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We’re used to seeing cents made of copper. But the pennies issued in 1943 were made of steel instead. So are they valuable?
That’s what we’re here to find out! We’re going to explore the 1943 steel penny value and the factors that determine it. And along the way, we’ll find out more about the design and key features of this interesting coin.
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1943 Steel Penny Value Chart
|1943 (P) No Mint Mark Steel Penny Value||$1||$11||$30||$200||$5,000|
|1943 D Steel Penny Value||$1||$11||$30||$260||$3,000|
|1943 S Steel Penny Value||$1||$11||$38||$285||$3,500|
History of the 1943 steel penny
Most Lincoln pennies are made of copper, giving them a red or brown color. But 1943 pennies are silver-toned, and are known as “steel pennies”. They get their color from their zinc coating, but their core is made of steel.
By 1943, the Second World War was putting pressure on copper supplies. Copper was used extensively in the manufacture of munitions, including shell casings, tanks and even airplanes.
Replacing copper cents with steel ones was an obvious way of preserving copper stocks. But the design on both sides remained the same as for every other mintage.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the steel pennies. Vending machines had magnets that rejected fake copper coins with steel slugs. But authentic 1943 steel pennies were magnetic too, so they kept being spat out by the machines.
The edges of the coins weren’t galvanized either, which gave rise to more problems. When the coins came into contact with moisture, the edges quickly began to corrode.
And their silver color meant the pennies were often mistaken for dimes.
All this meant that, after the first year, the steel penny experiment wasn’t repeated. In 1944, pennies were instead made from salvaged brass shell casings augmented with copper.
Also read: 12 Most Valuable Lincoln Penny Worth Money
Features of the 1943 steel penny
Obverse of the 1943 steel penny
The obverse of the 1943 steel penny bears the portrait of President Abraham Lincoln. It’s the same image that appears pennies struck since 1909, and it was the work of an artist called Victor David Brenner.
Brenner’s initials appear on the cut-off of Lincoln’s shoulder. They had originally appeared on the reverse, but there was criticism that they were too prominent and they were removed.
Brenner’s initials were not restored until 1918, when they appeared on the obverse in the position they still occupied in 1943.
The motto “In God We Trust” appears above Lincoln’s portrait. The word “Liberty” is to its left, while the date is to the right. If the coin has a mintmark, that will appear below the date.
Reverse of the 1943 steel penny
The reverse of the 1943 steel penny has the same design as the earliest Lincoln cents, two ears of wheat. The denomination and country name is inscribed between them.
At the top of the coin are the words “E pluribus unum”. This Latin motto means “From the many, one” and refers to the creation of the country from the individual states.
Like the obverse of the penny, the reverse was designed by Victor David Brenner.
Other features of the 1943 steel penny
The most distinctive aspect of the 1943 steel penny is its color. That silver shade comes from its composition – a steel core clad in zinc.
The steel content means it’s the only magnetic US coin. And it’s also 13 per cent lighter than copper cents. It weighs 2.7 grams, compared to the 3.11 grams of the cents issued the previous year.
This YouTube video from VIP Art Fair Collectibles looks in detail at the history and features of the 1943 steel penny.
Also read: 13 Most Valuable Wheat Penny Worth Money
1943 steel penny value guides
1943 (P) no Mint Mark steel penny value
In 1943, steel pennies were produced at all three major Mint facilities – Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. Most were struck in Philadelphia, which produced more than 684 million coins.
The Philadelphia pennies can be distinguished from those produced at the other locations by the absence of a mint mark. If there’s no small letter beneath the date on the obverse, your penny was struck in Philadelphia.
Steel pennies are interesting and collectable coins, but they’re not all worth huge amounts of money. Just how valuable they are depends on their quality and condition.
That’s graded on a scale from 1 to 70. A coin graded 1 is in very poor condition, with just enough detail to identify its year and denomination. A coin graded 70, in contrast, is considered perfect.
1943 steel pennies struck in Philadelphia are generally worth less than a dollar in lower grades. Coins graded XF40 – which the independent coin graders the PCGS describe as “extremely fine” – are worth around a dollar.
Coins graded 60 and above are known as “mint state”. They’re coins that have never been circulated and show minimal wear as a result.
A Philadelphia 1943 steel penny graded MS60 is worth about $11. That rises to $30 for a coin graded MS65, the lowest level classified as “gem quality”.
The better the quality, the rarer the coin and the higher the price. Beyond MS65, values climb steeply. A coin graded MS66 is valued by the PCGS at $50, rising to $200 at MS67, and $5,000 at MS68.
But the finest known examples of Philadelphia 1943 steel pennies are graded half a point higher, at MS68+.
The PCGS has certified three coins at this level, and one of those was presented at auction in 2020. The sale price then was $33,600, and today the PCGS estimates the value at $35,000.
1943 D steel penny value
Denver was second in producing 1943 steel pennies, responsible for striking well over 217 million coins. These can be identified by the “D” which appears on the obverse, beneath the date.
Despite the lower mintage, at most grades Denver steel penny values are the same as Philadelphia pennies. Coins graded below XF40 are valued at less than a dollar.
Values remain steady at $1 from XF40 to AU55 (AU stands for “about uncirculated”) and jump to $7 at AU57. Coins in mint state start at $11 for examples graded MS60.
But at some higher grades, Denver coins are harder to find and command a premium.
A Denver 1943 steel penny graded MS66 is valued at $65, compared to $50 for the Philadelphia equivalent. And at MS67, the Denver coin is valued at $260, compared to $200 for a Philly example at the same grade.
Go further up the scale, and the pattern switches again. A Denver 1943 steel penny graded MS67+ is valued slightly lower than its Philadelphia equivalent, $525 against $550. At MS68, the difference is significant – $3,000 for Denver and $5,000 for Philadelphia.
And at MS68+, the highest grade for both mint marks, the Denver coin is valued at less than half the Philadelphia version – $15,000.
So why the difference? It’s all about rarity. While only three Philadelphia steel pennies have been certified by the PCGS at MS68+, twice that number with the Denver mint mark are known to exist.
1943 S steel penny value
San Francisco produced the fewest steel pennies of any of the Mint facilities. But it still struck over 191 million of them in 1943. And collectors appear to have hoarded coins in excellent condition, meaning they’re relatively plentiful today.
That means it’s possible to get an attractive coin for a reasonable price. Indeed, up to MS65, values for San Francisco steel pennies are almost the same as for those struck in Philadelphia or Denver.
A gem quality MS65 coin from San Francisco is valued by the PCGS at $38, just $8 more than the Philadelphia or Denver equivalents. Coins at MS66 and MS67 are relatively easy to find too, and valued at $80 and $285 respectively.
As with the other mint marks, coins at higher grades become scarcer and more expensive. 129 San Francisco steel pennies have been certified at MS68, and the PCGS values those at $3,500 apiece.
The finest known examples are five coins graded MS68+. These are valued at $35,000, the same level as the Denver steel pennies, despite their greater availability.
Some of the San Francisco coins are particularly attractive, with glossy fields and frosted devices. These coins have their own separate designation, “proof-like”, meaning they’re similar in quality to proof coins produced for collectors and archives.
They are few and far between. To date, the PCGS has certified just one coin each at MS64, MS66 and MS66+. The other main independent coin grading agency, the NGC, has also certified one coin at MS63.
The PCGS doesn’t estimate the value of any of these coins, but the MS63 example was presented at auction in 2020. It sold then for just over $200, ten times the value of a mint state San Francisco steel penny without the proof-like designation.
Rare 1943 steel penny error List
1943 bronze cent
The change of composition of the penny in 1943 gave rise to one of the rarest of all Mint errors – the transition error. This occurs when the coin is struck on a planchet of the old type.
That happened in 1943 to a small handful of pennies. Instead of being struck on the new steel and zinc planchets, they were struck on the traditional bronze variety. In any condition, these coins are highly collectable – and valuable.
Bronze coins are graded brown, red and brown, or red, depending on the brightness of the copper. All other things being equal, brown coins tend to be the least expensive and red the most.
The PCGS has certified ten bronze pennies in brown, graded from XF45 through to MS62. The former is valued at $215,000, while the two examples certified MS62 are each worth around $435,000.
There’s a sole red and brown coin graded MS61, and that’s valued at $425,000. And the single finest example known to exist is a red coin graded MS63. The PCGS values that at a cool $1 million.
With values like these, it’s not surprising that a number of fake coins have been produced by cladding steel coins in copper. This YouTube video from CoinHELPu shows how to tell the difference between a fake and the real thing.
1943 D/D steel penny, re-punched mint mark
In 1943, mint marks were punched onto coins by hand, and very occasionally a second mint mark was punched over the first. That’s the case for a number of the 1943 steel pennies minted in Denver, where the ghost of the earlier “D” can be clearly seen beneath the second, stronger mark.
These coins are rare and of great interest to collectors. As ever, values depend on quality and condition. But even examples in poorer shape are worth good money. A coin with this error graded “good” 4 is valued by the PCGS at $55, rising to $175 for an example graded XF45.
In mint state, prices are far higher. A coin graded MS60 is worth about $425. And the auction record was set in 2011 for a coin graded MS67. That sold for an impressive $21,275.
Also read: 11 Most Valuable Wheat Penny Errors
How much is a 1943 steel penny worth today?
The answer could be anything from a few cents to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Coins in poorer condition are generally not worth much more than their face value. But if they’re not heavily worn, their value can be much higher.
The most valuable coins are usually those that have never been circulated. Values for those range from $11 to $5,000, depending on their condition and mint mark.
And error coins can be very valuable too. The most expensive are coins struck on bronze planchets instead of steel clad in zinc. Those can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How do I know if my 1943 steel penny is rare?
Look for signs of wear and tear. Standard coins with minimal scratching, glossy fields (the flat parts of the coin), and clearly detailed designs are worth the most.
Error coins are easier to spot, but beware of fakes. If your 1943 penny looks like it’s made of copper rather than steel, it could be very valuable. But test it with a magnet. If it’s attracted to the magnet, it’s a fake – a steel coin coated in copper.
It’s a good idea to weigh it too. Real copper pennies should weigh 3.11 grams, or marginally less to allow for wear.
The other error you can look for is a re-punched mint mark. Check the obverse of the coin, beneath the date. If you can see a “D”, look closely. If there’s a second, fainter D beneath it, it could be an error.
Values for steel pennies with re-punched mint marks range from $70 to over $10,000, depending on condition.