How Much is a 1943 Penny Worth?

1943 Steel Lincoln Penny

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One of the most unusual pennies produced by the United States Mint was the "1943 Silver Pennies." Most people believe that all pennies produced by the United States Mint are made of copper. Therefore, when someone finds one of these silver pennies in their pocket change, they believe they have come across a great rarity. But, although they are uncommon, they are hardly rare.

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 U.S. Mint produced the penny out of zinc plated steel to save copper for the war effort, so most 1943 pennies are silver colored.

Metal was not the only commodity that was critical to the war effort. American citizens were asked to conserve food such as sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. Essential goods were rationed to American citizens using coupon books issued by the government. Most critical of all was gasoline.


Watch Now: The Most Valuable Lincoln Wheat Pennies

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 following 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 exact grade of the coin and some other factors that determine its worth.

Common 1943 Steel Penny Values

Date & Mint Circulated Uncirculated
Buy Sell Buy Sell
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 to use steel for the base metal and plate 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.

Also, the public rejected this new coin. Some people got it confused with a dime that is almost the same size. As the coin began to circulate, it would turn ugly black, and the edges would rust. This caused problems with people's clothing leaving a rusting.

Valuable 1943 and 1944 Pennies

1943 Lincoln Cent Minted on a Bronze Planchet in Uncirculated Condition
1943 Lincoln penny minted on a bronze planchet graded MS 63 red by PCGS

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) -

There are a few very valuable error coins produced in 1943. Since the mint makes billions of coins annually, they use enormous 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 gap 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.

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. It may be one of the most valuable pennies ever!

Date & Mint Circulated Uncirculated
Buy Sell Buy Sell
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