A rare bronze penny sold for $204K recently, below the $1 million+ experts expected. This rare coin is the result of an accident, one of only about 10 to 20 minted in 1943 with copper metal amid US copper shortages that year. The U.S. Mint struck its first 100% copper one-cent coins—then the size of today’s half-dollars—in 1793, and there have been several changes to these coins since.
During World War II there were copper shortages because copper was being used for shell casings and wire for the war. Thus, pennies minted were switched to zinc coated low-grade steel. These “steelies,” pennies from 1943, are still around today, though they are only worth at most about 50 cents. In contrast, a few pennies that look normal from 1943 are quite valuable as they were accidental.
… rare 1943 bronze Lincoln penny has sold for more than $200,000 at a Florida auction. Heritage Auctions says more than 30 people bid on the rare coin Thursday night. Only 10 to 15 of these pennies, mistakenly minted in bronze instead of steel, are believed to exist. They were made at a time when bronze and copper were being saved to fill metal shortages during World War II.
Previous news about this:
A rare Lincoln-head penny a Massachusetts teenager received in change for his school lunch is up for auction with a starting bid of $100,000.
Heritage Auctions said the 1943 penny, one of only about 20 to be pressed using bronze instead of the steel amid World War II shortages, came into the possession of 16-year-old coin collector Don Lutes, Jr., when he received it in change for his school lunch in 1947 … Lutes, who had the coin authenticated in 1958 by expert Walter Breen during a New England Numismatic Association convention in Worcester, died in September of last year and the coin was given to Heritage to auction off. … The auction, which ends Thursday, began with an opening bid of $100,000. A similar 1943 bronze penny sold for $1.7 million in 2010.
Copper was a strategic metal in 1943 and a major component used in the manufacture of shell casings, telephone wire, and other wartime necessities. To conserve this important resource, the Treasury Department authorized the U.S. Mint to strike all 1943 Lincoln cents on zinc-coated steel planchets, rather than the familiar “copper” blanks of previous years. The white-colored “steelies” were produced in large numbers and were often seen in circulation until collectors culled out the survivors in the collecting boom of the 1950s and ’60s. However, rumors of extremely rare 1943 “copper pennies” began to circulate almost as soon as the wartime issues were released. …
The copper content of U.S. pennies has declined over the years due to rising prices. The expensive metal makes up just 2.5 percent of one-cent pieces minted in 1982 or later; nickels, dimes and quarters, on the other hand, are mainly composed of copper. Still, today’s pennies cost more than their face value—an estimated 1.8 cents each—to produce. …
In the 1980s, U.S. military bases overseas abolished the penny and began rounding all transactions up or down to the nearest five cents.
Does it really cost more to make a penny than the value of the penny?
… yes, the coin’s face value is less than its actual value, because it actually costs 2.41¢ US ($0.0241 US Dollars (USD) to be exact) to make each penny. The face value of this coin was exceeded by it’s cost for the first time in 2006. …The parts that are having the biggest impact on the final cost of making a penny are the materials that are used to make it. Pennies have that distinctive coppery color because they contain 2.5% copper. The other material used is zinc, 97.5% of a penny. The cost of metal extraction is much higher than in the past, because of all the new regulations of mining. This has made the prices of the metals used to make a penny rise dramatically in the early 21st century.
Here is why the 1943 copper penny is so valuable:
If your 1943 penny is made out copper, it is worth quite a bit of money, generally $10,000 or more! The reason is that the 1943 copper penny is an error coin. The United States Mint accidentally used the wrong kind of planchet metal when striking the coin. But very, very few of these left the U.S. Mint facilities. These error coins were not intentional. Some copper planchets left over from the previous year got stuck in the corners of the gigantic bins that moved the blank planchets around the mint.
1943 steel cents are U.S. one-cent coins that were struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper. The Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints each produced these 1943 Lincoln cents. The unique composition of the coin (low-grade steel coated with zinc, instead of the previously 95%-copper-based bronze composition) has led to various nicknames, such as wartime cent, steel war penny, and steelie. The 1943 steel cent features the same Victor David Brenner design for the Lincoln cent which had been in use since 1909.
According to one source, in 1944 they went back to copper pennies, so if you find a 1944 penny that is steel, it could be worth something. Another source says pennies went back to their pre-war composition in 1946. People were getting them confused with dimes, for one.
What are pennies made of today? Mostly copper coated zinc.
All pennies minted after 1983 have a zinc core covered by copper. – vrcc
Here’s how the US penny composition has changed over time:
1793-1837 – Pure copper.
1837-1857 – Bronze (95% copper, 5% mixture of tin and zinc).
1857-1863 – 88% copper, 12% nickel.
1864-1962 – 95% copper, 5% zinc (Trace amounts of tin).*
1962-part of 1982 – 95% copper, 5% zinc (No tin).
part of 1982-present – 97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper (Copper plated: Inclusive of bicentennial 2009 cent and Union Shield cent).**
Watch out for fake 1943 copper pennies, however, of which there are thousands.
… it is also worth noting that because of the worth of these coins, there are thousands of fakes. Disreputable dealers are taking a 1948 copper penny and filing the 8 down to make a 3.
… zinc-plated steel coins of 1943 tarnished in damp conditions, so public complaints led to the quick discontinuation of that composition.
The pennies went back to their pre-World War II composition in 1946, so some may try to file down the ‘8’ in 1948 minted coins to make it look like a ‘3.’
All in all, is it worth your time to check your US pennies for the possible copper 1943 $200,000 winner? Highly unlikely, but possible.
There are a “few hundred billion” pennies in circulation with 4 to 8 billion new cents struck each year. You’d have much better odds of winning that much at a casino.
Here’s an example of how to win $100K gambling: Bet $163.27 on a single number at a roulette wheel and let it ride if you win. If you win twice in a row you will have just over $200,000. (163.27*35*35= 200,005.75 with the payout at 1 to 35 in the US and UK.)
The odds of winning this way are 1 : 1444 (38*38) if the wheel is fair. Hitting the same number twice at an active table happens usually at least once per day, according to the Wizard of Vegas. In case you were curious, it would cost $235,761.88 to bet $163.27 the 1,444 times to probably win $200,005.75. Finding a copper 1943 penny is less likely, but it costs nothing to look if you have pennies.