1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent: PCGS Coin of the Month

1943 Bronze Lincoln cent obverse, PCGS AU50BN. Courtesy of Professional Coin Grading Service TrueView.

The 1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent, PCGS AU50BN is the Professional Grading Service’s (PCGS) Coin of the Month.

The 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent may be the “holy grail” for enthusiasts of this enduring penny series. Still, there are a handful of pieces that are rarer than this much-celebrated first-year key date from the San Francisco Mint and bearing the initials of designer Victor David Brenner. The rarest of them all is the 1943 bronze Lincoln cent, an enigmatic transitional rarity borne from a most exciting of mint errors. World War II was raging in 1943, and Allied Forces needed a variety of materials to help ensure victory overseas. Among these precious resources was copper, which was instrumental in making ammunition shell casings.

Making Lincoln Cents

1943 Bronze Lincoln cent reverse, PCGS AU50BN. Courtesy of Professional Coin Grading Service TrueView.

The U.S. Mint began making 1943 Lincoln cents with a zinc-coated steel composition that conserved copper for the war effort. More than 1 billion steel cents were produced as planned, eschewing the traditional 95% copper, 5% tin and zinc format that had been in use for decades. However, some of the planchets with the original bronze composition somehow remained in the hoppers and were struck by the 1943-dated dies. No exact number is known, but it is believed that about two or three dozen of these bronze 1943 Lincoln cents were struck, and they are extremely rare.

Many folks outside the hobby have “heard” about these 1943 cents from one source or another and have come to believe that all 1943 cents are rare, with the steel version by far being the most common and frequently encountered. There are folks finding these coins just about every day and believing they have struck it rich because they located a 1943 steel cent, when in fact steel cents – while novel in appearance – are quite common and worth less than a dollar in circulated condition. One can determine whether they have one of the rare 1943 bronze cents by trying to pick it up with a magnet. If the coin does stick, it’s made with steel and is common. If it does not adhere to the magnet, it may be a rare bronze cent and should be further verified for authenticity.

Impressive Sales

One 1943 bronze Lincoln cent certainly proved its mettle when its metal tested not to be steel. Graded About Uncirculated-50, it’s a lightly circulated beauty boasting a gorgeous original patina and incredible eye appeal. It was offered by GreatCollections in January 2022 and managed to score a grand sum of $250,875 to become one of the few Lincoln cents ever to sell north of $100,000.

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