In 1943, over a billion silver cents were minted and circulated. Better known today as the 1943 steel penny, some of the coins minted in that year are now worth quite a bit. So, if you find a 1943 steel penny in your wallet, basement, or wedged behind the couch, hold onto it.
This guide will help you figure out if your penny is in good condition, if it’s genuine, and what price you can expect to get for it at a pawn shop or antique coin dealer.
Don’t forget, the value of your antique penny really depends on the quality and condition as well as the age and rarity!
About the 1943 Steel Penny
The US doesn’t have a ‘penny’ in circulation, but that doesn’t stop people from calling the cent a penny – so that’s the first thing we want to clear up.
The second is that the penny really is made of steel! Try not to get mixed up when people refer to this particular mint as the ‘silver penny of 1943’ when really, they mean the ‘steel cent of 1943’.
In 1943, during World War II, copper was saved for the war effort primarily to produce shell casings and munitions. While most of the copper in the US was heading for Europe, the US mint decided to use steel to make cents instead. So, the cents in 1943 were made from steel and coated in zinc.
The design of these cents is unique too – a side profile of Lincoln with the word ‘liberty’ behind him, and ‘in God we trust’ above him. The tails side of the coin features the words ‘one cent, United States of America’ framed by two stalks of wheat.
Depending on the place it was minted, the design may also have a letter stamped beneath ‘1943’ on the heads side of the coin. This is the location of the mint mark – learn more about what that means and how it impacts the value of the 1943 steel penny below.
Super Rare 1943 Steel Penny Value (Uncirculated)
If you don’t have time to read our full guide and want to find the most valuable 1943 steel penny, then look for this:
1943 zinc-plated steel penny, with an ‘S’ mint mark for San Francisco. It must be uncirculated, meaning it was never released into circulation to be used as currency. The condition must be exceptional – like new.
You have a fairly decent chance of finding this coin, and it will be worth a few dollars to most collectors.
Now, if you want the super rare 1943 pennies that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, then you need to find an error coin.
Valuable Error Coins
An error coin is made when there’s an error at the mint, where the coins are produced. Not only is it super rare that an error will take place, but it’s even rarer that these coins fall into the hands of collectors instead of being melted down again… and even rarer that they will still be in mint condition in 2023.
The rarest 1943 steel penny is actually made of copper. This occurred in San Francisco (S), Denver (D), and Philadelphia (no mint mark), and resulted in the 1943 design and date being stamped on a copper coin.
To give you an idea of just how rare these coins are, only 20 Lincoln cents were struck in copper in Philadelphia and San Francisco combined.
The price for one of these error coins can reach staggering heights. In 2010, a Denver 1943 copper wheat penny sold for $1.7 million and was dubbed “the world’s most valuable penny.”
1943 Steel Penny Value Chart
Here’s a quick chart to help you find the value of your 1943 steel penny. These prices are averages based on the prices for buying and selling these coins in 2023 – talk to an antiques dealer or pawn shop to get a bespoke price for your specific coin.
Prices change over time!
|1943 Steel Coin||San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver||Circulated, but unoxidized and in good shape||$0.10 to $0.20|
|1943 Steel Coin||San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver||Uncirculated||$2 to $6|
|1942 D/D Steel Coin||Denver||Uncirculated||$3,000 +|
|1943 Copper Error Coin||San Francisco, Philadelphia||Uncirculated||$100,000 +|
|1943 Copper Error Coin||Denver||Uncirculated||$1 million +|
Factors That Impact Value
There are several factors that are important when considering the value of a 1943 steel penny:
- Authenticity – there are fake versions available which are usually copper coins painted silver. If your coin isn’t magnetic then it is a fake. Coins that have been authenticated are worth more.
- Circulation – if your coin was circulated, it likely incurred some damage. The coin may be worn, or as is often the case with steel, rusted and black. This reduces the value significantly.
- Condition – even an uncirculated coin may incur some damage, so the more ‘mint’ your coin is, the better.
For some coins, the age is a deliberating factor… however, as all the steel cents were minted in 1943, it’s pretty much irrelevant in this case. Of course, the longer we hold onto these coins, the more they should increase in value anyway.
For collectors, you really want to find a 1943 steel penny in a mint state (which is used to measure condition) of 65 and above.
As the 1943 steel penny rusted very quickly once the zinc coating wore off, very few circulated pennies are still in good shape today. The uncirculated ones had a better chance of surviving – don’t settle for anything below MS63. If you really want to buy a collectible, valuable steel penny, then try to find a MS67 or higher.
Although the ultra-rare copper errors go for the highest prices, you might still be able to sell a perfect condition 1943 steel penny for a few thousand – especially if it is sold as part of a set.
The 1943 steel penny was minted in three locations across the US.
1943 ‘D’ Steel Penny Value
Any 1943 steel penny that has a mint mark of ‘D’ below the year was minted in Denver. Over 210,000,000 cents were minted in this location, which means that fewer were minted here than Philadelphia (the “main” mint).
That’s why a steel penny with a ‘D’ mint mark is marginally more valuable than a penny with no mint mark at all.
Experts are unsure how many copper error pennies were minted in Denver during 1943, so when one was discovered recently it caused quite the stir. After much skepticism, the coin was authenticated and eventually sold for $1.7 million.
1943 D / D Steel Penny Value
In Denver, a small selection of the 1943 steel pennies were double minted. If you look closely, you can see that there’s a faint ‘D’ mark slightly to the side of the deep ‘D’ mark that’s most visible.
Less than 4,000 of these pennies were created, and although they aren’t as valuable as the copper error coins, they still fetch relatively high prices.
The D/D penny fetches upward of $3,000 if it’s in MS65 or higher.
1943 ‘S’ Steel Penny Value
The ‘S’ steel penny was minted in San Francisco. Over 191,000,000 cents were minted in this location – a lot less than both Philadelphia and Denver – so that’s why the ‘S’ steel penny is typically the most valuable to find. It’s just a little bit more uncommon to come across!
Otherwise, there’s nothing special about the San Francisco mint. Only a handful of error coins were produced here and most that do come from San Francisco entered circulation and are quite worn at this stage.
If you want a steel penny that entered circulation to be worth a few dollars or more, it needs to be in MS67 condition or higher. While other collectible coins will be worth a lot at a lower Mint State, the fact that the 1943 steel penny is so common really works against treasure hunters trying to get a higher price.
1943 ‘P’ Steel Penny Value
If you find a 1943 steel penny with a ‘P’ mint mark, look more closely. It may be that the penny is actually marked with a ‘D’ or ‘S’ and has become disfigured over the years.
While many steel cents were minted in Philadelphia, they were never marked with a ‘P’. Coins minted in Philadelphia in this era traditionally have no mint mark at all.
If you are 100% certain that your cent has a ‘P’ mint mark, this is likely a sign of a forgery. Take it to a coin dealer to be absolutely sure one way or the other.
No Mint Mark
If your silver cent has no mint mark below the year, then it was minted in Philadelphia. Over 680,000,000 cents were minted in this location, so they are by far the most common. They’ll also be worth the least, with a circulated Philadelphia 1934 steel penny valued at only a few cents even today.
You can keep a hold of your steel penny with no mint mark, and it may increase in value over the years. However, as these pennies are quite common, collectors rarely fight over one even if it’s in pretty good mint state.
1944 Steel Penny
Much like the error in 1943 that created the new design on a copper coin, there was another problem in 1944.
By 1944, the public had pretty much rejected the steel coin as it rusted quickly and made quite a mess as it did so. So, the mints across America switched back to copper. However, some steel planchets were accidentally pushed through the coin presses, thus creating very rare 1944 steel pennies.
If you find a 1944 steel penny, hold on to it and get it valued. It could be worth quite a lot!
What is the 1943 steel penny?
The steel penny was a cent that was minted only in 1943, made of steel and zinc rather than copper. The coin was very unpopular, as it oxidized quickly and rusted at the edges. By 1944, the cent was minted in copper once again.
This brief window created a limited number of steel cents, and few have made it to 2022 in good condition. This is why they are considered valuable.
Is the 1943 steel penny valuable?
Yes, but not as much as you think. The standard circulated 1943 steel penny is worth no more than $0.20 to a collector. The only really valuable pennies minted this year were error coins, which are typically made of copper. One error cent from 1943 fetched almost $2 million in recent years.
Was the 1943 steel penny uncirculated?
Yes, by 1944 no American mint was stamping cents with steel – they had switched back to copper. Due to the cents being very unpopular, they were rarely used in circulation going forward.
How much is a mint condition 1943 steel penny worth?
A mint condition steel penny is likely to be uncirculated, meaning it’s worth up to $6 (although collectors might not be willing to pay that much) once it is certified.
Is the 1943 steel penny magnetic?
Yes! A true steel penny is magnetic, so this is one quick way to tell if a 1943 steel penny is fake or not. If it won’t stick to a magnet, then it’s not steel and is definitely a fake. You could (theoretically) still come across a steel 1943 penny that’s fake, so always buy certified coins from dealers, and get any coins you find yourself checked out by an expert.