The Rare 1943 Copper Penny (& Why It’s Worth So Much)

Published June 18, 2020
1943 CENT Struck on a Bronze Planchet

At the time when the 1943 copper penny was struck, the US Mint was making almost all pennies out of zinc and steel. The copper was supposed to be saved for the war effort during World War II, but a chance mistake resulted in a few pennies being struck in copper. Only about 10-15 of these collectible coins still exist, making the 1943 copper penny one of the most valuable old pennies in existence.

The Story of the 1943 Copper Penny

In 1943, the United States was embroiled in World War II. All spare copper was required for the war effort, where it was used in wiring for electronics and airplanes and for other important tasks. When it came time to strike the 1943 penny, mints transitioned to steel blanks and coated the pennies in zinc. However coin experts believe that some copper blanks may have been left in the coin stamping machinery from the previous run, leading to a few 1943 pennies being struck from copper. For many years, the existence of these coins was in doubt, but collectors eventually found a few examples. The pennies became legendary, and everyone from school children to serious collectors began to seek them out. There was even a false rumor that Henry Ford would give a new car to anyone who came in with a 1943 copper penny. Today, those pennies are incredibly valuable.

1943 CENT Struck on a Bronze Planchet

1943 Copper Penny Value

The 1943 copper penny is near the top of every collector's list. Like all valuable rare coins, condition is a factor in how much the penny is worth. However, because the coin is so rare, all 1943 copper pennies are extremely valuable. According to Heritage Auctions, these rare coins regularly fetch thousands of dollars at auction. Here are a few notable sale prices for the 1943 copper penny:

  • An example with some "unfortunate test cuts" in its surface sold for $60,375 in 1987.
  • A 1943 copper penny found by a 14-year-old boy in 1957 sold for $40,000 two years later in 1959. In 2012, the same coin sold for $97,750.
  • In 2019, a 1943 copper penny owned by a man who got it from his school cafeteria in the 1940s sold for $204,000.
  • In 2014, a very fine example of the 1943 copper penny sold for $327,000 at auction.

How to Identify a Real 1943 Copper Penny

Because the 1943 copper penny is so valuable, it's often faked. According to CoinTrackers, one trick is to file down the 8 on the 1948 penny to make it look like a 3. Another is to copper plate a steel penny from the same year. If you're lucky enough to encounter what may be a 1943 copper penny, there are some ways you can decide whether it's real:

  • Use a magnifying glass to examine the 3 in the 1943. If the edges look abraded, it may be a filed down 8.
  • Discover whether a penny is copper-plated steel by holding it to a magnet. If it's really copper, it won't stick.
  • Have the coin appraised by a professional. A coin this valuable should be properly insured.

Not the Only Valuable Penny

Believe it or not, the 1943 copper penny isn't the only penny that's worth way more than a cent. Learn how to find the value of old pennies so you can see if your pocket change might just change your life.

The Rare 1943 Copper Penny (& Why It’s Worth So Much)