1943 Steel Penny: History, Value, and Collecting Tips

1943 Steel Penny: History, Value, and Collecting Tips
Posted on May 14, 2024 by BOLD Precious Metals
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In the history of American numismatics, the 1943 steel penny is still one of the most well-known coins. Since copper was needed for World War II military hardware, the US Mint experimented that year with different metal compositions for the penny coin.

The majority of steel pennies are valued between 20 cents and $20. Still, 1943 penny error coins can fetch several hundred dollars. One example is the 1943-D variety, which has a doubled mintmark and is worth $100 - $400 in Mint State-63.

     1943 Steel Penny Value

To understand the story and value of the 1943 Steel Penny, let’s have a quick look at current value of the 1943 steel penny and dive into the interesting conversation between Alex and Mr. Bold.

1943 Steel Penny Value As Per Grade
1943 Steel Penny NGC/PCGS Certified Grade 1943 Philadelphia 1943 S San Francisco 1943 D Denver
Good (G-4 to G-6) $0.05 $0.10 $0.10
Very Good (VG-8 to VG-10) $0.10 $0.15 $0.15
Fine (F-12 to F-15) $0.20 $0.35 $0.30
Very Fine (VF-20 to VF-35) $0.30 $0.55 $0.50
Extremely Fine (EF or XF-40 to XF-45) $0.40 $0.75 $0.55
About Uncirculated (AU-50 to AU-58) $0.65 - $0.90 $1.05 - $2 $0.75 - $1.25
Mint State (MS-60 to MS-65) $1.05 - $27.50 $3.75 - $30 $1.55 - $23
Mint State (MS-66 to MS-67) $60 - $200 $75 - $270 $60 - $215
Mint State (MS-67+) $375 $700 $480
Mint State (MS-68) $3200 $4300 $1900
Mint State (MS-68+) - $7000 -
Mint State (MS-70) - - -

One evening in the fall, Alex, a college student who loves collecting old coins, showed up at Mr. Bold's house. Everyone calls Mr. Bold- Grandpa Bold because he knows so much about history and has lots of stories to tell.

Alex has a passion for collecting old and rare coins. Recently, he came across a few old American pennies. One of them was from 1943, and it was made out of steel, not copper like usual. He's got lots of questions about it and knows Grandpa Bold is just the person to ask.

Alex:

"Hello, Grandpa Bold. Today, I came to hear a story about historically significant pennies. In my history class, we started learning about those old copper pennies from 1909. What really got me curious was why they switched to making them out of steel in 1943. What happened that made them change?"

Alex:

"So, what's the story with those pennies made of steel?"

1943 steel penny Mr. Bold:

"Well, Alex, that's a great story about how tough times call for smart solutions. Back then, during World War II, copper was in high demand for making stuff the military needed. So, the US had to think of something different for making pennies".

Mr. Bold:

"By the time 1943 rolled around, the war was using up so much copper that there wasn't enough for pennies. Then, the government decided, just for that year, to make pennies out of steel. They covered them in zinc to keep them from rusting. It was a big change, but it was all to help with the war effort".

Alex:

"I read in one article that the 1943 steel penny is one of the most collected old coins out there, even by people who aren't coin collectors.

It looks different, more like a dime than the pennies we're used to. Why did they start making these unique coins, and what kind of value do they have for collectors?"

Mr. Bold:

As for collecting them, lots of folks are into these steel pennies because they're different and tell a story from a specific time. They're not super rare, but some special ones with mistakes or errors on them can be worth a good bit more than regular ones.

If you're thinking about collecting them, start by looking at the pennies' conditions and see if you can find any with unusual marks or errors; those are the ones that collectors really like.

Alex:

"That's really cool, Grandpa Bold.

So, if someone wanted to start looking for these steel pennies, where should they begin?

And how can you tell if you've found one of those special ones with errors?"

Mr. Bold:

"Before we start with special errors, let's lay down some basics about where these pennies came from. Understanding this will make the rest easier to grasp".

Mr. Bold continues:

"The 1943 penny was made in three places: Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. How do you know which one made your coin?

The 1943 penny was made in three places: Philadelphia,
                Denver, and San Francisco. How do you know which one made your
                coin?

Look for a little letter under the date known as the mint mark. If there's no letter, it came from Philadelphia. A 'D' means Denver, and an 'S' is for San Francisco. They planned to make all the 1943 pennies from steel with a zinc coat, so when they were new, they shined like silver. But as people used them, they turned a dark gray color".

He adds:

"Now, for how many they made: Philadelphia cranked out about 684 million of them. And guess what? Around 10 to 15 of those ended up being copper by mistake. Denver made about 218 million, but only one copper penny slipped through. San Francisco made around 192 million, and just five of those were copper".

Mr. Bold concludes:

"Knowing where your penny comes from can give you a starting point in figuring out what you've got, especially if you're hunting for those rare copper ones or looking out for errors".

Alex:

"How can I be sure if a 1943 copper penny is genuine? And what's it worth?"

Mr. Bold: How can I be sure if a 1943 copper penny is genuine? And
                  what's it worth?

"To make sure a 1943 copper penny is genuine, you've got to look at a few key things. First off, a real copper penny from 1943 won't stick to magnets because it's nonmagnetic. It should weigh about 3.11 grams.

Also, check the '3' in the 1943 date; it should look the same as the '3' on a steel cent. The design details, like the designer's initials and the rims, should be sharp and clear, though they might be a bit harder to see on coins that have been used a lot.

As for their value, these copper pennies are rare and can bring in a lot of money. Depending on its condition, the 1943 copper penny goes for between $240,000 and $336,000 at auctions.

The 1943-D penny is particularly prized, worth over a million dollars. And the 1943-S? It's even rarer, with values ranging from $300,000 up to a million dollars, depending on how well they've been kept.

Mr. Bold:

Now, talking about their worth, most steel pennies from 1943, if they've been worn from use, typically go for about 10 to 25 cents each. If you find one in uncirculated condition, they might fetch $1 to $5. However, the copper versions are where you see significant value.

Mr. Bold:

"Sometime around January 2011, a coin collector made a big splash in the numismatic world. This collector, who chose to stay anonymous, bought a 1943 Copper Cent. This wasn't just any copper cent; it was graded PCGS MS63 Red, a very high quality.

According to Paul Gilkes from CoinWorld, the sale price was over $1 million. The collector acquired this rare piece through Bob Paul Rare Coins in Philadelphia".

Alex:

"I'm curious about what makes certain ones more special than others.

Can you please tell me more about the errors found in 1943 Steel Pennies?"

errors found in 1943
                Steel Pennies Mr. Bold:

Sure, there are several errors, including,

DDO Error - Double Die Obverse

Coin dies that are not made correctly, produce double-die obverse coins.

Coins with double die obverses have at least one double image on the front. This kind of error in steel pennies usually fetches several hundred dollars, but some rare examples have gone for even higher prices.

  • Letter: the letters on the obverse, like "T" and "Y" in liberty, exhibit tilted doubling in DDO.

  • Mint Year: In DDO, the year mark has twice as much thickness as it did on the original coin.


Wrong Coating

Some 1943 pennies are coated in bronze instead of zinc, and these are the most expensive in the series.

Alex:

It's interesting how minting errors can make coins more valuable.

 how minting errors can make coins more valuable Mr. Bold:

Yes, and there are more errors that are highly coveted by collectors. Such as

RPM (Repunched Mint Mark)

San Francisco pennies occasionally have the re-punched mint mark, which raises their value to several hundred dollars.

The exact number of 1943 D/D Denver mint steel pennies remaining in circulation is unknown, but these error coins are usually quite expensive.

The grade determines their worth. Coins with an MS 67 rating are naturally the rarest and most expensive. You can sell such an imperfect coin for between $8,000 and $12,000 if you find one.


Wrong Planchet

From the introduction of Lincoln cents in 1901 to 1942, bronze alloy was used, but during World War II, it was changed to zinc-coated steel. The pennies struck on the wrong planchets are known to be the rarest coins sought after by collectors.

The three Mint production facilities are thought to have struck the 1943 bronze cents instead of zinc-coated steel using surplus 1942 planchets that were stuck in hoppers.

The reason why the 1944 Lincoln cents were struck on zinc-coated steel planchets rather than the intended brass alloy is thought to stem from the same or a similar situation as 1943 bronze cents.

Mr. Bold:

These were the typical errors. Now, I will tell you about the most interesting error, which is a double denomination, a mint error that occurs when two different denominations appear on the same coin.

Double Denomination

 Double Denomination

Over Struck on Cuban 1 Centavo

There is a unique 1943 cent struck over a Cuban 1 centavo coin. This piece is quite dramatic in appearance, with the Cuban star centered under the effigy of Lincoln on the obverse. This coin was sold for $38200 in Heritage Auctions.


Double Struck 80% Off Center

This double-struck coin has 80% of the second strike off center as it wasn’t fully ejected from the striking chamber. It was sold for $1760 at Heritage Auctions.

Mr. Bold:

With this information, I hope you will have an idea about what to look for before adding a 1943 steel penny to your collection.

Alex:

yes, Grandpa Bold, thank you for this interesting information.

Mr. Bold:

"So, what are your thoughts on collecting and the value of the 1943 steel penny?

Alex:

Although ancient coins have always piqued my interest, our talk today has introduced me to a whole new world of collecting. It has been quite eye-opening to learn about the significance and history of the 1943 Steel Penny".

Alex goes on, "I'm going to start being more aware of coin conditions, mint marks, and those intriguing errors you mentioned. It's similar to solving a puzzle and realizing each coin's historical significance. With these 1943 steel pennies, I can't wait to begin my collection and discover what treasures I may uncover!"

Alex concludes, " Thanks to your expertise and guidance, I have a great foundation to start my coin-collecting journey". I am eager to examine more coins, discover their histories, and perhaps even find one of those uncommon 1943 copper pennies. Once more, Grandpa Bold, I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with me.

Information and image sources: PCGS, Heritage Auctions. Find more insights on precious metals and rare coins in our BOLD Precious Metals Blogs section.

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