Is your small change worth big bucks?

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I was thinking about yesterday's state quarters quiz (scroll down, it's not too far) and it got me wondering about our coins in general. Most people will "save" a buffalo nickel or a Mercury dime, since the fact that they're older designs makes it a reasonable bet that the coin is rare and perhaps worth a few times its face value. And while I'm not a coin collector per se, I do know a bit about the hobby, so I began to think about it from a casual person's point of view. And here's the question I came up with:

Are there any otherwise-normal-looking coins I might find in my pocket that are worth holding on to?

penny.jpgAnd the answer is: not likely. I took a brand new, hot-of-the-shelves coin value book (the 2008 U.S. Coin Digest) and panned through the types of coins currently in circulation and see if there's anything worth keeping an eye out for. You know, if there's, say, one particular Jefferson nickel that's worth a few bucks. And notwithstanding the one-in-a-billion errors that occur, here's what I found:

  • A Lincoln penny dated 1933 or earlier is worth 15 cents or more, but even the most pristine ones are worth no more than $100.
  • A Jefferson nickel dated 1938, 1942-45, or 1950 might be worth 25 to 75 cents in good shape.
  • A Roosevelt dime dated 1949S or 1950S is worth a buck in good shape.
  • A Washington quarter dated 1940 or earlier is worth $3 in good shape.

And you know what? That's it. No other coin type still in circulation is gonna be worth more than its face value. That includes Kennedy half-dollars, bicentennial quarters, and even steel pennies. Heck, even some older designs, like the Ben Franklin half dollars, have little collector's value once they're circulated.

So is it worth sorting through your change to see if you have any of these? That's up to you. I guess it's better than staring at the tile while you're waiting on the folks at White Castle to bag your order.

July 3, 2007 - 4:37am
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