Different in looks than a traditional copper penny, the 1943 steel penny's value and appearance make it notable to collectors and enthusiasts. The wartime history of this old penny is also fascinating to learn. Find out how to identify a steel penny from 1943 and how to figure out its value.
History of the 1943 Steel Wheat Penny
In 1943, the United States was in the middle of fighting World War II. Many resources were being diverted to the war effort - from food and fuel to metals like copper. Previous and subsequent pennies were made of copper, but the 1943 penny is different. Because ammunition and electrical wires had to be crafted from copper during the war, the US Mint decided to make the 1943 penny out of steel instead. The pennies were produced in all three US Mints: San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Denver. Each penny had a thin coating of zinc over a steel base, giving it a unique silver color.
How Many 1943 Steel Pennies Are There?
In 1943, the US Mint produced 648,628,000 steel pennies, according to Coin Trackers. Soon after they were produced, people began to notice problems with these steel pennies. If the zinc coating came off, the steel began to rust, especially along the edges of the coins. In later years, the US Mint began to collect and destroy steel pennies, but many of these still exist today, making steel pennies quite common. The key is finding one in uncirculated condition. Uncirculated steel pennies are much rarer.
How to Identify a 1943 Steel Penny
Identifying a 1943 steel penny is fairly easy. On one side, you'll see Lincoln's head and the date 1943, and on the other, you'll see the wheat design used in older pennies. Beside the unique silver color, steel pennies have another identifying feature. They're magnetic. Copper pennies are not magnetic; if you hold a magnet next to an ordinary copper penny, it won't stick. However, if you hold a magnet next to a steel penny, it sticks just like it does to your refrigerator.
How Much Is a 1943 Steel Penny Worth?
Because they are quite common, a 1943 penny in circulated condition is not worth much. According to USA Coin Book, a steel penny from 1943 in circulated condition is worth between 16 cents and 53 cents. However, Heritage Auctions sells 1943 steel pennies in pristine, uncirculated condition for more than $1,000.
Grading a 1943 Steel Penny
Obviously, condition has a huge effect on the 1943 penny values. The Numismatic Guarantee Corporation offers these grading guidelines:
- Poor - Coin rims are flat or damaged and details are indistinct.
- Fair - Some details are visible.
- Good - Details are visible but not perfect.
- Very good - All details are readable.
- Fine - Raised areas are sharp and distinct.
- Very fine - Coin is nearly perfect with just a little wear on the higher points of the design.
- Mint state - Coin is in the same state as it was struck.
Sample Values for 1943 Steel Pennies
The best way to determine how much your steel penny is worth is to have it appraised. However, its only worth appraising if you suspect it may be valuable. You can get an idea about the value by comparing sales of similar coins:
- A pristine, mint state 1943 steel penny sold on eBay for over $4,000.
- A 1943 steel penny is very fine, circulated condition sold for about $15.
- A rusty 1943 steel penny in poor condition sold for less than a dollar.
1943: A Fascinating Year for Pennies
If you love rare pennies, the 1943 steel wheat penny is just one of many interesting examples. The same year, an accident resulted in some of the pennies being struck in copper or bronze. These 1943 pennies are even more valuable than their steel counterparts because of the mistake and are among the most valuable pennies. Regardless, 1943 was an important year for pennies and offers a fascinating glimpse at wartime history.