The Wheat Penny Errors: 1943 Copper Wheat Penny

The war was raging in Europe and Japan when this error coin was accidentally struck from blanks of a now precious metal reserved only to be melted down to aid the Allied war effort.  The copper  of the Lincoln Wheat Cent was needed to further the war machine, and the transition to a new substitute created one of the most valuable Lincoln Wheat Cent error coins.  At least 40 of these rare examples are known to be in existence, and loose change hunters dream of finding this very expensive coin.  Graded copies in good condition have been sold for amounts of over 40,000 as of 1996, and over 100,000 in 2008!  The coin is actually fairly easy to spot once you know what to look for, and this guide will help you decide whether that $0.01 coin is actually worth $100,000’s!

The normal Mint issue 1943 penny was not the copper coin most people expect it is.  This year the United States were critically short of copper due to war-time production.  So, in order to supply the copper hungry war production effort, the metal was stripped from the penny.  Instead the U.S. Government substituted with a cheaper, although troublesome replacement, and issued steel planchets, or coin blanks, and coated them with zinc.   The resulting penny was the less than ideal replacement.  Citizens complained of confusing the silver colored coin with dimes.  It would also activate vending machine magnet detectors, and the steel itself was subject to rust at the edge from sweat and moisture.  Only one year later the Mint ceased production and issued reconstituted copper shell casing cents instead.  In the following years the Mint also collected vast numbers of the steel coins, and destroyed them.

The 1943 steel penny weighed significantly less than its copper counterpart, at only 2.7 grams compared to 3.11 grams.  The 12 confirmed examples of only 40 estimated to have been produced have been found.  There is also one confirmed example found of a 1943 penny pressed on a bronze planchet, valued at over 1 million dollars.

Be aware of fakes and misrepresentations among 1943 copper cents.  The high value of the penny attracts counterfeiters, and dates, especially the 1945, 1946 and 1948 year cents.  The normal steel cent is the only U.S. cent to react to magnetism, and this fact can be used to defraud counterfeiter’s trick of coating the regular, far less valuable 1943 steel coins with copper.  If the weight is accurate, and the penny does not react to a magnet then the coin may be genuine. Take good care of your new addition to your collection, you may have just found one of the most valuable Lincoln Cent error coins in existence!  To get the best packaging and protecting for your coin, have it graded and mounted professionally by nationally recognized agents like ANACS, NGC or PCGS.  The nominal upfront fee is recouped by the much safer and higher asking price that graded coins buy.  In fact, it is normal for serious collectors to only buy graded and mounted specimens, to ensure the highest possible security.


Yeoman, R.S. The Offical Red Book of U.S.Coins. Sixty-Sixth Edition, Atlanta, GA. Whitman Publishing, 2012

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 Blog

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