Putting the True Value of a Penny in Perspective

Sebastian Rupley, eBay News Team

After a numismatic purchase on eBay that proved hugely profitable, one buyer refers to eBay as “a cherrypicker’s paradise.”

A penny is a penny, right?

Actually, the true value of a penny can escalate well beyond one paltry cent. In fact, last year the average sale price of a collectible coin or paper currency note was $57 on eBay. Just ask Larry Andrus, who last year paid $56 for a 1909 Lincoln Cent Wheat Penny, auctioned by an eBay seller,  Great Southern Coins.

Andrus thought his $56 purchase might be something special, describing it on an online coin forum as “one of the most beautiful Lincoln cents I had ever seen.” Aside from the coin’s beauty, Andrus took note of its unique die markings, and other indications that it was possibly a rarity. You can see the coin as it was shown in a previous auction on this page. And, here is a magnified view of the coin.

Convinced he needed more information, Andrus sent it to an outside professional grading service (PCGS) for evaluation. Lo and behold, PCGS certified the coin as an authentic rarity — one of only a handful known to exist. It assigned the coin a current fair market value of $35,000. A similar coin sold through a separate auction a year or two ago for $34,000.

One of the participants in the online coin forum that Andrus posted a message about his purchase to wrote the following: “That is the pick of a lifetime, and likely the most important addition of the year to numismatics.”

 Andrus himself attributes his landmark purchase to old-fashioned curiosity and advice from friends. “I shared some pictures of the coin with some friends who know about coins, and that helped me decide to pursue certification,” he said.

 As for Jacob Chandler, the owner of Great Southern Coins, who sold the coin to Andrus, he fully recognizes that — across the sheer volume of coins that he works with — customers will find some hidden gems. “We offer hundreds of unique coins, both certified and not, on a daily basis,” he said. “We cannot conceivably go through every possible variety of die and establish differences between all the coins. The bottom line is that knowledge is money, and in this case a smart buyer established that this coin was very, very unique. That’s something we fully support.”

 “With an average of 1.7M live listings each day in the Collectible Coin & Paper Money category, eBay is the place for collectors to find a fascinating array of coins, from Buffalo nickels to Silver Eagles coins to this Lincoln Cent Wheat Penny,” said Sam Bright, Senior Director of eBay’s Art & Collectibles. “With our vast inventory, we’re able to help our shoppers uncover these one-of-a-kind items.”