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, www.ha.com

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 coin issue made of steel and coated with zinc. During World War II, the war effort required a lot of copper to make shell casings and munitions. In 1943 the penny was made out of zinc plated steel to save copper for the war effort 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 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 some other factors that determine its worth.

Common 1943 Steel Penny Values

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

A Flawed Manufacturing Process by the U.S. Mint

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.

Moisture came in contact with the coins as they circulated in commerce. The moisture caused the zinc coating to turn to an ugly blackish color. As the zinc coating wore off the steel core the exposed steel underneath began to rust.

The manufacturing process for producing the planchets was also flawed. Mint workers first rolled a sheet of steel to the proper thickness. Next, the steel sheet was plated with zinc and passed through a blanking press. The blanking press punched coin blanks punched out of it. The manufacturing process resulted in bare steel 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 and 1944 Pennies

There are a few very valuable error coins produced in 1943. 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. Most numismatists believe that a few copper planchets from 1942 got caught in a crevice in the tote. The coining press struck the copper planchets with the 1943 date. Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco all produced these ultra rare 1943 copper pennies.

In 1944 the mint switched back to using copper to produce the pennies. Once again, the totes contained a few zinc-coated steel planchets stuck in the crevices. The coining presses then produced 1944 pennies on zinc-coated steel planchets instead of bronze planchets.

Both of these errors 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. In fact, it may be one of the most valuable pennies ever!

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

 

Edited by: James Bucki