1943 Copper Penny - Is Yours Genuine or Fake?

The 1943 Penny Was Minted in Steel, Not Copper

Diagnostics for a Genuine 1943 Copper Penny
Diagnostics for a Genuine 1943 Copper Penny James Bucki

1943 Steel Pennies

In 1943 all pennies minted by the United States mint were made out of zinc plated steel because the United States needed copper for World War II supplies. If your penny has a copper colored appearance, here is how you can authenticate it and tell if it is a genuine 1943 solid copper penny or a fake one. Any genuine 1943 copper pennies are extremely rare mint errors. Learn more about your silver-colored 1943 Steel Penny.

Copper Plated 1943 Fakes

At one time genuine 1943 Steel pennies were copper plated and sold as novelty items at coin shows and flea markets. Many of these coins were then spent and ended up in circulation alongside genuine Lincoln cents. Over time, people would find these copperplated steel pennies and think that they found a rare mint error.

When they took these coins to a coin dealer, the coin dealer would hold a magnet over the penny, and the steel underneath the copper plating would attract the penny to the magnet. This process is the easiest way to tell if your penny is solid copper or copperplated.

You can test your penny yourself by seeing if it sticks to a magnet. If it does, your penny is worth about 15 cents as a novelty item.

Altered 1948 Lincoln Cent

If your 1943 copper colored penny doesn't stick to a magnet, then use a magnifying glass to look at the date. A very common fraud involving the copper 1943 cent is to grind away part of the 8 in the date of a 1948 penny. If the tail of the last digit in the date, the number 3, does not extend well below the bottom of the other numbers in the date, it is probably a cut-in-half 8 (see the photo above). If the 3 in your date looks like half of an 8, your coin is not a genuine 1943 copper penny.

Chinese Counterfeit Coins

Chinese counterfeiters are manufacturing some high-quality counterfeit coins to deceive coin collectors in the United States. These coins are made to resemble a genuine 1943 Lincoln cent, and the Chinese counterfeiters use copper blanks so they won't stick to a magnet.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell the difference between a genuine 1943 copper penny and a Chinese counterfeit. Fortunately, Lincoln cent experts at third-party grading services can tell the difference by closely inspecting the coin under a stereo microscope. Additionally, a professional numismatist may be able to tell the difference for you before you send it to a third-party grading service

illustration of identifying if a 1943 penny is genuine or fake
Illustration: Joshua Seong. © The Spruce, 2019 

Seek a Second Opinion

If your 1943 copper penny does not stick to a magnet and the last digit in the date "3" does not look like it was altered from a 1948 penny, then you should seek a second opinion from a qualified coin dealer for a professional opinion. Most dealers do not charge to have a look at your coins and give you an informal verbal appraisal. If they believe it is authentic, you can ask them to submit it to a third party grading service on your behalf. If the coin dealer determines that it is a fake, then you will want to seek a second opinion from another dealer.