Rare 1943 Penny Sells for Six Figures: How To Tell If You Have One Too

Did you see the famous 1943 Bronze Discovery Cent, found by a teenager in the 1940s, in the news recently? Perhaps you noticed this on television, online, or even heard about it on the radio. Heritage Auctions sold this piece recently for $204,000 in January 2019, which resulted in significant excitement from collectors and the public alike.

1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent, AU53 Legendary Off-Metal Planchet Error The Discovery Coin

1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent, AU53
Legendary Off-Metal Planchet Error
The Discovery Coin
Sold for: $204,000.00

Such exciting news always results in a flurry of hopeful people scouring their change, hoping to find the winning coin. If you would like to know how to tell if your 1943 Cent is valuable, gather your change jar, and let’s begin.

Before we go into how to authenticate your 1943 Bronze Cent, it is important to know about the two types of Lincoln Cents minted that year. During World War II, a major copper shortage occurred. The US Mint responded by using zinc-coated steel to produce cents for change. Not only was the composition changed to a whitish-colored metal for just one year, but enormous quantities were produced! The San Francisco Mint minted 191,550,000 coins, Denver made 217,660,000, and Philadelphia produced 84,628,670. As you might notice from these figures, 1943 steel cents, in general, are very, very common.

While the steel version is so easy to locate, it is the bronze version which became rare when it was produced in error. While there was no official record of any copper (bronze) cents being made that year, a few were accidentally struck when some remaining coin blanks from the prior year remained in the bins at the Mint alongside the new steel planchets. Approximately 10 to 20 pieces are believed to exist today, making these pieces both rare and valuable to collectors.

The easiest way to determine whether or not your 1943 Cent has collectible value—to see if it is possibly bronze rather than steel—is simply to test it with a magnet. If the coin is magnetic, then it is, unfortunately, the common steel version and is not valuable in most cases.

However, if your 1943 Cent does NOT stick to a magnet, this coin may possibly be genuine and should be researched further. While not sticking to a magnet is a very good sign, unfortunately, this is not a guarantee that the 1943-dated piece is a genuine bronze example from that year. Over the years, many tricksters and counterfeiters have either created entirely fake pieces or have altered the dates of other cents—such as engraving a 1948 to look like a 1943—in order to fool collectors.

The best thing to do if you feel confident that your coin has an unaltered date and is not magnetic would be to send clear and detailed images to our coin experts here at Heritage for review. We may suggest having the coin authenticated by a grading service, such as PCGS or NGC, to determine the coin’s authenticity for certain.

While finding a genuine 1943 Bronze Cent is a rare case, some collectors over the years have been lucky! Even if you do not have success, you may have fun and learn something in the process. Keep up the search, and let us know if you find something promising.

Posted by Sarah Miller

Director of Numismatics, New York

  1. Patricia Bernard February 5, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I have 3 1943 penny, how can I tell if I have the right one.


    1. Hi Patricia,
      Thank you for your comment! if you are interested in learning more about your coins, interested in selling, or would like to receive a free auction evaluation, please:
      – Submit a free auction evaluation: https://www.ha.com/common/acquisitions.php?target=auctionevaluation&type=social-cs-Facebookfreeeval-
      – Or email our expert Bob Marino directly: bobmarino@ha.com
      Thank you,
      Heritage Auctions


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