This steel cent is slabbed in an ANACS holder and graded MS61. I note some areas of corrosion on the obverse at 1:00 and on the reverse at 2:00, 4:00, and 5:30. The grade seems a bit higher than I would give this coin, but the zinc coating was highly susceptible to tarnish & this coin has beautiful, reflective surfaces that come out quite harshly in my photographs.
The obverse shows President Abraham Lincoln in profile to the right. The legend “In god we trust” is written in raised letters from 10:00 to 2:00. The motto “Liberty” is to the left of Lincoln, in line with the back of his neck and his beard. The date is to the right of Lincoln’s bowtie and the mint mark (when present) is under the date.
The reverse shows two sheaves of wheat on either side of the denomination and country of origin “ONE / CENT / United States of America”. The legend “E Pluribus Unum” is written from 10:00 to 2:00 (Latin for “Out of many, one”).
Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 191,550,000 (17.51% of the total minted that year & for also 17.51% minted of this type – there were so few 1944 or other dated specimens that it doesn’t affect the percentages)
Country of origin: United States
Composition: Steel coated with Zinc (approximately 90% steel)
Size: 19 mm
Weight: 2.70 grams (0.095 oz)
Other details: 1943 was the only year that ‘steelies’ (aka Type II Wheat Pennies) were minted. Due to wartime rationing, the mint was asked to find an alternative to copper for the small cent. Switching to steel and zinc saved approximately 113,996,497 troy ounces of copper (~9.5 million troy pounds): that’s a lot of shell casings and electrical wires.
At the time, steel pennies were not very popular. They were easy to mistake for dimes, and they tarnished quickly. When exposed to salt water, the surface of the coin disappeared under a white powdery coating of oxidation. The coins were also very tough on mint machinery (since steel is much harder to press than copper) – they wore out dies very quickly, which increased their production cost and also created many error varieties from cracked or unevenly worn dies.
This penny is a minor error variety; a Double Die Reverse (DDR). There is minor doubling on the reverse, most notable around the legend.
There are about forty 1943 lincoln cents that were accidentally struck on copper planchets. These coins are very rare, but they are also heavily counterfeited. A steel cent that has been dipped to look like copper is easy to detect – simply check to see if it is magnetic (steel is, copper isn’t).
Estimated Value: $10-20