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If you collect coins, you know about the 1943 steel Lincoln cent.
But, what about the 1944 steel penny?
While the U.S. Mint struck more than a billion steel pennies in 1943, about 35 examples of the zinc-coated steel cent are known to have been inadvertently struck bearing the date 1944 — making it one of the rarest Lincoln pennies ever made!
Why Were Some 1944 Pennies Struck In Steel?
A popular theory is that some steel coin blanks, or planchets, were left in the hoppers and accidentally distributed.
Another possibility is that some planchets for Belgian two-franc coins (which the Philadelphia mint briefly made for the European nation) were accidentally struck with the Lincoln cent dies.
While it will probably always remain unknown precisely what caused the 1944 silver penny, as some call it, what we do know is this – the 1944 steel penny has just about as much interest swirling around it as does the 1943 copper cent, an error coin of the opposite kind. Brass Lincoln cent planchets from 1942 likely languished in the coin hoppers and were fed down the line to be stamped with 1943 Lincoln cent dies.
How Much Are 1943 Copper Pennies & 1944 Steel Cents Worth?
Both the 1943 copper Lincoln cent and 1944 steel Lincoln penny are worth an incredible amount of money because they’re so rare.
They’re worth far more than the famous 1909-S VDB penny – the rarest regular-issue Lincoln cent:
- The 1944 steel penny is worth between $75,000 and $110,000, depending on its condition.
- The 1943 copper cent — with only 40 made and 12 known to exist today — can command a price of around $150,000 to $200,000.
Watch Out For Counterfeits
Of course, when a penny is worth more than $75,000, you’d expect a few counterfeit examples to be floating around out there. In fact, there are thousands of counterfeit 1943 copper cents and 1944 steel cents floating around, and the trick comes in knowing how to spot them.
With 1944 steel cents, it’s easy for an unscrupulous person to simply tinker with the last digit of the date on a typical 1943 steel cent, even scraping away the “3” and implanting a zinc-coated “4” removed from a 1944 copper cent.
There are also countless 1944 copper pennies that have been covered in zinc plating but, as you might have guessed, there would be a great weight discrepancy between a steel cent and its heavier sibling, the copper cent. In fact, there’s about a half-gram difference, which is easily measurable on a coin scale.
Also, steel cents are by their very metallic nature magnetic, so a 1944 penny that appears to be silvery in color should be tested with a magnet to ensure that it is indeed the real deal.
In the case of the 1943 copper cent, often bona fide 1948 cents are manipulated. It wouldn’t be relatively difficult to remove the left side of the “8” on the 1948 Lincoln cent, which is why many counterfeit 1943 copper pennies are actually 1948 one-cent coins.
Thankfully, there’s a very easy way to tell genuine 1943 copper pennies apart from those that were “former” 1948 pennies.
In case you haven’t noticed, the font styling of real 1943 pennies created an elongated tail at the bottom part of the “3” in the date; in fact, the “3” extends well below the bottom of the other numerals in the date. The bottoms of all of the numerals in the date of 1948 pennies, on the other hand, fall roughly in line with each other. So, if your 1943 copper penny doesn’t have a long “3,” then it’s not genuine.
Where To Sell A 1944 Steel Penny Or A 1943 Copper Cent
So, your 1944 steel cent weighs around 2.7 grams or your 1943 copper penny seems to check out? What do you do with these coins?
Your next step is to have your coin authenticated by a third-party coin grading company. They will use a series of diagnostic factors and tests to determine if your 1944 steel penny or 1943 copper cent are real.
If your 1943 copper cent or 1944 steel penny is graded as genuine, then congratulations! There are auction companies throughout the United States that would love to put a coin like yours on the block. These include Sotheby’s, Stack’s Bowers, and Teletrade.
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!