The average amount in a change jar is $68, but if it holds a rare coin, it could be worth hundreds more! Read on for ways to spot coins worth a fortune.
Look for the unusual.
“First, set aside any coins that have a different color, weight or image than what you usually see-that’s a sign it’s worth further investigation,” says numismatist Neil S. Berman, owner of Mount Kisco Gold & Silver in Mount Kisco, New York, and co-author of Coin Collecting for Dummies. Over the years, the U.S. Mint has made numerous changes to the appearance of coins and the metals used to manufacture them, making some worth far more. For example, 1926 S Buffalo nickels featuring a Native American chief on one side and a buffalo on the other are worth up to $1,000.
Scan for errors.
While a blunder would typically make an item worth less, some coin errors can drive up their value. “An image may be off-center or there could be a doubling of words due to the coin being struck more than once,” says Berman. “A 2014 error coin that combined the ‘heads’ image of George Washington from the Statehood Quarter with the ‘tails’ image of a soaring eagle from the Sacagawea Dollar sold for $84,000 at auction.” To find out what other errors are worth, visit coin auction site Coins.HA.com and type “error” in the search box.
Be the first to inspect.
“Get a fresh roll or bag of coins from the bank,” says Berman. “Chances are, no one has gone through them yet, which means you’ll be the first to find standouts.” The owner of the George Washington/Sacagawea error coin, mentioned above, found it in a bag of coins he got from a bank. Also smart: Check drawers, closets and attics for forgotten cash, he adds. “Most of us are holding onto U.S. and foreign coins we were given as a child or picked up on trips-old mementos that could end up being worth a fortune.”
Check the date.
You could spot a potentially valuable coin by looking for certain years. For example, keep your eye out for 1943 copper pennies. During this year, pennies were created from steel to conserve copper for the war effort; however, a few copper 1-cent coins were created by accident, making these rare coins worth up to $250,000 today. To check if your 1943 penny is steel or copper, grab a magnet: Copper won’t stick, but steel will. Another tip: Set aside dimes, quarters, halfdollars and other “silver” coins minted in the year 1964 or earlier. “These were made with 90 percent silver, unlike today’s coins that are made from copper and nickel,” notes Berman. “Since silver is worth more as a metal alone, one dime could be worth $1.80 or more depending on the price of silver.” This means if you find a whole roll of pre- 1965 dimes, it could be worth nearly $100.
To find out how much your unique coins are worth, visit USACoinbook.com/encyclopedia/most-valuable-coins
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.