While each series of U.S. pennies has its own key coins based on mintages and the number of surviving coins, the most valuable pennies ever sold is a different group of coins that takes into account other factors like market conditions, demand and the coin’s role in history.
Truly valuable coins are almost always sold either at public auctions or in private sales that protect the identity of the buyer for security reasons.
Based on the millions of auctions records for the sale of U.S. coins, these are currently the dozen most valuable pennies of each main type listed in the order in which they were produced. They range in value from about a quarter of a million to over $2 million. There are a couple other pennies that are worth in the $200,000+ range besides those on this list.
13 most valuable pennies
1793 Flowing Hair Chain PCGS MS66
The highest price ever realized for a penny was in a January 2015 auction at the FUN show. A 1793 Flowing Hair with chain reverse cent sold for $2,350,000. The first coin ever struck at the Philadelphia Mint in March 1793 not counting some patterns and the 1792 half disme was the 1793 chain cent. That sale was the first time the coin was available for sale since 1890!
1793 Flowing Hair PCGS MS64+
This example on which America is abbreviated AMERI. on the reverse is an early die state piece that was probably struck on one of the first days of coinage operation in 1793, and it was certainly among coins in the first delivery dated March 1, 1793. It sold in 2019 for $1.5 million at a auction sale.
1799 Draped Bust NGC MS62 Brown
This is the finest known example of this key coin and the only one that has received a mint state grade. It sold in September 2009 for $977,500. This coin was originally purchased in England and brought back to the U.S.
1811 Classic Head PCGS MS65 Red
The only coin of this date and this type that has received the red designation is this coin, which was originally found in a desk in New Haven and sold for $493,500 in a auction sale.
1823 Coronet Head PCGS MS66 Red
This coin is tied for the finest known example of this date, was part of the famous Brent D. Pogue collection and was at one point owned by coin dealer Abe Kosoff. It sold for $376,000 in a 2017.
Flying Eagle 1856 PCGS PF67+
This coin is one of original 634 proofs made to be given to President Franklin Pierce, his Secretary of the Treasury and Members of Congress for their approval rather than one of the later restrikes of this piece. It is the finest coin example ever graded by PCGS and sold for $240,000 in September 2020 – the highest price a Flying Eagle cent has sold for.
Lincoln Wheat Cents:
1909 VDB PCGS PF67+
This is one of only 34 known surviving examples of this coin that had an original mintage of 1,194 coins, and one of only two that have been graded Proof 67. In 2014 in a sale at auction this matte proof example with amazing colors sold for $258,500.
1943-D Copper PCGS MS64 Brown
This is the only known example of a coin that was accidentally minted in Denver and struck in copper when the Mint was striking only steel cents. In sold for $1,750,000 in 2010 at auction.
1943 Copper PCGS AU55
This is one of only 7 ultra-rare 1943 copper pennies graded by PCGS of which only 4 have graded higher than this example that sold in May 2014 in a Legend-Morphy sale for $329,000. This one was part of the Simpson collection and is believed to be undervalued in the present market given how well-known a rarity it is.
1943-S Copper PCGS MS63 Brown
Only 6 1943-S copper cents are confirmed to exist and have been graded by either PCGS or NGC. Until the 1960s the Mint denied any of these coins existed because by that time some genuine examples began to surface. This coin was part of the Simpson collection that included all 3 1943 copper pennies and is the finest known example. It sold most recently for $504,000 but was acquired in 2012 by Bob Simpson in a private sale for $1 million.
1944-S Steel PCGS MS66
This coin is one of only two known examples of a 1944-S wheat cent struck in zinc-coated steel at a time when the Mint had stopped production of those coins and resumed making them in copper. It is believed that the coin was the result of a planchet that was intended for a 1943-S cent that accidentally ended up on 1944-S dies, according to numismatic expert David Lange. It is the finest of the two known coins and the only one that is uncirculated and sold $373,750 in 2008.
1958 Double Die PCGS MS64 Red
This coin is one of only three known examples of this double die cent whose origins remain a mystery. It may have been smuggled out of the Mint by an employee and was unknown until the 1980s. It sold for $336,000 in a March 2018.