What Is A 1943 Steel Penny Worth Today? | 1943 Steel Penny Value

What Is A 1943 Steel Penny Worth Today? | 1943 Steel "Silver" Penny Value

What Is A 1943 Steel Penny Worth Today? | 1943 Steel Penny Value

February 20, 2024 130667 view(s)

For the mint industry, 1943 was a year of turmoil. This is particularly evident in that year's penny, one of the most unique coins of all time.

 

There are several reasons why the 1943 penny enjoys this reputation. One is that it's the only steel penny that was ever mass-produced in the United States. It also comes in rare varieties, some of which are extremely valuable.

 

Want to know more about the 1943 steel penny value? Read on to find out how this coin came to be, what makes it valuable, and how to identify it.

 

What Is a Steel Penny?

The steel penny is a common term for the Lincoln Wheat cent made in 1943. Here's why this coin consisted of steel and why this was its downfall.

Composition Change

In 1941, the U.S. joined the Allies in World War II. One of their main efforts was to manufacture war supplies, such as ammunition. This involved using a copious amount of copper, which soon led to shortages.

 

By 1942, Congress had to look for a temporary copper substitute. The U.S. Mint tested several metals and materials, including plastic. In the end, Congress approved a composition of 99% steel and a coat of zinc.

 

The zinc-steel combo made the 1943 penny look very different from its predecessors. Since it resembled a silver coin, many people started calling it "the silver penny." Others believed it was actually made of silver!

 Popularity of the Penny

At the time, the public wasn't too happy with the 1943 penny. Since it looked so similar to a nickel, people would often confuse the two. As a result, they ended up losing nine (or more) cents when buying things with cash.

 

The penny also proved to be very vulnerable to wear and tear. Over time, the zinc would start to wear off, revealing the steel core. With enough time (and moisture), the pennies would corrode and turn dark gray.

 

Due to these issues, the steel penny wasn't long for this world. In 1944, the U.S. Mint went back to the copper-based composition for the cent. This was possible due to scrounging shell casings from military facilities.

 

1943 Steel Penny Design

Despite a different composition, the penny design didn't change in 1943. The coin features the same pattern that's been in use since 1909.

 

The obverse of the penny shows the right-side profile of President Lincoln. Above his head, there's an inscription, "In God We Trust." You'll also notice the word "Liberty" and the year of minting, 1943.

 

The reverse side of the coin contains two wheat stalks encircling the words, "One Cent." Above this inscription, there's a Latin phrase, "E Pluribus Unum." Just below, you'll see "United States of America."

 

Steel pennies were produced in the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver mints. You can tell where each coin originates from by looking at the mint mark. The Denver and San Francisco mints used the "D" and "S" marks.


1943 Steel Penny Value

In numismatic terms, the steel penny is fairly common. When you break it down by each of the three mints, you get a total of over one billion coins:

  • Philadelphia Mint: 684,628,670 coins
  • Denver Mint: 217,660,000 coins
  • San Francisco Mint: 191,550,000 coins

With such a large mintage, most 1943 steel cents aren't that valuable. Yes, many of them corroded beyond recognition. Despite that, there are still millions of steel pennies in good condition, bringing their value down.

 

In general, a steel penny in average condition is worth 10 to 25 cents. A specimen in uncirculated condition can go for $1 to $5. Of course, 1943 pennies in particularly good shape (MS 67 or above) will go for a lot more:

MS 67: $200 - $285
MS 68: $3,100 - $5,000
MS 68+: $15,500 - $35,000

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1943 Copper Penny Value

As you can see, most steel pennies won't fetch too high a price. The 1943 copper penny, however, is a very different story.

See, some pennies produced in 1943 were mistakenly struck on copper planchets. These alloys consisted of 95% copper and 5% tin. The Mint struck only about 40 of these coins, with only 13 confirmed to exist so far.

As of right now, the most valuable copper penny sold for $1.7 million in 2010. The penny value of other specimens depends on their condition, but most of them should be worth at least $100,000.

Given their high value, 1943 copper pennies are often counterfeited. A good way to confirm this coin's value is to use a magnet or scale. A copper penny won't react to a magnet and weighs about 3.11 grams.

Other 1943 Penny Varieties

When it comes to valuable pennies, the 1943 copper cent isn't the only variety worth looking for. Here are some notable transitional errors:

 

1943 D/D Steel Penny

This is the most common error coin on this list. You'll recognize it by a double "D" mint mark, where the bottom "D" is harder to distinguish. One MS 67 D/D steel penny sold for $21,275 in 2011.

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1943 Tin Penny

Until recently, the very existence of the tin penny was a myth. In 2019, the NGC authenticated a penny consisting of 86% tin. It was discovered by an Oregon coin collector who was looking for 1943 copper pennies.

This particular tin penny is in a fairly damaged state. It has two big gashes, and the owner had to straighten it in a bench vise to fit it into an album. Still, as the only known specimen of its kind, its value is astronomical.

 

1944 Steel Penny

When the mint went back to copper in 1944, a few steel planchets remained in use. As a result, the mints ended up producing several 1944 steel pennies. Confusing them with 1943 steel pennies can be a costly error!

Given their scarcity, 1944 steel cents command very high values. In 2021, one MS 66 specimen sold for $408,000. This broke the previous record of $373,750, which is what another steel penny sold in San Francisco in 2008.

 

 

Authenticating a 1943 Penny

Though most 1943 pennies aren't worth much, it's still worth looking for mint specimens. Here are some ways you can identify a 1943 penny.

Color and Luster

An authentic 1943 steel penny will exhibit a distinct steely gray tone. This is very different from other Lincoln pennies, which have a bright copper color. A 1943 steel penny will also have a smooth surface with a semi-gloss sheen.

One way to verify these features is by using a magnifying glass. Get a 1943 steel penny and a 1944 copper cent side-by-side and compare them. Tiny flecks or dark spots are normal, but extensive dark streaks aren't.

Magnet Test

One key physical property of steel is that it's a magnetic metal. This is due to the large presence of iron in the metal alloy. By comparison, the usual copper-zinc combination of most pennies isn't magnetic at all.

This is why using a magnet is the simplest way of verifying a 1943 penny. If the penny clings to the magnet, you'll know it's a steel penny. A word of warning, though: once you verify it, keep the coin away from magnets!

 

Weight

A 1943 steel penny will weigh about 2.7 grams. As mentioned above, copper pennies are a bit heavier, weighing at 3.11 grams. If you use a precision scale, weighing the coin should make it clear if it's authentic or not.

Keep in mind that decades of circulation can influence a coin's mass. That said, most steel specimens should still weigh between 2.6 and 2.8 grams. A coin that deviates from these specifications is likely counterfeited.


Mint Mark

Finally, pay attention to the mint mark on the obverse of the penny. Some counterfeiters used to take a 1948 copper penny and scratch the last digit. To an untrained eye, this would make it look like a 1943 penny.

You can verify this isn't the case by looking at the last digit of your coin. On an authentic penny (steel and copper), the 3 will have a long tail. In the number 1943, then, the 3 and 9 should "reach" lower than the 1 and 4.


Collecting 1943 Steel Pennies

Do you enjoy collecting rare coins? If so, 1943 steel pennies could be a nice addition, both as individual coins or as part of a Lincoln set collection.

These days, a trio of 1943 steel cents from all three mints is a popular one-year set. You'll often find them in mass-market offerings. These sets often consist of recoated pieces constructed in plastic display cases.

Regardless of which 1943 penny you have, it's essential to handle it with care. Ideally, you'd always hold it while wearing cotton gloves. This will prevent your skin's moisture from getting onto the coin's surface.

Like other rare coins, the 1943 steel penny benefits from proper storage conditions. This includes keeping them out of direct sunlight. You should also keep them at a stable temperature of about 65-70°F.

Coin Investments Made Easy

As you can see, the 1943 steel penny value depends on many factors. If you have one of these coins, the above guide will help you make the most of it!

Regardless of their value, steel pennies make for a great collector's item. Even today, steel coins remain a novelty. Add in the coin's rich history, and you get a product every numismatist should have in their collection.

Interested in expanding your coin collection even further? At the United States Gold Bureau, we can help you avoid the pitfalls other investors often fall into! For starters, take a look at our free Investor Guide!