My dad's old bag of pennies
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Hi all, My dad had retail store from 1950-1990 and he would occasionally toss an older or interesting looking penny in a bag - for 40 years. He is nagging me to look through the pennies to see if there's anything of value in there, and I'm hoping for some pointers on what is the best way to methodically go through the thousand or so pennies. Also, should i wash them, and if so, how?

 

Thanks!

Proud owner of a bag of pennies (Jason)

joes pennies sm.jpg

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Do not clean or try and improve those coins, many are not worth much but you will ruin them by trying to clean the coins.  If you don't want to go thru and search each coin for varieties and such the best method would be to separate the coins into 1932 and earlier and the rest.  Many of the 1932 and earlier coin will have some value even in lower grade conditions, most from 1933 to present will not unless its an unusual variety or for the following double dates:  1955, 1971, 1972, 1983, 1984, and 1995.  There are a number of interesting and valuable varieties after 1933 but you would need to get a copy of the "Red Book" and "Cherrypickers Guide" to identify all of those.

 

For the coins 1933 and older almost every coin coined with an "S" or "D" has some collectable value and look closely for 1909-S, 1914-D, and 1922 no mint mark coins as those are the most valuable.  Good luck and while it will take some time to go thru and sort and review all those have fun and I hope you find some neat treasures.  Ifyou have any further questions or need assistance to identify any coins your unsure about be sure to post them here on this thread with nice clear in focus cropped photos and we will be happy to help you.

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Don't clean them except for any you cannot read due to crudulation.

Start sorting them by date. All memorial reverses (59+) go in one pile. All 1934-58 wheaties in another. All 1909-33 pieces, start sorting those by year, then mint. All of those are worth at least a little something, and there are possibilities for some to be rare. Spend most of your time on those. Quick grading divider: the lines on the wheat. If you can't see them all, it can't make F. There are other criteria but that's a good one to begin with. If you can't see any lines, it can't make VG. Keep special eyes peeled for the 1909 VDB, S, and S VDB, 14-D, 22 weak D, and at least look up all the branch minted stuff from the teens.

If you want to subsort the memorials by 59-82 (bronze) and 82 (zinc)-present, feel free. Last I looked the bronze pennies were worth more than a penny in copper. Most of the 34-58s will be worth a couple of cents; you might eventually sort through them, and the 43 steelies will always be worth a bit more. I'd put 90% of my time into the small percentage (likely) that are <=1933.

In other words, basically what Coinbuf said.

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Here's how we examined large quantities of cents in the old days.

You pour them into the tube, slide the handle at the right out and then in to load a coin underneath the magnifying glass, repeat to flip it over, and then once more to eject and load the next coin. There's an internal light to see the coins better under the magnifier.

Scan-O-Matic.jpg

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2 hours ago, DWLange said:

Here's how we examined large quantities of cents in the old days.

You pour them into the tube, slide the handle at the right out and then in to load a coin underneath the magnifying glass, repeat to flip it over, and then once more to eject and load the next coin. There's an internal light to see the coins better under the magnifier.

Scan-O-Matic.jpg

Interesting.  You're not pulling our leg, right?  So if you got a bag of cents from US Mint or just from an original owner you'd pull out the ol' Scan-O-Matic and sit down for a while searching for gems and varieties?

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My wife actually just did a similar project with a huge number of inherited wheat cents.  I bought her the Whitman folders and some small envelopes to go through the coins putting one in the folder slot and the rest in an envelope marked by year.  

The others pointed out those that have value, and in addition to those repeated above, look closely at the 1955 and 1969 for a double die variety - it's super obvious because you will think your eyes are blurry. 

Good luck with the process. 

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This is another of those strange ocurances where I typed a rather lengthy post last night, then apparently never hit "submit reply." So, after removing all of the parts that have already been covered very well by others, I will just add the following: If you want to take the time to search for varieties, and don't want to spend the money for the "Cherry Picker's Guide" mentioned above, our host has  many varieties listed at Variety Plus, Click here, and another helpful site is Variety Vista Link here.

I do think it would be worth the trouble to find a copy of the "Red Book," also known as "A Guidebook of United States Coins." The prices listed in it are not realistic as far as valuing your coins to sell, but can be used to compare one coin to the others in the series. You can sometimes find a used copy at a thrift store or used book store.

And, Welcome to the forum.

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You're not pulling our leg, right?  So if you got a bag of cents from US Mint or just from an original owner you'd pull out the ol' Scan-O-Matic and sit down for a while searching for gems and varieties?

Certainly not. The truth is that I wanted one of these back in the 60s, but it cost $12.95, so the answer was "no." Nevertheless, they sold in the many thousands for over ten years.

To give some perspective on how much money that was back then, sodas and candy bars were 10 cents, kites were 19 cents, model kits cost as little as 29 cents, and Saturday, all-day movie shows were 50 cents for kids. That's why I couldn't afford to start collecting quarters and halves until the silver ones were fast disappearing. Nor could I afford a "bag of cents" to search.

The good news is Scan-O-Matics still turn up on eBay with some frequency and typically sell for $20-25. I've exacted my revenge by acquiring about ten of them in various colors and packaging. Of course, now I no longer have any interest in going through quantities of coins on my own time---too much of a busman's holiday!

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