Old USA coins are nearly always worth more than their face values. Unlike modern issues, many are actually silver and so are worth at least the value of the metal at current rates. More importantly, old USA coins may possess historic significance or be prized by collectors.
Since its founding, the United States has issued silver coins in denominations similar to those available today, though not always under the same name. The nickel, for example, once was called a half-dime.
Old coins feature portraits and other artwork that help to date them. Some images and designs are in demand among collectors, especially if the particular coin was only issued long ago or for a very brief period of time.
Even copper coins are worth more if they are old. The U.S. Indian Head pennies, minted from 1859 to 1909, can be worth from $1 to as much as $440 or more.
Older does not necessarily mean more valuable. Rarity and desirability are the major factors in determining current value.
The U.S. government played a role in shaping the value of its old coins as when it melted down enormous quantities of Morgan silver dollars in 1918 because people were redeeming their paper dollars for gold instead of silver. The resulting "meltdown" is in part responsible for high modern values.