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12 Rare U.S. Coins That Are Worth a Fortune in 2024

Have you ever dreamed of finding a little treasure in your pocket change or coin jar? While coming across a rare coin worth millions is a long shot, there are actually quite a few valuable coins floating around that you have a realistic chance of encountering. Knowing what to look for is key.

In this guide, we‘ll showcase some of the most sought-after rare U.S. coins that collectors are hunting for in 2024. From pennies to silver dollars, these coins span over 200 years of American history. Each has a fascinating story behind its rarity and value.

Whether you‘re an avid numismatist or just curious about that old coin you inherited from Grandma, read on to discover some of the "holy grails" of the coin collecting world. Who knows, maybe you‘ll get lucky and find one of these numismatic gems!

What Makes a Coin Valuable?

Before we dive into the list, let‘s briefly go over some of the main factors that determine a coin‘s worth:

1. Mintage
Mintage refers to the number of coins produced. Generally, the lower the mintage, the rarer the coin and the higher the potential value. Some coins have a low mintage due to their age, while others were intentionally minted in small quantities for collectors.

2. Grade
A coin‘s grade is a measure of its condition. Coins are graded on a 70-point scale, with 70 being a perfect "mint state" coin. Grades are determined by factors like wear, luster, and any damage. Even a small difference in grade can significantly impact value.

3. Minting Errors
Mistakes occasionally occur in the minting process, resulting in error coins. Types of errors include doubling of designs, off-center strikes, and missing elements. Depending on the rarity and demand for a specific error, these coins can sell for substantial sums.

4. Historical Significance
Certain coins are prized for their historical importance or interesting backstories. Examples include coins minted during key years, coins that were never released into circulation, or special commemorative issues.

Now that you have a basic primer, let‘s count down 12 of the rarest and most valuable U.S. coins you could potentially come across in 2024, in order from lowest to highest value:

12. 1922 No D Lincoln Penny

At first glance, a 1922 Lincoln penny might not seem very unique. But upon closer inspection, you‘ll notice this coin is missing something – the "D" mint mark signifying it was struck at the Denver Mint. Turns out, a mint employee forgot to add the "D" to the die, resulting in some coins escaping the mint without it.

While there are an unknown number of these "No D" pennies out there, experts estimate around 20,000 specimens exist today. In lower circulated grades, they can sell for $500-$1,000. However, a pristine uncirculated example sold for $48,875 back in 2018.

11. 1776-1976 Eisenhower Dollar – Type 2 Reverse

In honor of the United States‘ bicentennial in 1976, the Mint produced special Eisenhower dollars featuring the Liberty Bell and the Moon, two of America‘s most famous landmarks. However, due to safety concerns of employees reaching into the presses to remove the dollar coins, the reverse design was modified mid-year to widen the spaces between the elements.

Consequently, the original Type 1 reverse has become more scarce and coveted. These coins sell from anywhere between $100 to over $2,000 based on condition and the presence of any errors, like doubling on the lettering.

10. 2005 "Speared Bison" Jefferson Nickel

At some point in 2005, a mint worker accidentally gouged the reverse die for Jefferson Nickels, resulting in some coins featuring a bison that appears to be "speared" on its back. This dramatic error was quickly caught and corrected, but not before thousands of speared bison coins were minted.

Today, due to the boldness of the error and the menacing imagery, these nickels are popular with collectors. Even in circulated grades, they command $50-$150. The record auction price for a speared bison nickel is currently $3,760.

9. 1964 SMS Kennedy Half Dollar

After the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the U.S. Mint rushed to redesign the half dollar with his portrait in honor of the beloved president. In their haste, a small batch of 1964 special mint set (SMS) Kennedy halves were struck early on with an unfinished proof die and texture.

With only about a dozen of these true "accented hair" specimens known, this die variety is far scarcer than the already elusive proof 1964 Kennedy halves. One sold for an astounding $108,000 in 2019. Collectors speculate that more may be awaiting discovery in original 1964 SMS packaging.

8. 1943 Bronze Lincoln Wheat Penny

To conserve copper for the war effort in 1943, the U.S. Mint temporarily switched the composition of the penny to zinc-coated steel. However, it seems a few leftover bronze planchets got mixed in and led to the creation of about 20 off-metal "copper" 1943 pennies.

Finding a genuine 1943 bronze Lincoln is like searching for a needle in a haystack, as many fakes exist. But if you come across the real deal, you‘ve essentially won the coin lottery. The all-time record for a 1943 bronze cent is $1.7 million in 2010, while even porous, lower grade examples can fetch six figures at auction.

7. 1856 Flying Eagle Cent

Back in 1856, the U.S. Mint was looking to phase out the large, unpopular copper large cent. As an experimental transition, they produced pattern cents featuring a flying eagle motif. Many of these "first small cents" were handed out to congressmen and other VIPs to win favor for the new design.

While not technically a regular-issue coin, 1856 Flying Eagle cents are still highly prized by collectors as part of the Flying Eagle series. Around 1500-2000 are estimated to survive, often selling in the $10,000 to $30,000 range. The finest known sold for an impressive $172,500 in 2004.

6. 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel

In late 1917, a Denver Mint employee took a 1917-dated die and modified it for reuse the following year by punching an "8" over the final "7" in the date. The result: the sought-after 1918/7-D overdate Buffalo nickel. Such overdates were common practice in the early 20th century to save money on die steel.

With around 100,000 of these error coins released into circulation, they‘re not nearly as rare as some others on this list. However, demand is quite high as a popular and visible overdate variety. Problem-free examples routinely sell for between $1,000 and $5,000 up into the lower mint state grades.

5. 1858/7 Seated Liberty Half Dime

Overdates were also fairly common during the Seated Liberty era, like the coveted 1858/7 Seated Liberty half dime. There are three distinct overdate varieties here, but each is extremely scarce. Only 10 to 12 pieces are known to exist in total across all three – making this a premier rarity.

On the rare occasion that an 1858/7 half dime comes to market, it typically realizes a price well into the six-figure range. The all-time record sits at $552,000 for an XF45 grade specimen. While a stunning amount for such a small coin, the extreme rarity makes these a "crown jewel" for half dime collectors.

4. 1854-S Liberty Half Eagle

The San Francisco Mint opened for business in 1854 amidst the California Gold Rush to help turn miners‘ gold into coins. In that first year, 268 special $5 half eagle coins were struck with an "S" mintmark. Almost the entire mintage was later melted – except for 3 to 5 survivors.

With so few extant, this coin is a legendary rarity that can push into the seven-figure price range when one does appear at auction. In 2020, an 1854-S $5 graded XF45 realized $1.92 million. As the rarest regular issue variety in the entire Liberty Head half eagle series, it‘s a coin that inspires awe in collectors.

3. 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

No list of rare U.S. coins would be complete without mentioning the elusive and enigmatic 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle. In 1933, a total of 445,500 double eagles were minted but never released due to the Gold Recall Act. Most were melted down – but around 20 escaped into private hands through illicit means.

With only one legally held in private ownership after a 2002 government settlement, the 1933 double eagle is "the" ultimate prized possession. After selling for $7.6 million in 2002, the lone specimen crossed the auction block again in June 2021 for an astonishing $18.9 million, solidifying its place in the numismatic hall of fame.

2. 1894-S Barber Dime

In 1894, the San Francisco Mint reported a mintage of 24 Barber dimes – the lowest official mintage of any U.S. coin across all denominations. No one knows for sure why so few were made. Some speculate they were struck for assay purposes or as special presentation pieces. Regardless, only 9 are known to exist today.

1894-S Barber dimes are the definition of "rare and valuable." When they come to auction, fierce bidding wars ensue. One sold for a record $1.32 million back in 2005. In 2019, an 1894-S PR66 stunned the coin world when it was acquired in a private treaty transaction for a reported $2 million.

1. 1913 Liberty Head Nickel

No coin captures the imagination quite like the 1913 Liberty Head nickel. These "coins that shouldn‘t exist" have a mysterious and almost fantastical origin story. Although the U.S. Mint records no Liberty nickels produced in 1913, somehow 5 specimens appeared in the possession of a former Mint employee years later.

Over a century later, the "how" and "why" of the 1913 Liberty nickels remains unknown. Some suggest they were struck illegally with unofficial dies, while others contend they could have been pattern or experimental pieces. Regardless, owning one of these fabled rarities represents the pinnacle of coin collecting.

Because of their unique cachet and storyline, 1913 Liberty nickels consistently rank as the most valuable rare coin that can be owned. The most recent auction record was set in 2018, with the sole 1913 Liberty in private hands selling for $4.56 million. The remaining 4 coins are in museum collections.

Tips for Identifying Rare Coins

Now that you‘ve seen some of the most sought-after U.S. rarities, you might be wondering how to tell if you‘ve found a valuable coin "in the wild." Here are a few expert tips:

  1. Familiarize yourself with key dates, errors, and varieties using coin reference books and online price guides. Awareness is the first step in spotting a rarity.

  2. Pay close attention to the date, mintmark, and overall design when examining a coin. Look for anything "out of the ordinary" compared to regular strikes.

  3. Use a magnifying glass in good lighting to check for signs of error doubling, repunched mintmarks, or other odd features that could indicate a rare variety.

  4. Know how to properly handle and store any coins you suspect are valuable to avoid damaging them and lowering the grade. Always hold by the edges!

  5. Have your rare coin authenticated and graded by a leading third-party grading service like PCGS or NGC to verify it and preserve it in a tamper-proof holder.

While your odds of finding an ultra-rarity in grandpa‘s cigar box are quite slim, there are still plenty of valuable coins floating around out there. Half the fun is in the thrill of the hunt. So next time you‘re going through some old change, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for these numismatic gems!

As we‘ve seen, rare coins offer a tangible way to own a piece of history and benefit from their proven track record of value appreciation over time. Whether you‘re a seasoned collector or just starting out, learning about these captivating rarities can enrich your appreciation for the hobby.

Who knows – maybe one day you‘ll be the lucky owner of a multi-million dollar coin that came to you in a stroke of serendipity. In the meantime, enjoy building your collection and studying these incredible pieces. After all, that‘s what the art and science of numismatics is all about.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Coin values are estimates based on recent auction records and can fluctuate due to changing market conditions. Seek guidance from a qualified coin professional before buying or selling rare coins.