How Much is a 1943 Penny Worth?

1943 Steel Lincoln Penny
1943 "Silver" Penny Actually Made out of the Zinc Coated Steel. Images Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries,

How Much is a 1943 "Silver" Penny Worth?

When people find a silver colored 1943 penny, they are often surprised, thinking they have found a great rarity, since all U.S. pennies are copper. Aren't they?

The War Effort and Metals

The 1943 silver colored penny is a wartime issue made of steel and coated with zinc. During World War II, copper was so badly needed for the war effort (to make shell casings) that the U.S. penny was made out of steel that year, which is why most 1943 pennies are silver colored.

Value of a 1943 Steel Penny

They are worth about 10 to 13 cents each in circulated condition, and as much as 50 cents or more if uncirculated. The following table lists the buy price (what you can expect to pay to a dealer to purchase the coin) and sell value (what you can expect a dealer to pay you if you sell the coin). The first column lists the date and mint mark (see the photo above) followed by the buy price and the sell value for an average circulated Lincoln Wheat penny.  The next two columns list the buy price and the sell value for an average uncirculated. These are approximate retail prices and wholesale values. The actual offer you receive from a particular coin dealer will vary depending on the actual grade of the coin and a number of other factors that determine its worth.

Date & MintCirculated Uncirculated
BuySell BuySell
1943 Zinc$0.10$0.06 $2.60$1.90
1943-D Zinc$0.13$0.09 $3.50$2.40
1943-S Zinc$0.18$0.12 $6.10$4.50

Bad Decision by the U.S. Mint

In an effort to help the war effort by eliminating copper from U.S. pennies The United States Mint came up with a new metallic composition for the one cent piece. They decided on using steel for the base metal and plating it with pure zinc. Unfortunately, zinc oxidizes over time and turns into a dull and dark gray color.

As the coins circulated in commerce they were exposed to moisture. In addition to turning the coin an ugly color, as the zinc coating wore off the steel underneath began to rust. The manufacturing process for producing the planchets was also flawed. A sheet of steel was first rolled to the proper thickness. The sheet was then plated with zinc. Finally, the sheet of zinc-coated steel was passed through a blanking press and coin blanks were punched out of the sheet. This resulted in bare steel being exposed on the edge of the coin. As moisture attacked the edge of the coin it would rust regardless of the surface condition of the rest of the coin.

Valuable 1943 Pennies

There are a few error coins known from 1943, where the penny was accidentally struck on a copper planchet. Since the mint produces billions of coins in an average year, they use huge totes to move them around the mint facility. As the totes moved from machine to machine, sometimes a blank from the last batch would get stuck in a crevice.

In 1944 the mint switched back to using copper to produce the pennies. A few zinc plated steel blanks must have been stuck in one of the totes. This resulted in 1944 pennies being struck on zinc plated steel planchets and some 1943 pennies being struck on pure copper planchets.

These are extremely rare, but if you think you might have a 1943 copper penny or a 1944 steel penny, here's how to find out if your 1943 copper penny is genuine.

Date & MintCirculated Uncirculated
BuySell BuySell
1943 Bronze *$29,000.00$18,000.00 $190,000.00$140,000.00
1943-D Bronze *$57,000.00$38,000.00 $360,000.00$260,000.00
1943-S Bronze *$92,000.00$62,000.00 $590,000.00$400,000.00

See also: Wheat Penny Values

Edited by: James Bucki