This 1992 Penny Can Make You $25,000

A jar of pennies surrounded by pennies.
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Most people are familiar with the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” This means that if you hold on to that penny and put it in a savings account, you can slowly grow its value through interest. But in rare cases, a penny saved is a penny that can earn you $25,000 or more — if it’s the right penny.

That was the haul some lucky person earned in early 2017, when their 1992-D Lincoln Memorial penny sold for more than $25,000 at a Heritage Auctions sale, according to the Spruce Crafts website. In this case, the coin was a rare “Close AM” penny in uncirculated condition that earned a grade of MS-67 Red from the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).

If you’re not familiar with coin grading terminology: “MS-67” means the coin is in mint state, uncirculated or higher, and earns a grade of 67 on a scale of 1 to 70, with 70 being in perfect condition, according to The Purple Penny. The “red” designation means it is a copper coin that retains 95% or more of its original mint-red color, according to PCGS. Another 1992 Lincoln Penny, graded MS-64, sold for more than $20,000 in 2012.

Why Is This 1992 Penny Worth So Much?

As for the rare part — as The Spruce Crafts reported, beginning in the early 1990s, the U.S. Mint used different dies to produce coins for general circulation and also produced special “proof” coins for collectors. But because of a mix-up at the Mint in 1992, a proof die was used for the reverse of the Lincoln penny a year before it was supposed to be used.

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The value comes from the distance between the bottom of the “AM” in AMERICA on the reverse of the 1992 Lincoln penny and the distance between the “FG” initials and the base of the Lincoln Memorial. In very rare cases, the “A” and the “M” are almost touching, and the “FG” is further away from the memorial building than usual. This variety was produced at both the Philadelphia and Denver mints, according to The Spruce Crafts.

More than 4.4 billion Lincoln pennies were produced in 1992, PCGS reported, but only about a dozen examples of the 1992-D Close AM variety are known to exist. The one that sold for more than $25,000 in 2017 was described as having “virtually flawless, gleaming surfaces with rich gold, fire-orange, and rose-red hues.”

There can be very big differences in value based on condition. For example, a 1992 Lincoln Close AM penny graded MS-62 Red sold for “only” $2,640. USA Coin Book estimates the average value of the Close AM penny at $11,359.

If you’re on the prowl for one of the rare, valuable coins, you’re not going to find them at the bank. Banks can provide rolled circulated coins, but to buy classic uncirculated coins, you’ll need to visit a coin dealer or online auction.

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