If you have a 1943 steel penny, you may think it’s worth quite a bit. This coin has a unique history that sets it apart from every other penny made before it. The US Mint decided to replace copper in pennies with zinc-coated steel during World War II because the country was running low on this essential metal needed for military munitions and shell casings. While this decision wasn’t popular at the time, it was a necessary one for the nation.
When the zinc-coated steel replaced copper in the coin, a few blanks from a different metal accidentally made their way into the hoppers and were struck by the die. This caused an off-center double die strike which is why a few 1943 steel wheat pennies have an indented appearance. The double die struck 1943 copper / steel penny is one of the most valuable errors in United States coins.
While most 1943 copper / steel pennies aren’t worth much more than their face value of one cent, there are a few examples that are highly collectible and can fetch $10,000 or more at auction. It’s believed that these rare error coins were created when some leftover 1942 copper planchets got caught in the crevices of large totes that moved the blank planchets around the mint facility. Eventually, the totes would get fed into the coining presses at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints where the 1943 steel pennies were struck.