The 1943 steel penny is known for its historical role during the Second World War. Many collectors and enthusiasts would love to have this coin in their collection as a memento of the time when copper coins were replaced with steel ones.
If you take a closer look at the Numismatic Guaranty Company’s price guide, the 1943 steel penny, also known as a wheat penny (due to the wheat on its reverse side), in circulated condition, is worth from $0.05 to $0.90. However, if you check the open trading, the 1943 steel penny value, in uncirculated condition, is around $3200. Do not confuse the 1943 steel penny value with the 1943 copper penny value because there is an enormous price difference.
The Heritage auction record for the 1943 copper penny is a staggering amount of $218,500. Do not get discouraged if you own a steel version of the 1943 penny because it may be worth a lot, especially in mint state, like the 1943-S steel penny sold for an amazing sum of $138,000 in 2004.
The 1943 steel penny is rare and valuable because it was manufactured for a year. In this article, you will understand the true value of the 1943 steel penny that is connected closely to its history, mintage, striking features, grade, rarity, conditions, and production errors. Read on, to find out whether you have a valuable 1943 steel penny in your collection!
History and Mintage of 1943 Steel Penny
The history of the 1943 steel penny began in December 1942, with Congress’ approval. To preserve copper in times of war, the U.S. Mint, chose a substitute material for its coins. Instead of copper, the 1943 penny was made out of zinc-coated steel. The 1943 steel pennies contributed to saving enough copper during the war. So, one part of the 1943 steel penny value was enabling the production of 1.25 million shells for American guns. Victor D. Brenner designed the art on the steel penny upon the order of President Theodore Roosevelt back in 1909. The United States permitted the mints to produce steel coins with this design to honor the 100th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. This is another aspect that sells the 1943 steel pennies.
The year 1943 was in the middle of the Second World War, and the U.S. had to divert every available resource and coins were no exception. Therefore, the 1943 penny was made of steel and instead of coins, copper was used for ammunition and electrical wiring. The 1943 steel penny was minted in the following three Mints:
- Philadelphia Mint produced 684,628,670 samples of the 1943 steel penny;
- Denver Mint produced 217,660,000 samples of the 1943-D steel penny;
- San Francisco Mint produced 191,550,000 samples of the 1943-S steel penny.
As you can see, over 1 billion 1943 steel pennies were struck for circulation. Even though the 1943 steel penny was produced in high quantity it has both historical and rarity value. Historical due to its vital connection with an international historical event (World War II), and rare because many 1943 steel pennies corroded or were lost over time. Still, if you are eager to have the 1943 steel penny in your collection there are many collectible 1943 pennies to choose from. But before you do, make sure to find one in uncirculated condition because they are rare and worth far more than the circulated ones. Besides the steel pennies in 1943 around 40 copper pennies were struck because by accident copper blanks were left in the manufacture hopper. Being so rare, 1943 copper pennies have a higher value than their steel counterparts.
1943 Steel Penny Specifications
- Series: Lincoln Cents, Wheat Reverse (1909-1958)
- Mint: Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver
- Mintage: Total of 1,093,838,670
- Designer: Victor David Brenner (obverse side of the coin)
- Designer: Victor David Brenner (reverse side of the coin)
- Composition: Zinc Coated Steel
- Weight: 2.702 g
- Diameter: 19,05 mm
- Edge: Plain
The 1943 steel penny has the following writings:
- “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the front (obverse) side of the coin right above Abraham Lincoln’s head facing to the right. Also, you can see the word “LIBERTY” on the left center of the coin, and the “1943” year mark at the right bottom of the coin;
- “E PLURIBUS UNUM” on the back (reverse) side of the coin. There is a dot between the first two letters which shows the U.S maxim at the time (out of many, one). At the center, you can see the word “ONE CENT” written in larger font, and below the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” between the wheat sheaves.
The 1943 steel penny comes with and without mintmarks. The coins manufactured in the Philadelphia Mint have no mintmark, while the ones minted in San Francisco have an “S” mark, and the ones from Denver have a “D” mark right below the year mark under number 9. The mintmarks can be seen on the front (obverse) side of the 1943 steel penny. No-proof coins were minted in 1943, and this year is the only one when U.S. Mints produced steel instead of copper coins excluding the few errors during mintage. Because the public was not thrilled with the steel penny which was often confused with the dime, and had a tendency to rust, U.S. Mints continued using copper after a year.
1943 Steel Penny Striking Features
One of the striking features of the 1943 steel penny was the use of fairly new dies. The dies for the 1943 steel penny unlike the prior Lincoln cent dies were changed much faster due to the hardness of the steel penny planchets. And that’s not all! Besides the dies change, the 1943 steel penny is known for the following striking features:
- Minimized striking point between the front (obverse) and the back (reverse) dies to achieve a better strike and sharper surfaces;
- Increased striking pressure to produce the finest coin design features.
Because of these striking features, there are more 1943 steel (wheat) pennies in good condition (MS68 or higher) than any other steel penny between 1909 and 1959. Almost every 1943 steel penny has an MS65 grade or higher. One of the rarest is the one minted in Philadelphia in MS68 condition or higher (only 75 samples). Another rare 1943 steel penny is the one in MS69 condition. For example, the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) hasn’t graded one sample with an MS69 grade since 2010.
Errors Affecting the Value of 1943 Steel Penny
We have already established that the value of the 1943 steel penny can only be assessed by taking into consideration different factors. Besides the common factors like mintage, mintmarks, and grading, there are also production errors affecting the value of the 1943 steel penny. Errors raise the value of the coin because they add to their uniqueness and rarity. So, if you have a 1943 steel penny with the following errors you own a rare coin that is worth a lot more than an average steel penny:
- Double Die Obverse (DDO) error
The 1943 steel penny with a double die obverse error is quite valuable. Collectors would love to have this coin in possession because of its double strike that can be seen on the lettering and year mark. This error was made in the Philadelphia Mint by the artisans right after a regular strike. If you have a 1943 steel penny with such an error, you are in luck and you are about to earn a lot especially if the one you have is uncirculated. As proof of their rarity, PCGS has graded two MS 67+ steel pennies. When it comes to the value of the 1943 steel penny with a DDO error one graded AU Details was sold on eBay for $5,999 in May 2019, while another in MS67 condition for $2,150 a year later.
- Wrong Coating
Every 1943 steel penny has a zinc coating. One 1943 steel penny that was sold for an amazing sum of 1 million dollars was coated with bronze by an artisan’s error. Because this was one of a kind error and one of a kind coin in great condition it managed to reach such a high price.
- D over D error
Another interesting error occurred at the Denver Mint on the 1943-D steel pennies. If you use a magnifying glass you will see the punching error on the D mintmark on these 1943 steel coins. According to the coin world, such a coin in an MS67 condition was sold for $10,200.
- S over S error
There is an error on the 1943-S steel penny at the S mintmark. The artisan’s S over S error at the San Francisco Mint will earn you a huge amount of money. Wheatear it is a D over D error or S over S error we are talking about an error in re-punched mintmark. Usually, you can see a second or even a third strike on a slightly different spot as well as traces of the previous S or D mintmark. Price wise a 1943 steel penny with a re-punched mintmark (RPM) in an MS67 condition was sold for $21,275 in February 2011, and another in an MS67+ condition was sold for $12,600 in August 2022.
- Over date error
Besides the S over S error also known as re-punched mintmark the 1943 steel penny struck in San Francisco coin has a doubled-die obverse and an over date (1943 over 1942) error. In the 1943 steel penny over-date error you can see number 2 peeking below number 3, and if you happen to own a coin that combines both errors that will noticeably raise the value of your coin. For example, in October 2022, a 1943 steel penny in MS67 condition was auctioned for $10,000 on eBay. However, if you are looking for a more realistic value estimation you can check PCGS prices. For the five coins in MS67+ condition that this grading service has graded the estimated value is $2,150.
According to the Parris Island Museum, you should also be aware of these additional 1943 steel penny errors:
- Wrong planchets
There are three types of errors regarding the use of a wrong planchet. The first one was when the 1943 steel penny was struck on a planchet intended for the 1944 or 1946 pennies. It was an experimental brass planchet created from recovered shell casings from the battlefield. Such a coin in MS63 RD condition was auctioned for $164,500. The second one was when the 1943 steel penny was stuck on a copper (bronze) planchet intended for the 1942 copper (bronze) pennies. Such a coin in genuine damaged condition was auctioned for $88,125. The third error regarding a wrong planchet was when the coin was stuck on a silver planchet intended for a dime. The price of a coin barring this kind of error graded AU532 was $14,100.
- Double denomination
This error occurred when a 1943 steel penny was overstruck on a Cuban 1 centavo coin that already passed the coin press. Such coin sample in MS62 condition was auctioned for a price of $38,200.
- Double-struck (80% off-center)
A 1943 steel penny that was struck again exiting the coin press bears the double-struck error. What is even more unique the second strike was 80% off-center deforming the coin. A 1943 steel penny with a double-struck error in MS64 condition was auctioned for a price of $1,760.
- Obverse die cap
This error concerns a 1943 steel penny previously struck onto the obverse die that covered the coin below, obscuring its design. A coin with an obverse die cap error in MS64 condition was sold for $2,185.
Some of the 1943 steel penny errors are obvious but some are hard to notice and most of the time you can’t see them with the naked eye. So, if you want to make the most of the steel penny in your possession use this information, and make a thorough check with a magnifying glass before you put your 1943 steel penny on the market.
Most Valuable 1943 Steel Pennies
As we mentioned in the introduction the record for the most valuable 1943 steel penny goes to the 1943-S-MS steel penny sold for an impressive sum of $138,000. Besides this valuable and rare coin, we have created a table of the most valuable 1943 steel pennies sold at auctions in the last 5 years. Check the information in our table to make a comparison of prices and understand the real value of the 1943 steel penny in your possession.
|Details||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2018 Jan 3-8 FUN U.S. Coins Signature Auction Tampa, FL||January 2018||$24,000|
|Details||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2016 August 10-14 ANA U.S. Coins Signature Auction Anaheim, CA||August 2016||$11,163|
|MS65||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2018 Jan 3-8 FUN U.S. Coins Signature Auction Tampa, FL||January 2018||$11,400|
|MS68||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2022 December 15-18 U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1351||December 2022||$7,200|
|MS68||PCGS||Legend Rare Coin Auctions||The Regency Auction 49||December 2021||$4,465|
|MS68||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2023 April 10 CAC Approved Coinage U.S. Coins Showcase Auction #603||April 2023||$4,440|
|XF40||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2018 February 22-26 Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction||February 2018||$3,960|
|MS68||PCGS||Legend Rare Coin Auctions||The Regency Auction 53||July 2022||$3,760|
|MS68||PCGS||Heritage Auctions||2022 July 14-17 Long Beach Expo/Summer FUN U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1347||July 2022||$3,602|
|MS68||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2021 October 7-10 Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1334||October 2021||$3,120|
|MS68||Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC)||Heritage Auctions||2022 October 6-9 Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1349||October 2022||$2,280|
|MS68||NGC||David Lawrence RC||Internet Auction #1261||February 2023||$2,000|
|MS68||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2022 May 4-8 Central States U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1344||May 2022||$1,560|
|MS68||NGC||Heritage Auctions||Internet U.S. Coin Auction #132104||January 2021||$1,500|
|MS68||NGC||Heritage Auctions||2022 December 15-18 U.S. Coins Signature Auction #1351||December 2022||$1,440|
The value of the 1943 steel penny varies and is closely related to the coin’s grade, condition, specific details, striking features, different and unique planchets, and rarity. Also, the value depends on the coin’s mintmark and mintage. For example, the 1943 steel penny without a mintmark has the lowest value because there are many samples of the coin struck in the Philadelphia Mint. Denver Mint produced fewer 1943-D steel coins which are more valuable than the ones without mintmark. Because of the low mintage, the 1943-S steel pennies in good condition coming from the San Francisco Mint have the highest value.
There are many factors affecting the 1943 steel penny value, and a solid background check of the coin is a must! Again, information is crucial when you determine the value of your coin. Therefore, use every available info from this article, starting with the history and mintage of the 1943 steel penny, specifications, features, known errors, and auction prices to determine whether you have a priceless gem in your collection.