What is a Key Date Penny?

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Written By Natasha Jones
I'm Natasha Jones, an avid collector of coins, stamps, and paper money. My passion drives me to seek unique finds, from antique shops to international exchanges. I enjoy connecting with fellow collectors through forums and meet-ups, sharing discoveries and insights. Collecting, for me, is about preserving history and building a community around this shared interest.

Key date pennies are always rare, but some are rarer than others.

This is because key date pennies have low mintage and high demand, making them hard to find in circulation or coin shops.

Several factors contribute to a penny’s value as a key date penny:

What is a Key Date Penny?


A key date penny is a coin that is very rare and thus worth more than other coins.

Key date pennies usually have a face value of less than $1, so collectors will often pay more than the actual cost of their metal content.

The most valuable key date penny is the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent, commonly known as “the most famous coin in the world.”

Unfortunately, this coin was produced only one year before the Mint stopped making pennies due to rising production costs.

As a result, it’s estimated that fewer than 100 are still around today!

Why are They Hard to Find?

The short answer to this question is that they are not minted in large quantities.

The U.S. Mint began producing key date pennies in 1909 but did not continue to produce them after that year.

As a result, many of these pennies have been hoarded by collectors and coin dealers ever since then, making them hard to find, even if you’re looking for one at a local coin shop or bank (not to mention online).

Are they Rare?


Are key date pennies rare? The answer is that these pennies are scarce. There are only 2 to 3 key dates in a given year.

A key date is a coin with a low mintage and is, therefore, more challenging to find than other issues of the same year.

That means the price will be higher than what you’d pay for ordinary coins of similar value or quality, for example, Canadian quarters or half dollars from the same year.

The name “key” comes from their status as essential parts of collections; if your collection doesn’t have one, it’s missing something important!

How to Spot One?

To determine whether or not a penny is a key date, you should first check the mint mark on the coin.

The mint mark refers to where the coin was produced. This can be found on the bottom left side of your penny and will look like one of these:

  • “D” for Denver (1958-present)
  • “P” for Philadelphia (1942-1963)
  • “S” for San Francisco (1936-1964)

Congratulations if you’re lucky enough to find a rare coin from one of these locations!

You may have just found yourself some valuable change. But, if it’s not from Denver, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, keep looking at other signs of authenticity before pulling out your wallet and buying it up for thousands of dollars more than what it’s worth today–which isn’t much if we’re being honest here.


These pennies are always rare, but some are much rarer than others.

A key date penny is a low-mintage coin, making it extremely hard to find and valuable.

However, these pennies are valuable because they’re collectibles that can be traded for cash and other items.

Some people have entire collections dedicated to different types of pennies and the dates on which they were minted!

Before you go…

As you can see, these pennies are some of the world’s most sought-after and rare coins. Unfortunately, many factors make them so valuable, making it challenging to find one at all—let alone in good condition. But if you can get your hands on one of these coins! They won’t be around forever!

Check out my next article: “Jefferson Nickel – The History, Facts & Key Dates.”

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