Just as the Jefferson Nickel five-cent coin saw the removal of nickel from its composition in 1942 to preserve the metal for artillery production, so, too, did Lincoln Wheat Penny coins in 1943. Copper was completely eliminated from the denomination’s composition, in favor of a one-year-only type featuring a zinc-plated steel composition. These “steel cents” or “steel Pennies” as they are commonly called, were quite unpopular when they first were released. Today, however, many coin collectors and non-collectors alike regard 1943 Pennies as something of a novelty. What needs to be remembered, though, is that 1943 steel Pennies are not rare – in fact, they are quite common, with more than 1 billion produced across all three mints operating in 1943: Philadelphia, Denver (D), and San Francisco (S).
While 1943 steel Pennies are about as common as any other 1940s Lincoln cent, there is one variety from 1943 that stands out for its rarity: the 1943 bronze Lincoln Wheat Penny. Approximately 30 to 40 1943 Pennies were inadvertently struck on 1942 bronze coin Planchets. This minting error has resulted in a coin that is worth around $100,000 and is currently the most expensive Penny in the realm of coin collecting.
Regular 1943 steel cents, on the other hand, can be had for between 10 cents and $1 each in circulated grades, and for about $3 to $5 in uncirculated grades. There are also “reprocessed” steel Pennies, which are essentially 1943 steel Pennies that had become corroded (due to the rust-prone nature of their steel core) and later stripped of their original zinc coating, and recoated with a fresh layer of zinc. These are numismatically worthless since they are altered coins. Nevertheless, they are a cost-effective alternative to buying uncirculated 1943 Pennies and are popular in the non-numismatic market.
No proof Lincoln cents were made in 1943, nor would any proof coins be struck again by the United States Mint until 1950.