The ’43 and ’44 Cents

May 5, 2016 by Meridian Coin

It’s that time of year… one of the popular television stations has aired a program talking about the incorrect metal errors of 1943 and 1944.

In 1943, the Lincoln Cent was minted in zinc-plated steel to save copper for shells to be used in the war effort.  A total of 500,000,000 were minted that year, about right for that period of mintage.  They are totally common.  If you have a Lincoln Wheat Cent dated 1943 that is a gray or silvery color, it is almost certainly common.  I have a few in the bargain bin that have been reprocessed (replated) by a telemarketing company I will gladly sell you for $0.10 each (that’s 10 cents).

In 1944, the mint returned to the 95% copper alloy for minting Cents.  In 1944, a total of over 2,000,000,000 Cents were minted.  That makes the coin totally common.  The mint mark does not matter.

1943s are extremely common in grades up to Gem Mint State.  1944s are common in all grades, past Gem Mint State Red.  If you have a bright fresh minty red 1944 or a bright fresh minty silvery 1943, they each might be worth a buck or two.  Generally speaking, the coins we most often see, coins we call “average circulated” are not worth much.

If you have cents like this, they are extremely common.  We will buy them from you if you like!  But they’re not worth much.








I took about 15 seconds to thumb through the giant pile of thousands of Wheat Cents to the side of my desk and come up with these.  If you have a gray 1943 or a brown 1944, they are very common.

What the television program tells you is that in all of the literally billions of cents minted in those two years, there are about two dozen total minted on the incorrect metal.  That would be a 1943 in brown (copper) or a 1944 in steel (gray).  Those are uncommon.  They’re also heavily counterfeited.  We’d have to see them in person to verify their possible authenticity.

To reiterate:
1943 Steel (gray) = common.
1944 Copper (reddish-brown) = common.

1943 Copper (reddish-brown) = rare.
1944 Steel (gray) = rare.

1943 Steel (gray) = common.
1944 Copper (reddish-brown) = common.

Good luck in your treasure hunting!  If you’re ever unsure, you can email us or bring the coins in and we’ll share our expertise with you.


If you’d like a nice piece of interesting American history – a gem Mint State 1943 Steel Wheat, please reach out to us!  These are the kinds of coins we love to work with – beautiful coins with history that can produce a return for the wise collector.  Even Lincoln Wheats can be interesting and exciting.

Also for advanced coin collectors: there are bold OMMs of both types, and non-varietal coins grading 67 and 68 Red and above are probably worth sending in for certification if you plan to keep them in your numismatic holdings.

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We buy & sell rare coins, paper money & collectibles online & at our shop in Torrance, California.