Denver Gold and Silver
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1943 steel cent
The 1943 steel cent was a variety of the U.S. one-cent coin which
was struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper.
Due to wartime needs of copper for use in ammunition and other military
equipment during World War II, the US Mint researched various ways
to limit dependence and meet conservation goals on copper usage.
After trying out several substitutes (ranging from other metals
to plastics) to replace the then-standard bronze alloy, the one
cent coin was minted in zinc-coated steel. It was struck at all
three mints; Philadelphia,
Denver, and San Francisco. Coins from the latter two sites have
and "S" mintmarks below the date.
However, problems began to arise from the mintage. Freshly minted,
they were often mistaken for dimes. Magnets in vending machines
(which took "copper" cents) placed to pick up steel slugs
also picked up the legitimate steel cents. Because the galvanization
process didn't cover the edges of the coins, sweat would quickly
rust the metal, turning the coins into a rusty mess. After public
outcry, the Mint developed a process whereby salvaged brass shell
casings were augmented with pure copper to produce an alloy close
to the 1941-42 composition. This was used for 1944-46 dated cents,
after which the prewar composition was resumed. Although they continued
to circulate in the 1960s, the mint collected large numbers of the
1943 cents and destroyed them.
The steel cent is the only regular-issue United States coin that
can be picked up with a magnet. The steel cent was also the only
coin issued by the United States for circulation that does not contain
any copper. (Even American gold coins at various times were 21.6
to 22 kt alloy which contained from 5.33% to 10% copper).
1943 Copper Cent.
Right behind the 1955 doubled die cent, the 1943 copper cent is
one of the notable error rarities of the Lincoln cent series. An
estimated 40 examples are believed to have been struck, with 12
confirmed to exist. The error occurred when copper planchets were
left in the press hopper and press machines during the changeover
from copper to steel blanks. Examples were discovered after the
War, with the first two in 1947, and another in 1958. An example
was first sold in 1958 for $40,000; one mint condition specimen
sold for over $200,000 in 2004. Many people have counterfeited the
coin by either copper-plating normal 1943 cents (sometimes as novelties
with no intent to defraud), or altering cents from the period, usually
1945-, 1948-, or 1949-dated coins.
The copper cents differ from their steel counterparts in four ways:
* Genuine 1943 copper cents will not be attracted to a magnet. Copper-plated
steel cents will exhibit a strong magnetic attraction.
* Copper cents weigh 3.11 grams. Steel cents weigh just 2.7 grams.
* The numeral 3 in 1943 has the same long tail as the steel cents.
Alterations from later-dated copper cents will be noticeable when
compared side-by-side with genuine steel cents.
* The quality of the strike is exceptionally sharp, especially around
the rim, because the soft copper planchets were struck with the
same (higher) pressure used for the steel cents.
In a similar error, a few 1944 cents were struck on steel planchets
left over from 1943. There are two explanations given for why
this happened. One explanation is that steel planchets were left
in the press hopper and press machines from the previous year mixed
in with copper planchets. Another explanation credits the error
to the production of 25 million Belgian two franc pieces by the
Philadelphia mint after that country's liberation from the Nazis.
These coins were of the same composition and the same planchets
as the 1943 cents, but they differed slightly in weight.
In all, 1944 steel cents are fewer in number than their 1943 copper
Since many steel cents corroded and became dull soon after entering
circulation, some dealers who sold the coins as novelties improved
their appearance by "reprocessing" – stripping off the
old zinc coating and then replating them. These reprocessed coins
have little or no numismatic value.