Written by Rafa Sánchez
When you come across a 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny, the first question that comes to mind is – what was the reason for creating this type of silver coin more like a dime than a penny.
In this article you will learn in a simple but profound way:
- What a 1943 Steel Penny is
- What are the rarities that make them highly valuable for collectors
- Which are the most expensive.
- 1 What is a 1943 Steel Penny?
- 2 How to know if you have a Steel Penny from 1943
- 3 The history of the 1943 Steel Pennies
- 4 Characteristics of the 1943 Steel Penny
- 5 Types of Mint Marks
- 6 1943 Steel Penny Values – 5 Most valuable variants
- 7 The public’s rejection of the 1943 Steel Lincoln Penny
What is a 1943 Steel Penny?
From 1909 to 1958 the U.S. penny was made of 95% copper and showed the bust of President Abraham Lincoln facing right to commemorate 100 years of his birth. Above the bust, you can read the legend “In God We Trust“, behind him (i.e. in the field on the left) the word “Liberty” and on the right, the date and mint mark are inscribed, Denver or San Francisco.
How to know if you have a Steel Penny from 1943
On its back are two wheat leaves, appearing on either side of the central legend – which became known as the “wheat penny“. In the center, and in descending order appears the inscription “E-Pluribu-Unum“, “ONE CENT” and below “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA“. The coin was designed by Victor David Brenner.
Later, from 1959 to 2008, the back of the Lincoln penny was modified with the well-known Frank Gasparro’s design, in which the two wheat leaves on the back for which Lincoln’s pennies were known were removed.
The history of the 1943 Steel Pennies
The history of the 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny dates back to the intervention of the United States of America in World War II (1941-1945).
Many resources were scarce or rationed during the years of World War II. Two of these materials were diverted, among other sectors, from monetary production to the manufacture of ammunition and artillery: copper and nickel.
Therefore, in 1943, other materials had to be tested for the manufacture of coins other than the traditional copper and nickel ones. Tests were conducted without success with materials as diverse as glass or even plastic.
Finally, it was decided to manufacture the 1943 Lincoln penny with low-grade steel with a zinc coating while maintaining the same design and diameter. However, by altering its composition, its weight was also reduced 13%, from 3.11 grams to 2.7 grams.
Characteristics of the 1943 Steel Penny
|Lincoln Steel Penny 1943||Lincoln Penny pre-1943|
|Diameter||19 mm||19 mm|
|Weight||2.7 gr||3.11 gr|
|Composition||Low quality steel with zinc coating||95% copper and 5% tin and zinc|
In addition to the weight, another feature that differentiated the 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny from the previous Lincoln Penny was its reaction to a magnet, since it had a high percentage of steel that used to stick. It was the first coin manufactured in steel by the United States Mint.
Since the main material that made up the coin was steel, new dies had to be used and changed from time to time because the hardness of the steel soon wore them out. It also required increasing the pressure on the coinage so that the designs would be well engraved on the steel disks. This is why the 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny is usually better minted than its copper brothers.
Types of Mint Marks
The 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny was cast at three mints: Philadelphia (no mint mark), Denver (“D”) and San Francisco (“S”). The quantities produced for that year of 1943 at the various mints were:
- Philadelphia: 684,628,670 units.
- Denver: 217,660,000 units.
- San Francisco: 191,550,000 units.
Philadelphia’s production of these 1943 Steel Lincoln Penny’s tripled the output of the second-largest production mint, Denver. For its part, San Francisco Mint produced the lowest number of units during the year of 1943.
However, finding a Lincoln Steel Penny 1943 in grade MS68 or higher is a more difficult task if it comes from Philadelphia rather than either of the other two mints, so its value is higher in high quality.
The PCGS certifying company has graduated only 3 pieces of 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny in MS68+ grade from Philadelphia, 2 pieces for Denver and 5 pieces for San Francisco.
During 1943 no Lincoln Steel Penny was minted in Proof quality.
1943 Steel Penny Values – 5 Most valuable variants
#1 – 1943 Steel Wheat penny DDR (Double Die Reverse) – $2,150
This rare variant of the 1943 Philadelphia Lincoln Steel Penny consists of a double coinage on the back.
The highest value obtained for this variant was $2,150 in 02/2020 for a piece in MS67 quality. Last year the price for this same quality was no more than $2,000, it was $1,586.
This value is normal if we take into account that PCGS only has 1 coin in superior quality, MS67+, and two copies in MS67.
In MS66 graduation the variant has reached $780 during 2020.
Here you can see 2019 prices in different grades:
#2 – 1943 Steel Penny D – $6,000
It is not difficult to find the 1943 Denver Lincoln Steel Penny in medium or even high qualities. PCGS has more than 48,000 copies registered in MS60 or higher grades and halves to 24,000 copies registered in MS65 or higher grades.
However, most of those registered units of 1943 D-steel pennies are in MS65 to MS67 grades. Graduations higher than MS67 are rarer and more highly rated. Thus there are only two copies in MS68+, 154 copies in MS68 and 110 copies in MS67+.
The maximum price achieved for a piece of this year and mint was $6,000, in August of this year 2020.
#3 1943-D/D – $21,275
Of the 217,660,000 1943 Lincoln Steel Pennies minted in Denver, only a few, out of 4,000, are double-minted with the initial/mint mark (“D”).
This double minting is very easy to discover since the second “D” is more displaced from the first. You can see an example in the photo below.
Out of 4,000 known coins with this double “D” variant, only 200 units have an MS65 or higher graduation, and therefore are much more valuable and coveted by collectors. There is only one piece in the maximum graduation, MS67+.
The prices reached by the highest graduations these last two years have been:
|Grade||2020 Value||2019 Value|
The record price for a copy of this variant was reached in 2011 for an MS67 quality, $21,275.
#4 – 1943-S Penny – $207,000
San Francisco was the mint with the lowest number of units produced of the 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny, over 190,000,000. However, the valuable specimens in MS65 graduations or higher reach 20,000 specimens, a figure very similar to the 24,000 specimens of the 1943-D Lincoln Steel Penny registered in these same qualities.
The maximum price for a 1943-S penny was $207,000 in 2010 for a VF35 graded copy.
#5 – 1943 Copper Lincoln Penny
Scarcer than the 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny is the 1943 Lincoln Penny made from copper, with an unknown coinage. It was minted in the three mints, Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco.
It had its origin in the unused plates of the previous year, 1942, which were still minted in copper, and in the use of these.
Very few known specimens remain and its value, independently of the graduation, is of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. In 2014 an AU55 specimen was auctioned for $329,000.
Due to its high economic value, it is a type of variant that is very falsified either by the copper plating of a 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny or by modifying the dates of the 1945, 1948 and 1949 Lincoln Pennies for the rarer date of 1943.
For the first counterfeit (copper coating) a simple magnet will be enough to detect it since the 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny will attract to the magnet.
In the year 1944 something very similar happened but in reverse. Some steel dies from the previous year’s Lincoln Steel Penny were used to manufacture 1944 copies in steel. A copy of the 1944 Lincoln Steel Penny MS64 was auctioned off in 2013 for a price of $158,625.
The public’s rejection of the 1943 Steel Lincoln Penny
The Lincoln Steel Penny was not well accepted by the American population who had to use it in everyday life. One of the main reasons was its confusion with the 10 cents in circulation at that time due to its silver appearance. The consequences were that on many occasions, merchants lost 9 cents in change.
Another reason for the rejection of the 1943 Lincoln Steel Penny was that the zinc oxidized quickly, leaving the coin dark gray and almost black. It used to start at the edge of the coin, where the manufacturing process left the steel bare.
I have a degree in Business Administration and Management and numismatics studies at the University of Murcia (Spain).