The 1943 Cent — Video Vignettes

ANA Education Director Rod Gillis details common misconceptions surrounding the 1943 cent.

Hello. I’m Education Director at the American Numismatic Association, Rod Gillis, and I’m here today to talk with you about a coin that is very popular. We receive phone calls all the time on this particular coin, and I wanted to spend some time with you today talking about
the coin itself so that we can straighten out any misconceptions that you may have.
The coin that I’m talking to you about is the 1943 cent. The 1943 cent is an interesting coin. It is the only coin that the mint made out
of steel. Now, they made it out of steel back in 1943 because it was during the Second World War and they wanted to save copper for artillery shells. So for one year only, the mint decided to make coins primarily out of steel. Many people believe that this coin is very rare
because being made for only one year. They’ve never seen one before — or they have only seen one or two — and they assume it’s extremely rare. But, I’m here to tell you that between the San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia Mints, in 1943 they made over a billion 1943 steel cents! So, in the world of coin collecting or numismatics, they’re not considered rare at all. We get phone calls all the time from people wondering when they can quit their job and how many hundreds of thousands of dollars are earned by selling their 1943 cent.
There are other problems, or misconceptions, with the coin that I want to make you aware of. There are several people who are willing to pay a lot of money for a 1943 cent, but what they don’t tell you is they’re not interested in the steel cent that we’ve just discussed. They’re interested in a copper variety of that cent.
Now, what happened was at the mint, when they switched over to the steel cents, there were several blanks made of copper — the old copper blanks — and they actually minted a few 1943 cents. We believe a total of about 40 copper 1943 cents were minted, and of those, only twelve or so actually exist. And so they are a particularly rare coin. so what happens is that people get mixed up between the rare copper version of the 1943 cent and the very common steel cent that we’ve spoken about.
Now to make the problem even more difficult, there are examples where people have taken a steel 1943 cent and have layered it with
copper — a thin layer of copper — and when they’ve done this they’ve tried to trick people in thinking that this is the very rare version of the 1943 cent.
How can you be aware of this? Well, all you need to do is use a magnet. If it is a 1943 cent of the common steel variety it will be attracted to a magnet, just like this. If it’s not attracted to a magnet you might be thinking, “well then I’ve hit the jackpot and I’ve got the coin that is very rare and I’m gonna call my boss and quit my job.” Well, before you do that there are a couple of things that you should know.
There’s a possibility that your 1943 cent is really an altered coin. A common way to do this is to take a 1948 cent and change the last digit of the date to make it appear as a 1943 cent. How can you find out if that’s the case? I suggest that you take the coin to your local coin dealer. And, if you need to find a local coin dealer you can find them by going onto our website:
Once you’ve done that, you can take the coin to them and they can put it under a microscope and see if the date has indeed been changed. If it has, of course, it’s an altered coin and it has very little value if any. If they believe that it is the rare version of the coin, most
likely what they’ll want to do next is submit the coin to a third-party grading company who will then authenticate it and encapsulate it.
And, if of course, the coin is the rare 1943 copper cent, you’ll be famous by Friday and you’ll be able to earn a lot of money! However, I want you to know that I’ve been working at the American Numismatic Association for about 13 years now, and I’ve taken a lot of calls. And to my knowledge, not one of the calls that have been made to me concern a 1943 copper cent that was really as it was claimed to be. As a matter of fact, I’d like to think that the chances of you owning a 1943 cent is less than if you won the lottery, shot a hole-in-one, were struck by lightning and met Ringo Starr in a bowling alley all in one day. The chances of that happening are extremely rare, and so is the chance of you are owning a 1943 copper cent!
So, just to recap, 1943 cents were made out of steel. They have a particular color to them. They’re silver looking. These are not rare coins at all. Over a billion of them were made. Number two, there are examples, but there are very few rare examples, of 1943 copper cents. There are lots of ways in which people have tried to masquerade ’43 steel cents to appear as 1943 copper cents, and all you need to do is use a magnet to see if the coin is indeed a copper cent or not. And even if it is a copper cent, there’s a good chance that the date on that coin has been altered.
Go to your local coin dealer and they will be able to set you straight.
This is Rod Gillis, Education Director at the American Numismatic Association, wishing you happy collecting.
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