The 1943 penny was made from galvanized steel due to a copper shortage during WWII, but a few were accidentally made from copper and are now extremely valuable. The penny is part of the “wheat penny” series and collectors should be cautious of forgeries. Other rare pennies include the 1955 double penny, 1944 steel penny, and 1974 aluminum penny.
A 1943 penny, or “penny piece,” as the Mint would prefer to hear you say, is a penny produced in the year 1943. 1943 pennies are particularly notable because of the circumstances of their manufacture. The World War II-related shortage of copper forced the United States Mint to abandon the use of copper in the production of cent pieces in 1943, instead using galvanized steel. When the 1943 Steel Pennies arrive, people are often surprised, and people unfamiliar with the history of the penny piece may think they’ve made a remarkable numismatic breakthrough, even though they haven’t.
In fact, the most notable find would be a 1943 penny made out of copper. Although the vast majority of pennies produced in 1943 were made from galvanized steel, giving them a silvery appearance, 10 to 40 pennies, depending on the source believed, were accidentally produced from copper. According to legend, this is due to a mistake made in a Mint plant, where copper snails were accidentally left in the molds for the pennies. A 1943 copper penny is an extremely valuable item, as so few were made, and collectors compete fiercely whenever one appears on the open market.
The 1943 penny is one of a series of pennies known as “wheat pennies”, after the cross of the wheat sheaves on the back. The grain cent design was dropped in 1958 in favor of a design featuring the Lincoln Memorial. Along with the 1955 double penny, the 1943 copper penny is one of the most valuable pennies around. A 1943 dime sold for over $80,000 US!
Since the real 1943 copper penny is a rarity, some people have attempted to forge this collector’s item. There are several clues that can be used to confirm that a 1943 copper cent is genuine. These pennies lack a magnetic pull that is present in copper-plated 1943 pennies, and they also have a particularly sharp impression, because the dies were calibrated to strike steel, a harder metal than copper. If you find a 1943 copper cent, you should take it to a numismatics specialist for appraisal.
Incidentally, there are some 1944 pennies made of steel, probably in the same way that the 1943 copper pennies were made. The 1944 steel pennies are also considered valuable due to their rarity, as are the 1974 pennies made of aluminum in an experimental test that the Mint later abandoned.