The 1943 Lincoln Cent
Many customers have heard rumors about a steel Lincoln cent, particularly that there are some valuable ones. Here is some information regarding this interesting coin.
In 1942 the United States was engaged in World War II. We had sufficient amounts of steel but were short on copper so the decision was made to produce the Lincoln Cents using steel coated with zinc instead of using Copper. These steel cents are lighter than the copper versions, and unlike the copper coins they are attracted to magnets (more on that later). All 3 mints (Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco) produced these steel coins in 1943.
The steel cents are often found as rusty as the steel was exposed after the thin layer of zinc wore off. Some industrious people applied a new layer of zinc to lightly worn steel cents to represent them as uncirculated. These “re-zinced” coins are easy to distinguish from their genuine counterparts with a little practice as they look polished where the original coins exhibit lighter mint luster.
There two valuable varieties of the steel cent; the 1943 copper cent, and the 1944 steel cent. There were about 40 1943 cents struck in copper, out of a total of over 1 billion. Only about 17 of these coins are accounted for; 10 from the Philadelphia mint, 1 from Denver, and 6 from San Francisco. There were about 75 1944 cents struck in steel, out of a total of over 2 billion. More than 20 of these coins have been accounted for.
A typical 1943 copper cent or 1944 steel cent should sell for over $75,000. The most valuable Lincoln cent of any kind ever sold is a 1944-S bought for $373,750 in July, 2008.
As with many rare coins these issues are frequently counterfeited. The easiest way to determine if the coin is a counterfeit is to use a magnet. If the coin goes to the magnet it is steel, not copper. If your 1943 copper coin goes to the magnet it is a counterfeit and if your 1944 steel coin is not attracted to the magnet it is counterfeit. Once you pass this test you should contact either the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC) or the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) for further validation.
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