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Check Your Piggy Bank! A 1943 Steel Penny Could Be Worth a Small Fortune

A pretty penny that's worth a pretty penny.

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If you’re like most of us, you don’t assume your coins will be worth a lot of money. At least, not more than 25 cents. But because coins have been minted in this nation for a long time, and because they’re exchanged frequently, you may easily end up with a coin that’s worth more than its face value. One of those coins? A penny from 1943 — but not all pennies from that year. Keep reading to learn more about the 1943 steel penny, and which ones could net you some extra cash. 

What is a 1943 steel penny?

When you think of a penny, what do you see? Probably a small, brownish-bronze coin. That’s because they’re mostly made from copper. If you have a penny from 1943, however, it might be silver instead of copper. In 1943, the United States was embroiled in World War II. You may already know about the rations imposed upon civilians — they could only have a certain amount of certain food items in order to leave enough to sustain our troops overseas. Rations didn’t just apply to food, however. The US Mint switched to making pennies out of steel to reserve copper for bullets and other supplies needed for the wartime effort. Check out the photo below to see what a 1943 steel penny looks like.

1943 Steel Wheat Cent
cpaulfell/Shutterstock

Are 1943 steel pennies rare? 

Some, yes; but most, not particularly. Most 1943 steel pennies are one of the following, according to All the Decor

  • 1943-D Lincoln penny (minted in Denver, CO)
  • 1943-S Lincoln penny (minted in San Francisco, CA)
  • 1943 unminted (at the Philadelphia mint)

There are 1943 pennies that are much more rare; namely, the 1943 Lincoln wheat penny. These are coins that underwent one of the following minting errors: 

  • They were made with a bronze base instead of the standard brass
  • They were coated with zinc
  • They were made with a silver base — these are also called “tin cents”

One problem: Old coins tend to be cloudy and grimey, so it’s hard to tell what color they are. Try a polishing cream (Buy from Amazon, $12.19) to restore your coins to their former glory… and see if one of them could bring you even more money. 

How much are 1943 steel pennies worth?

Because so many of the standard steel pennies without errors were produced, these steel aren’t rare, and therefore, aren’t extremely valuable. All the Decor estimates them to be worth up to a few dollars. If you have one with a minting error, however — like if it has a bronze color instead of being steel — it could be worth a lot of money and should be submitted to the Professional Coin Grading Service for evaluation. One 1943 penny with a mint mistake sold for about $21,000 in 2011 — quite the value hike for a penny!

A Tip for Your Penny Search

If you’re someone who pays with cash often, you likely have a lot of coins laying around, and many of them are probably pennies. It’s a pain, not to mention a mess, to dump out those coins in search of anomalies. So try investing in an electric coin sorter to at least get all your pennies in one place and narrow down the search (Buy from Amazon, $78.27). They’re not cheap — but if you find a rare coin, it could pay for itself. 

Do you think you might have a rare penny on hand? Good luck on your search, and don’t forget to look for 1943 dimes as well. Some of them are worth a good amount of money too.

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