U.S. Coin Price Guide

The Steel Cent
Aluminum Cents

Circulation strikes: 684,628,670
Metal content:
Steel - 100%
coated with a thin layer of Zinc

1943 - Production of this wartime cent was provided for in the Act approved December 12, 1942, which also set as the expiration date of the authority December 18, 1946. Low grade carbon steel formed the base, to which a zinc coating .005 inches thick was deposited on each side electrolytically as a rust preventative. The same size was maintained but the weight was reduced from the standard 48 grains to 42 grains, due to the use of a lighter alloy. Operations commenced February 27, 1943, and by December 31st of that year the three Mints then functioning had put out an almost record breaking number of cents, with the total reaching 1,093,838,670 pieces. The copper released was enough to meet the combined needs of two cruisers, two destroyers, 1242 flying fortresses, 120 field guns and 120 howitzers; or enough for one and one-quarter million shells for our big field guns.

On January 1, 1944, the Mints were able to adopt a modified alloy, the supply being derived from expended shell casings which when melted furnished the composition similar to the original but with only faint trace of tin, the 6 grains dropped from the total weight was restored.

1945 - 1945 cents are bronze, some were made of bullet cartridges and are slightly off color but have very little extra value.

The Value of 1943 Steel Cents:

Currently, while these coins are an interesting change from the brown cents that we commonly see, none of the 1943 Steel Cents are considered rare. Values for all three varieties in average circulated condition is not more than 10-20 cents, at most. In uncirculated conditions, such as might be found on a coin fresh out of a bank roll, the coins have a value of 10 to 20 dollars. Near perfect specimens (MS-66 and up) will have a value from 30 to 70 dollars.

The Copper 1943 Cents:

"According to the American Numismatic Association, the 1943 copper-alloy cent is one of the most idealized and potentially one of the most sought-after items in American numismatics. Nearly all circulating pennies at that time were struck in zinc-coated steel because copper and nickel were needed for the Allied war effort.

Approximately 40 of the 1943 copper-alloy cents are known to remain in existence. Coin experts speculate that they were struck by accident when copper-alloy 1-cent blanks remained in the press hopper when production began on the new steel pennies.

A 1943 copper cent was first offered for sale in 1958, bringing more than $40,000. A subsequent piece sold for $10,000 at an ANA convention in 1981. The highest amount paid for a 1943 copper cent was $82,500 in 1996. Because of its collector value, the 1943 copper cent has been counterfeited by coating steel cents with copper or by altering the dates of 1945, 1948, and 1949 pennies.

The easiest way to determine if a 1943 cent is made of steel, and not copper, is to use a magnet. If it sticks to the magnet, it is not copper and is worth about 50 cents. If it does not stick, the coin might be of copper and should be authenticated by an expert. If you have a coin that you think might be the rare 1943 copper penny, you should take it to the nearest coin shop immediately for confirmation. It's useless to call anyone as a numismatist must SEE your coin in person to authenticate it.

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