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Value of a 1943 Steel Penny

Do you want to know the value of a 1943 steel penny? Depending on the condition of the coin, it's worth between 12 and 50 cents. So, why was the 1943 penny made of steel and how does this affect its value?

Because of World War II, copper was needed to make shell casings and other military equipment. So for one year, the United States Mint made pennies out of steel with a zinc coating. They started with low grade carbon steel and a zinc coating was added that was .005 inches thick. The zinc was added to prevent rust and the penny weighed a bit less than older pennies. Minting started on February 27, 1943, and ran the rest of the year with 1,093,838,670 pennies produced. In 1944, the penny produced was very similar to older pennies in composition and weight.

One reason the U.S. Mint went back to a copper penny was because the public complained that the pennies were too close in size and color to dimes and, therefore, were too confusing. Another reason is that there were magnets in vending machines that picked up steel slugs and the steel pennies, so you could not use a steel penny in them. Also, the zinc plating did not cover the edges, so rusting still occurred. In response to the public, the U.S. Mint was able to melt down spent shell casings to make an alloy similar to the 1941 and 1942 pennies.

The “steelie,” or 1943 steel penny, is the only U.S. coin that can be picked up with a magnet and is the only U.S. coin that does not contain any copper. Coins are made of an alloy, most of which contain a bit of copper. For example, gold coins over the years have had between two percent and 10 percent copper in them. There were so many of these steel pennies made that they are not rare, in fact, the value of a 1943 steel penny is 50 cents or less. They do, however, have some intrinsic value because they are interesting to look at and are a reminder of measures taken during the war. One of these coins can still make a nice addition to a coin collection.

Fake Pennies

Since you know the value of a 1943 steel penny, you may also want to know about the value of 1943 copper pennies. If a penny is dated 1943 and is made of copper, it is either very valuable or a fake. A few 1943 pennies were accidentally made out of copper and only a very few left the Mint. Someone simply used the wrong blank. If you have a genuine one, it could be worth $10,000. Fake 1943 coins were dipped in copper either to make a novelty item or to defraud people.

Another way people will try to make a fake 1943 copper penny is to cut half of the 8 off of a 1948 copper penny. So how do you know if yours is real or fake? There are four ways to tell:

  • A real 1943 copper penny will not be attracted by a magnet. If it is a steel penny that has been copper-plated, it will be attracted.
  • A copper penny weigh 3.11 grams and a steel penny weigh 2.7 grams.
  • If the 8 has been altered to look like a 3, then the fake penny’s 3 won’t have a tail. A side-by-side comparison will show the difference between the 3s.
  • The details of a copper penny are very sharp because the pressure used to make it was the same as making a steel penny. Copper is softer than steel, so a genuine copper penny will have good detail.