A $7,000 penny could be hiding in your pocket—here's how to identify it

Jamie Grill | Tetra Images | Getty Images

You may want to think twice before tossing out your loose change — one of your pennies could be worth $7,000.

That's if you have a 1983 Lincoln penny, says Blake Alma, whose "CoinHub" TikTok account has over 850,000 followers. In 2017, the rare penny was auctioned for $7,050, according to Professional Coin Grading Service, one of the most popular third-party coin grading and authentication companies.

Here's how to tell if you have one.

What to look for

This special penny lacks a mint mark, according to Alma's video. A mint mark is the marking on the face side of a coin that indicates where it was created. A coin with a letter "P" indicates it was made in Philadelphia, according to the United States Mint.

Next, you'll want to check the bottom of the coin's other side to see if the "one cent" wording has a "doubling effect," Alma says.

Coin collecting experts call this a "doubled die reverse" coin. This typically happens when the stamping machine used to imprint images onto a coin accidentally strikes the coin in a slightly different spot, resulting in a doubled image, according to the American Numismatic Association.

Here's what the 1983 Doubled Die Reverse penny looks like.

Stack's Bowers sold this 1983 Doubled Die Reverse penny for $2,640 in March 2018.
Stack's Bowers Galleries
Stack's Bowers sold this 1983 Doubled Die Reverse penny for $2,640 in March 2018.
Stack's Bowers Galleries

The U.S. made about 7.7 billion pennies in 1983, but only about 5,000 of them are known to have been made with this doubling error, James McCartney, director of numismatics at Stack's Bowers Galleries, tells CNBC Make It.

The rarity of these misprinted pennies are what make them more valuable than ordinary pennies.

How to cash in on your rare coin

If you're lucky enough to find this rare penny or have another coin you think may be valuable, start by contacting a reputable coin dealer or auction firm rather than relying solely on information found on Google, McCartney says.

"In general, the internet has a lot of misinformation about coin prices," he says.

You should also send your coin to a rare coin authentication and grading company, such as Numismatic Guaranty Company or Professional Coin Grading Service, to be independently evaluated.

Serious collectors want all of their coins to be authenticated and graded by a third party that has certified their value, McCartney says.

Coins are typically graded on a scale of one to 70. A grading of one means the coin is worn to the point of barely being recognizable, while a 70 means the coin is nearly perfect and looks like it was just created.

"A coin is generally going to be more valuable if it's higher grade," McCartney says.

And take note: Experts advise against cleaning any coins you believe may be rare and want to sell.

While many beginners tend to believe that a coin is worth more if it's brighter and shinier, the opposite is true for most coins, McCartney says.

"Collectors want their coins 'original,' which means they don't have any surface impairments and show no signs of cleaning or damage," he explains.

Once your coin has been authenticated and graded, it's ready to be put up for auction. Auctioneers, like Stack's Bowers, will let collectors all over the world know that your coin is up for sale — you just wait to see what kind of bids it receives.

Even if you don't have this particular 1983 penny, you may have one of several other pennies worth up to $200,000.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of James McCartney's name.

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