How to See if a Penny Is Worth a Million

By Michael Elkins ; Updated April 12, 2017
Maybe you're rich and you don't know it.

Somewhere in the back of your mind is the thought of finding a great treasure. It could be buried in your backyard, hidden in a secret cave or jingling around in your pocket. In your pocket? Well, yes. The 1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent is the most valuable Lincoln penny in existence. During World War II, copper was needed for the war effort, and the copper penny was converted to steel. From the little bit of copper left in the hopper, about 40 bronze 1943 Lincolns were minted. Collectors have paid huge sums of money for this coin; one even sold for a staggering $1.7 million.

Check the date on the coin. The coin must be a Lincoln penny from 1943.

Check that the coin isn't made of steel. Steel pennies were minted to replace copper and zinc pennies during 1943. If the 1943 penny looks silver, gray or lead-colored, it's not a bronze 1943 penny.

Use a magnet to test the cent. If the penny is picked up by the magnet, it's not bronze. Bronze is an alloy of copper and zinc, and won't be drawn to a magnet. If the penny doesn't stick to the magnet, it may be worth a million (or more) dollars.

Take the coin to a professional to be authenticated. Don't get your hopes up; there are many fake 1943 bronze Lincolns floating around.

About the Author

Michael Elkins is the administrator for an adult group home in Stockton, Calif. He was been writing stories, journals, essays and articles since 1998. He is the recipient of the Sylvia Lopez-Medina award for short fiction and has also published his work in the literary magazine "Penumbra."