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Unlocking the Value: Are Old Pennies Worth Anything, and Who Buys Them?

Jon Warren
Pennies, those small copper coins often overlooked in our pockets and purses, may hold surprising value beyond their nominal worth. Many people wonder if their collection of old pennies is worth anything and who might be interested in purchasing them. Let's delve into the world of numismatics to uncover the potential value of old pennies and explore the market for these historic coins.

There are people who make a very good side hustle out of buying and selling old wheat pennies. They make dollars on the penny (LOL)! They find large lots of old pennies then turn around and sell them for a profit. How much do they get? Usually they can sell them for around $3.50 per pound of old pennies. Penny dealers will buy any quantity up to 100,000 coins or 1000 pounds in weight. You should know that there are roughly 150 pennies per pound.

A wheat penny is any penny dated from 1909 to 1958. They are called "wheat pennies" because they have a sheaf of wheat on the reverse, or backside of the coin. In 1959, the sheaf of wheat was replaced with the Lincoln memorial, which is still on the reverse of our pennies today.

Wheat pennies were produced starting in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. They were first issued on 2 August 1909 and were the first U.S. coins to feature a real person (Abraham Lincoln). As the coins began to circulate, controversy broke out over the letters V.D.B. on the coin, which were located on the bottom of the reverse side and were the initials of the penny's designer, Victor David Brenner. Many people thought that the New York sculptor’s initials did not need to be on the coin or were too prominent. Other people did not understand the meaning behind the initials or their purpose. One of the most valuable of the wheat pennies is a 1909 date with an S mint mark and the VDB initials in prominence. It is called the 1909 SVDB and can sell for as much as $1,000.00 or more in uncirculated 'like new' condition.

Wheat pennies are very common, but some rare dates are worth dollars, not pennies. However, they are rare for a reason. You could spend a lifetime searching through mountains of wheat pennies and never find a rare date. Finding a rare penny is like winning the lottery.

It is much more profitable to deal in bulk. Buy them whenever you have the chance at flea markets, yard sales, estate sales, then turn around and sell them to a reputable penny buyer for a profit.

Understanding the Value

The value of old pennies can vary significantly based on factors such as rarity, condition, and historical significance. While most pennies circulated in the United States are common and hold little numismatic value, certain rare dates, mint marks, and errors can make a penny worth considerably more to collectors.

Rare Dates and Mint Marks

Pennies minted in specific years or bearing unique mint marks are often highly sought after by collectors. For example, the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent, featuring the initials of designer Victor David Brenner, is considered a numismatic treasure due to its low mintage and historical significance. Similarly, pennies from the early years of the United States Mint, such as the 1793 Chain cent or the 1799 "9 over 8" variety, command premium prices at auction.

Error Coins

Mistakes during the minting process can also lead to valuable error coins. Examples include double strikes, off-center strikes, and die cracks, among others. Collectors are often drawn to these unique specimens due to their rarity and the intriguing stories behind their production.

Condition Matters

In the world of coin collecting, condition is paramount. Coins in pristine, uncirculated condition are highly desirable and can command significant premiums compared to their more worn counterparts. Factors such as luster, surface preservation, and absence of blemishes play crucial roles in determining a coin's grade and, consequently, its value.

The Market for Old Pennies

Numerous avenues exist for selling old pennies, ranging from online marketplaces and auction houses to coin shops and specialized dealers. Collectors and enthusiasts actively seek out these coins to add to their collections or invest in numismatic assets.

Who Buys Old Pennies?

Coin collectors, investors, and dealers are the primary buyers of old pennies. Collectors often pursue specific date and mint mark combinations to complete sets or assemble thematic collections. Investors may view old pennies as tangible assets with potential for appreciation over time, particularly in the case of rare or historically significant specimens. Dealers, meanwhile, buy and sell old pennies as part of their numismatic business, leveraging their expertise to assess value and negotiate transactions.


While not every old penny is worth a fortune, many hold value beyond their face value to collectors and investors alike. By understanding the factors that contribute to a penny's worth and exploring the vibrant market for these historic coins, individuals can unlock the hidden treasures lurking within their coin collections.