The penny has been part of US currency almost as long as the country has been independent. In fact, the first "Fugio cent" was designed by Benjamin Franklin. Since the very beginning, the images on the penny have symbolized the spirit of the country. There has been talk in recent years of doing away with the penny as we move toward a more cashless society, but we're not quite there yet.
As with anything that's mass-produced, some mistakes have crept into the penny's circulation. Those coins are hard to come by, but if you have one, you may be in line for a real financial windfall. Maybe you have a collectible in a bowl or piggy bank you've forgotten about. Here's a list of the most valuable pennies out there to help you spot that one-of-a-kind gem.
1943-S Copper Lincoln Wheat Penny
Why It's Worth So Much: Created at the San Francisco Mint, this was a happy accident for collectors. In 1943, pennies were made from steel planchets coated with zinc, but some copper planchets from the year before were left behind, and the coins were struck on those. Some believe it was a mistake, while others think someone created the coins deliberately. Either way, there are only five known copper pennies from that year, making this coin the "holy grail" of pennies for collectors.
1944 Steel Wheat Penny
What It's Worth: $75,000 to $110,000
Why It's Worth So Much: Copper was added to the penny in 1944; the alloy also incorporated recycled ammunition shells. About two billion one-cent coins were made that year, but, as with the 1943 Copper Lincoln Wheat Penny, the 1944 Steel Wheat Penny was created when some steel planchets were left in the machines at the US Mint. There are about 30 of these coins in existence today.
1969-S Doubled Die Penny
What It's Worth: One Michigan collector, Michael Tremonti, found one in a roll of uncirculated pennies. He later sold it for $126,500.
Why It's Worth So Much: Sometimes, if the die used to stamp a coin with an image aren't correctly aligned, images or letters appear "doubled" on the coin. Such is the story of the 1969-S Doubled Die Penny. The coins - of which there are about 40 or 50 in existence - are quite valuable.
1943 Copper Wheat Penny
What It's Worth: Up to $82,500
Why It's Worth So Much: Much like the 1943-S Copper Wheat Penny, minus the mint mark, the 1943 Copper Wheat Penny is also quite valuable. It came about in much the same way as the 1943-S, via some leftover copper in the mint's machines. Only about 40 coins are said to exist, which means finding one of these is like finding a needle in a haystack. There are also a lot of counterfeit coins from this year out there, which are created by manipulating the dates or coating steel pennies with copper.