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This Coin in Your Change Purse Could Be Worth a Thousand Dollars

Loose change may be more profitable than you realize.

Every day, we sift through our wallets to find change for purchases, laundry machines, and tip jars. Usually, this action is fairly banal, and we come across the same run-of-the-mill pennies, dimes, and quarters each time. However, there's always a chance you'll find something unusual, like an out-of-state coin or a golden dollar. If you're really lucky, you might stumble across a coin that's worth serious cash. And no, we don't mean a dollar or two—we're talking about hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the condition of the coin. Read on to discover which coin in your change purse could be worth a thousand dollars—and what to do if you find one.

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A penny with the initials V.D.B. could be worth $1,000.

Pennies on marble counter
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Most days, pennies are the least valuable pieces of currency in your wallet. But if you stumble across the right one, it could earn you thousands. The 1909 S Lincoln Wheat Cent with a V.D.B initial is one such penny. "The variety of this coin had a very low production," says Rob Eisenstein of collector's store Cardboard and Coins. "Additionally, this rare variety has the initials of the Lincoln Cent design creator, V.DB., on the reverse of the coin at the bottom."

To identify the coin, start by looking for the year 1909. Then, look for the letter "s" under the year. Finally, see if you can locate the initials V.D.B on the bottom of the tail side. If you can, you might be sitting on a pile of cash.

Don't believe you'll find one? Think again. Despite the relatively low mintage of this coin, there were still 484,000 created, according to coin collecting site USA Coin Book. The pennies are worth $940 on average and $2,000 and up for coins in mint condition.

Pennies with double text may also be valuable.

Pennies Money Facts

Yes, there is more than one type of valuable penny. The 1955 Lincoln Wheat Cent, Doubled-Die Obverse penny is worth around $800 in average condition and $4,000-plus in mint condition.

So, what makes this coin special? "There was an error at the mint, with the resulting coins displaying what looks like a 1955 over a 1955," says Eisenstein. "The date—among other features on the front and obverse—is seemingly doubled." Indeed, the penny looks like you're staring at it with double vision. This interesting defect is highly valuable to collectors.

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Some silver coins are worth 20 times their face value.

silver coin

If you're not blessed with the good fortune to find a penny that's worth a grand, don't fret. There are many common coins that have more value than you might think. "Circulated, or worn, 90 percent silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars—which were made from 1964 and earlier—are currently worth over 20 times face value," says Michael Fuljenz, a member of the non-profit organization Professional Numismatists Guild.

Fuljenz notes that a silver half dollar is worth at least $10, while a pre-1965 dime is worth at least $2. "Silver dollars made from 1935 or earlier are often worth at least $30 or more depending on their condition and date of issue," says Fuljenz. "Rare date and mintmark silver dollars in excellent condition can be worth hundreds and even thousands of dollars. But even common silver dollars are valuable because silver has risen to about $25 an ounce, and there is some collector value."

If you suspect you own a rare coin, handle it carefully.

Woman holding coins to show wage gap
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Let's say you're clearing out your change purse and think you may have stumbled upon a valuable coin. Now what? First, "do not clean the coin," says Donn Pearlman, an affiliate member of the Professional Numismatists Guild. "Improper, harsh, abrasive cleaning can seriously damage a coin and sharply reduce any collector value it may have."

You'll also want to assess its quality. "If the coin still has its original mint luster, handle it only on the edge," says Pearlman. "Don't put fingerprints on the front or back, as those marks can also reduce any collector value."

Then, research the method by which you'd most like to handle your coin. For example, you could keep it, bring it to a rare coin dealer, or put it up for auction. Whatever you do, it'll bring a whole new meaning to the term "pretty penny."

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Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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