Dear Lee,

We are collectors of 3D things like furniture or carousel horses, but we don’t collect much 2D ephemera, things that are exhibited flat in a case or on a wall. So, we weren’t among the lucky collectors who have found fortunes in their pocket money – old and rare United States coins. You may have heard about some, but there still may be other treasures in the loose change in your pocket.

1) Most recent treasure: a 1943 copper penny that sold for $204,000 in 2019. The pennies minted that year were made of zinc-coated steel to save copper for the war effort. The penny’s owner received it in change after buying his school lunch in 1947 and saved it until last year when he decided to auction it. There may be at least 10 more of the pennies. See “1943 Copper Penny Brings $204,000” on

2) A 1913 Liberty Head nickel was auctioned in 2018 for $4.5 million.

3) An 1894 S-Barber dime sold for $2 million. The S, a tiny letter on the back of the coin at the bottom, proves it was made in San Francisco. Only about nine are known to exist.

The coins were all rare because they were errors. Lee, when you started collecting coins, you were given a 1909-S VDB Lincoln penny and told to save it, that it would gain in value. It was worth about $10 according to the donor. VDB are the initials of the artist, Victor David Brenner. The S stands for the San Francisco Mint. Today, that penny, still in the safe deposit box, could be worth $700 to $800 if in fair condition and $1,800 to $2,000 if in near-mint condition.

Error bills are sometimes found, too. My favorite is the $20 bill with a Del Monte banana sticker that somehow stuck to it before it was printed. We ran it in Kovels Komments March 2, 2016. The bill, called the Del Monte Note by collectors, was in almost mint condition, with part of the seal and serial number printed in green and black on top of the sticker. It sold for $10,100 in 2003 and was auctioned by Heritage in 2006 for $25,300.

All this gives new meaning to the phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned.”