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The Truth About 1943 Steel and Bronze Copper Wheat Penny Values

1943 Bronze Wheat Penny Value and Information

The top left image shows the common 1943 penny made of zinc and steel.  The top right image shows a common steel cent that someone has coated to make it appear bronze.  The bottom left image is a 1948 wheat cent that has had the 8 in 1948 altered to look like a 3.  And the bottom right image is the rare and authentic 1943 bronze wheat penny.

There is perhaps no other coin in American history that is more discussed and has broken more hearts than the 1943 penny.  There are a couple of big pieces of misinformation floating around that cause this to be a misunderstood coin.  The first thing to address is that 1943 steel cents are not at all rare.  A quick glance at eBay shows where uncirculated BU rolls of 50 1943 steel pennies are only selling for $50 to $100 per roll.  So we are talking about mint state steel wheat back cents only being worth $1 to $2 each.  People don’t like to believe something so old could have so little value, but it is true.  People are also much too willing to accept that any piece of metal that is brown, says 1943, and looks like a wheat cent has to be an authentic 1943 bronze or copper penny.  There are only about a dozen authentic 1943 bronze cents that have been documented.  Here is how to determine if your coin is worth $1 or $100,000.

Even a small magnet will easily stick to any 1943 penny made of steel.

Step1:  Use The Magnet Test
Before you read a dozen articles, go to five coin shops, and watch a bunch of youtube videos, just do the magnet test.  It is as easy as this.  If your 1943 penny sticks to a magnet then it is made of steel.  If it does not stick to a magnet then it is made of something else.  I hear what you are saying right now.  “My penny isn’t silver; it’s brown, so I know it isn’t steel.”  Sadly, there are many ways to physically and chemically change the look of steel so that it has that brown bronze copper color.  Bottom line is, if it sticks to a magnet then you don’t have the rare version.  Sorry.  And don’t celebrate just yet if it passes the magnet test.  Keep reading to learn the next devastating reality about 1943 pennies.

Step2:  See If The Penny Has Had Its Date Altered To 1943
It was probably five minutes after people figured out that 1943 copper cents were valuable that someone went to his garage and changed a 1948 to look like a 1943.  This is a very easy diagnostic to spot though.  The bottom of the 3 on authentic examples is sharp and angled closer to 8:00.  The coins that have been altered will have a three that is more rounded, considerably shorter, and points at about 9:00.

Step3:  It Doesn’t Stick and the Three Hasn’t Been Altered, Now What?
99% of the time the magnet test and 3 test will expose 1943 bronze copper cents as being colored steel pennies or authentic 1948 pennies with altered numbers.  If you have made it this far then you are closer to the money, but don’t spend it just yet.  There are still thousands of modern fakes coming out of China and other places.  These counterfeiters know the diagnostics of a fake and they are very good at making convincing versions that pass the magnet and weight test.  So at this point the best thing to do is to take your coin to a dealer who can send it to NGC or PCGS for you.  These two grading services can definitively tell you if the coins are authentic.  Once they are confirmed as authentic then it will be very easy to get tens of thousands of dollars, or maybe even $100,000 or more.  It all just depends on the condition.

Consider This Information:
There were more than 1 BILLION 1943 steel wheat back cents minted.  Collectors knew at least as early as 1944 that some authentic 1943 bronze pennies were minted and released into circulation.  So for more than 70 years collectors, dealers, and the general public have been looking for 1943 bronze wheat cents and yet only about 20 from all mints have been found.  So while it is absolutely possible that a couple more could be out there waiting to be found, the odds of an authentic 1943 bronze cent being found at the flea market or in an uncle’s blue collector folder is virtually 0%.  However, it never hurts to keep looking!