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The other day a coworker sent me an article about a guy who had a $5 gold coin that he thought was a rarity. Dealer after coin dealer told him it was a forgery, and he finally took it to NGC to find out for himself. Well, it turns out that not only was it not a forgery, but it was worth MILLIONS! The San Francisco Mint produced fewer than 300 of the special edition $5 coins in 1854 at the height of the gold rush and it turns out there are now four of them left in the world. NGC chairman Mark Salzberg said: “It’s like finding an original Picasso at a garage sale. It’s the discovery of a lifetime.”
That got me to thinking – what are the chances of something like that happening to me or you? Could an average Joe find a rare coin in his pocket?
Here’s a rundown of coins that look common and what they could potentially be worth. Makes you want to start checking every coin in your pocket before spending them – doesn’t it?
1969-S Lincoln Cent with a Doubled Die Obverse
Look for obvious doubling of the entire “heads” side (obverse) except for the mint mark. If the mint mark is doubled it is probably a case of strike doubling rather than a doubled die and isn’t worth much.
Approximate Value: $35,000 or more in EF-40 condition or better. 1
2004-D Wisconsin State Quarter with an Extra Leaf
Due to a defect on the die, it appears as if there is an extra leaf on the lower left hand side of the ear of corn on the reverse. The leaf is obvious, and is easily spotted if present.
Approximate Value: $200-$300 in MS-60 or better condition.
1982 No Mint Mark Roosevelt Dime
Obviously, the 1982 No Mint Mark Roosevelt dime, has no mint mark.
Approximate Value: Around $30 to $50 in AU-50, The higher the grade, the more valuable this coin is.
Presidential Dollar Edge Lettering Errors
There have been errors associated with the lettering on the edge of the Presidential Dollars since they were introduced in 2007. In some instances, the lettering is missing entirely. In others, the edge lettering has been stamped multiple times. The inscription on the edge of the coin should go all the way around the circumference of the coin. Missing or doubled inscriptions are rare and valuable.
Approximate Value: $50 to $3,000, depending on which President is on the coin and condition.
1995 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent
This Doubled Die coin is still being found in circulation regularly and gained interest when it was featured in USA Today. There is obvious doubling in the words “LIBERTY” and in “IN GOD WE TRUST.”2
Approximate Value: About $20 to $50 in Uncirculated condition.
1943 Lincoln Copper Penny
It’s a little strange to think of a copper penny as an oddity, but it certainly was in 1943, when copper was needed for the war effort. That year, the U.S. Mint made pennies out of steel, then coated them in zinc for extra shine. However, it also accidentally made a copper batch. Very few of them ever left the facility, so the ones that did are worth up to $10,000!
'In God We Rust' 2005 Kansas State Quarter
This was the result of grease build-up in the coin die, filling the T in the word “Trust.” Grease build-up errors aren’t that uncommon, and they're not always worth much. In this case, however, the mistake is in a pretty interesting place, which makes the coins worth more to some collectors.
Approximate Value: $100.
2005 Speared Bison Jefferson Nickel
As part of the Mint’s Westward Journey series, they released an American Bison Jefferson Nickel in 2005. That same year, there were several coins discovered which contained a large die gouge. The die gouge is very noticeable and it can easily be seen running through the bison's back. The coins containing this die gouge were referred to as a Speared Bison nickel. Within a couple of days from when the coins were discovered, they were immediately selling for well over $100 raw or in any condition.3
2005 Minnesota State Quarters with Extra Trees
There are actually many different versions of the 2005 Minnesota quarter doubled die. There are at least 50 different types of errors, varieties, and other unusual anomalies involving the 2005 Minnesota quarters from the Philadelphia and Denver mints. The value of a Minnesota state quarter error varies, based on the strength and degree of doubling of the extra tree:
Those with the strongest doubling generally sell for $100 or more.
Some of the best-preserved uncirculated examples are fetching nearly $1,000.
There are so many varieties that articles have been written on the subject – here’s two:
Lastly, it’s not all about error and old coins – here are some stories about ordinary folks who stumbled across treasures.
Ten Millions Dollars found buried in tin cans!
In February, 2013, a couple in their mid-40’s were walking their dog on their private property in California Gold Country. They saw a rusted can sticking out of the ground stuck in the dirt. They tried to pry it from the ground with a piece of wood. It was so heavy that they believed that the can likely held lead paint. On their walk back to their house, struggling to carry the weight of the find, the lid of the can cracked open, revealing the edge of a single gold coin. They returned to the site with some hand tools to see if they could find anything else. They found another can about a foot away from where the first can was discovered. Although it was partially decomposed due to rust, it held several more coins. They continued to return to the site to look for more coins, primarily digging in the ground and eventually using a metal detector. Their work eventually resulted in the discovery of eight cans filled with 1,427 coins. The face value of the coins totaled $27,980, but was assessed to be worth $10 million. In total, the hoard contains $27,460 in twenty-dollar coins, $500 in ten-dollar coins, and $20 in five-dollar coins, all dating from 1847 to 1894. The collection is the largest known discovery of buried gold coins that has ever been recovered in the US.4
Man Finds $500,000 Worth of Treasure in Storage Unit
In recent years storage unit auctions have gained wide-spread recognition after becoming reality fodder for shows like Storage Wars and Auction Hunters. John Cardoza of Storage Auction Experts says, "Six out of seven units can make money." However, he stresses that the chance to make half a million dollars off a $1,100 bid is a bit rarer. "I hear similar stories about once a year," said Cardoza. A San Jose man paid $1,100 for a unit only to see his blind investment turn into a goldmine after a number of rare coins and a few gold and silver bars were found in a blue Rubbermaid container. The container was said to have been heavy enough that three men had to carry it out.
Gold Coins and Silver Coins Found Buried Under a House
A couple passed away recently passed away, and as part of their will they left a map and blueprint of the house they'd built decades earlier. On the map were the details of where to find the treasure that the couple had buried before building their home. At first, the family didn’t find anything, despite digging in the spots indicated on the map. "They got frustrated, but kept their spirits up and kept digging. Finally, one of the kids hit something.” It was a paint can filled with silver and gold coins from the early 1900s. All of them were dirty and there was a little tarnish on some of them, but the metal was in pretty good condition. Soon, they hit another can. And another. And another. They loaded the cans in their car and drove straight to Bellevue Rare Coins. After the evaluation, they told the family that the gold and silver they had brought in that day was worth close to $250,000.5
The moral of the story? Always keep your eyes peeled for treasures – modern and antique – in your pocket or buried deep. Sometimes luck is just paying attention!