1943 U.S. Copper Cent

In 1943 the United States Congress voted to make Lincoln cents out of zinc-coated steel. The country was fighting World War II and copper supplies were needed to make cartridge casings for the war effort.

The steel pennies of 1943 were called silver cents because of their silver grey color. These cents range in color from grey to black because the zinc coating tended to wear off quickly leaving the steel vulnerable to corrosion.

Were any 1943 pennies made of copper? Yes! As we have explained, there shouldn’t have been. An unknown number were made, due to an accident at the mint…1943-copper-cent

To understand how the accident happened, you have to know something about how coins are made. They begin as 10-foot rolls of metal that look like huge paper towel rolls. Coin blanks are cut from these sheets with what looks like a giant cookie cutter. The blanks are then washed and heated and sent through a machine called an Upsetting machine that shapes the edge of each blank, creating the coin rim. Then the blanks are dumped into hoppers that carry them on train tracks to the coin press room. There the hoppers dump the blanks onto a conveyor belt leading to the coin press.

In 1943 mint workers thought they had made sure than no 1942 copper blanks remained in the hoppers. They missed some because 1943 copper cents were later found in circulation. None are known in new condition.

Genuine 1943 copper cents are rare and hard to find, and they can be extremely valuable. In 2010, a 1943-S graded MS62BN sold for a world record price for any U.S. small cent of 1.7 million dollars!

Beware of fakes! Since the 1943 copper cents are so rare they have been a popular target of counterfeiters and other scam artists. Favorite methods of faking the 1943 copper cent include:

  • copper plating a 1943 steel cent.
  • altering the date of a Lincoln cent of another year to make it look like the last digit is a “3” -1948 is a common choice.
  • casting a coin from scratch -very crude and easy to tell, coins are struck not cast.
  • creating a die from a genuine 1943 steel cent and striking a copper flan with it.

If you think you have a 1943 copper cent, how can you tell if it is genuine?

  • Steel cents weigh 2.7 grams, copper cents weigh 3.11 grams.
  • Steel cents are attracted to a magnet, copper cents aren’t.
  • Compare the digits on a 1943 steel cent with your coin. The shape of the digits should be the same and there should not be tooling marks where empty space would be on the”3″.

If your cent passes ALL of the above tests then it is time to get the coin certified by one of the grading services such as NGC or PCGS.