One of the most interesting varieties the U.S. Mint created over its decades of producing Lincoln cents came in 1943. That’s when the Mint, pursuant to 1942’s Public Law 815, temporarily suspended use of copper in pennies to ration the metal for use in war materials.
Thus, 1943 Lincoln cents were struck with a steel core which was coated with a thin plating of zinc. Zinc, by the way, is currently used in the core of all Lincoln cents struck since 1982. These steel pennies have a weight of 2.70 grams, as opposed to 3.11 grams for typical copper pennies.
Steel pennies generally have a white top silvery appearance, though many have corroded over the years. It is also common to find some worn steel cents with rust, or in colors ranging from black to gray.
What Are 1943 Steel Cents Worth?
1943 steel pennies are very common, as hundreds of millions were struck. Thus, they are relatively inexpensive — even in uncirculated grades.
It is getting difficult to find steel pennies in circulation today, but is still possible if you use a close eye on the pennies that get into your hands. Don’t forget to check your penny jar, drawers, and between those couch cushions!
What Are 1943 Copper Pennies Worth?
Likely, you have heard a lot about 1943 cents that were struck in copper. In fact, these do exist, but in very rare quantities.
These 1943 copper cents, generally classified as "errors," have been extremely popular with the general public for many decades now. It is safe say they may just be among the most popular Lincoln cent rarities known today.
Only about 15 of the 1943 Lincoln copper cents are known to exist, and the bulk of these were struck at the Philadelphia mint. Beware that there are many fake 1943 copper pennies.
If you think you are holding a 1943 copper cent, you should have it evaluated by a third-party coin grading service to check for its authenticity.
Authentic 1943 copper pennies have drastically increased in value over the years. In 1981, a 1943 copper penny sold for $10,000. Almost 3 decades later, the coin is selling at auctions for over $200,000.
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!