The Famous 1943 Copper Cents

Phony 1943 copper
If this 1943 cent were really copper instead of the standard wartime zinc-coated steel, it could be worth more than $100,000. Alas, it's just a phony artist's representation. Leon Worden/The Signal

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, June 11, 2005

n 1947 a very strange penny was found by a young boy in his school cafeteria. Unlike the World War II-vintage 1943 cents that were made of a white combination of zinc-coated steel, this coin was plain brown bronze, like the other years.
    After he showed the coin to several coin dealers and experts at the time, it was declared to be e genuine Mint product — obviously an error in the sense that the copper planchet (the blank from which coins are made) was left over from 1942 and got struck in 1943 and released into circulation.
    Since it was the only one of its kind known at the time, it sold at a private sale for a reported $40,000 — a record price for any small cent at the time. Since then a few more were found in circulation; today the total number of verified pieces stands at 15 from the Philadelphia Mint, four or five from the San Francisco Mint, and one so far from the Denver Mint.
    Coin expert Steve Benson tracked the public sales of every known specimen of the 1943 bronze cent and compiled a list of the last known sale and the certification number assigned to each coin.
    These coins now bring well over $100,000 in public sales, with one sale in 2002 reported at $125,000.
    No genuine piece has been discovered in circulation in more than 40 years. One specimen believed to belong to the late mint engraver John Sinnock was discovered in 2000 in the estate of one of his friends. Apparently Sinnock found the coin at the Mint and decided to keep it and later passed it on to a friend who lived in the same town in upstate New York.
    In 1944, the mints returned to the prewar bronze alloy, and here again a few specimens were struck in the wartime zinc-steel alloy from planchets left over from 1943. Again, a survey by Steve Benson has identified nearly 40 of these rarities, and they are valued from a few thousand to many thousands of dollars.
    A complete survey of both the 1943 bronze and 1944 steel cents can be found in several current books on the subject of Lincoln cents including my book, "The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent" (4th edition, 1999).

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.