of these famous pennies, your best bet is to bring it to a professional.
1981 Penny Errors
Due to rising metal costs, the 1981 penny was the last penny produced from 95% copper and 5% zinc. All pennies produced from 1982 onward contain 95% zinc and 5% copper. But 1981 was notable for more than just a change in penny composition — 1981 pennies feature several errors, which range from simple to dramatic.
Some of the errors you might find include:
- Off-center design: Because these pennies were off-center when the die struck them, part of the design is missing. The coin’s value increases depending on how much of the design is cut off — the most valuable examples have very little of the design on the coin.
- Double die error: When a normal die strikes a coin twice in the press, it produces a coin that’s slightly thicker on one or both sides of the image.
- Broken die: When part of the die cracks or breaks off in the middle of a run, it creates a coin with an uneven surface. You might notice visible lines in the penny’s design or abnormal ridges on its surface. Regardless of the year, this type of error is popular among collectors.
- Double-struck: If an improperly manufactured die strikes a coin twice in the press, it creates a double image. Like with the 1955 penny, you’ll notice that parts of the design appear to have a second image overlaid on top of them.
- Re-punched mint mark: This error causes your penny’s mint mark to look fuzzy, or you may notice two mint marks next to each other. This error happens when the mint re-punches a mint mark after production.
You might also find that your penny’s mint mark is missing. That’s actually not an error in this case — the mint facility in Philadelphia didn’t include mint marks on 1981 pennies. However, if you find a 1983 penny without a mint mark, it could be worth some serious cash.
The Roosevelt dime is unique among American coins because its design has remained mostly unchanged since 1946, when it replaced the previous Mercury dime. The only major change to the coin was a shift in composition. From 1946 to 1964, Roosevelt dimes contained 90% silver and 10% copper. But the mint removed the silver in 1965 and replaced it with an alloy containing 75% copper and 25% nickel.
If you have one of these error dimes, it could be worth hundreds or even thousands.
1964 D-Roosevelt Dime
Some of the Roosevelt dimes minted at the Denver facility in 1964 have several significant errors from double striking on the reverse side.
These errors are tough to catch with the naked eye, so you’ll want to grab a magnifying glass and a normal dime for comparison. On the reverse side of the coin, look for slightly wider text, especially around “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”
Many variations of the 1964 dime errors exist, and their value increases depending on how severe the doubling is and the coin’s condition. Most range from $10 to $75, but the best 1964 D dimes with severe doubling can fetch more than $100.
1982 P-Roosevelt Dime
The 1982 P dime is named after what it’s missing — namely, the “P” mint mark for the Philadelphia facility. Unlike the 1981 penny, this missing mint mark is a true error.
Experts estimate that only about 15,000 dimes with this error entered circulation, making it an incredibly rare find. As a result, it can go for $500 or even more, depending on its condition. This makes it the most valuable Roosevelt dime ever minted.
The U.S. nickel has seen significant changes throughout the years. The original nickels had a different name — known as “half-dimes,” the original five-cent pieces were made from a silver-copper alloy.
The mint changed the coin’s composition to a copper-nickel alloy in 1866, which is why we started calling it a nickel. Throughout the coin’s long life span, several notable errors have appeared.
1936-D Buffalo Nickel
The buffalo nickel, which featured the profile of a Native American on the obverse and a bison on the reverse, was minted from 1913 to 1938. The 1936 run of these coins is notable for a major error on the reverse, where one of the bison’s legs is cut off due to an off-center die.
1936 buffalo nickel errors are incredibly rare — the best specimens can be worth more than $20,000 at auction. If you think you have one of these gems, be sure to bring it to an expert for an appraisal.
1939 Doubled Monticello Nickel
The nickel underwent a makeover in 1938, following the trend of coins featuring previous Presidents. Thomas Jefferson’s profile replaced the Native American head on the obverse side. An image of his home, Monticello, replaced the buffalo on the reverse.
The 1939 nickel is an interesting case because of the double-struck text on the reverse. If you look at the word “MONTICELLO,” you’ll notice that the letters appear to be thicker than the other text on the coin. Looking closer, you might find that the “FIVE CENTS” also has a doubled image.
This error came from the Philadelphia mint, as evidenced by the “P” mint mark to the right of Jefferson’s ponytail. A 1939 error nickel in excellent condition can be valued at as much as $15,000. Like with the others, bring your coin to an expert to ensure it’s genuine.
Half Dollar Errors
One of the most interesting U.S. coins is the half dollar. While they’re only produced as collectibles now, they still count as legal tender. And they’ve seen various changes throughout the years.
The original half dollar designs featured an image of Lady Liberty in various poses on the obverse and a flying eagle on the reverse. In 1948, the U.S. Mint replaced Liberty with a profile of Benjamin Franklin and the eagle with an image of the Liberty Bell.
Former President John F. Kennedy (JFK) replaced Franklin in 1964. Error coins with this final design are incredibly popular with collectors.
1964 Accented Hair Kennedy Half Dollar
If you have an uncirculated proof of the 1964 Kennedy half dollar, you might have a real gem on your hands. JFK’s hair is more detailed on the “accented hair” error coin than on standard Kennedy half dollars. Additionally, there appears to be a slight misprint in the “I” in “LIBERTY.” If you look closely, you might see that the letter’s lower left serif is cut short — or, in some cases, missing entirely.
The heavily accented hair was actually part of the original design for the Kennedy half dollar, so it’s technically not an error like some of the others on this list. But because Jackie Kennedy herself objected to the hair detail, the mint revised the design for the rest of the run. Only about 1% to 3% of the original 1964 proof coins have the “accented hair” detail, making them worth hundreds at auction.
1974 D-Doubled Die Obverse Kennedy Half Dollar
If you have a 1974 half dollar, you might have a minor misprint. These error coins feature a “D” mint mark just below Kennedy’s head, indicating that they came from the Denver mint.
The doubling is especially apparent in the date and the word “TRUST.” Just look at the letter “R” and the right tip of the “4” in the date. You might also notice some doubling in the upper-right tip of the T in “LIBERTY,” though this error is a little more subtle.
1974 D half dollars can be worth anywhere from $45 to $90, depending on their condition.
Why Are Error Coins Valuable?
The value of most error coins is directly related to their rarity. These variations on the coins were accidents, which is why they’re not very common — it’s also why they’re so valuable to coin collectors.
Proof coins are collector exclusives made with specialized planchets, so the chances you’ll find one in your wallet are pretty slim. These coins are made with polished blanks and specially prepared dies, which create a detailed image and a lustrous surface.
Bring Your Error Coins to The Vault Jewelry and Loan
If you think you’ve got a valuable error coin on your hands, reach out to us through our online contact form or give us a call at 703-397-1006. We’d be happy to take a look at it at one of our pawn shops across Virginia.