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Monday, January 19, 2015

A Steel Penny?

The 1943 steel cent, also know as a steel war penny or steelie, was a variety of the U.S. one-cent coin which was struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper. It used the same design that Victor David Brenner had made in 1909 for the copper Lincoln cent.


Due to wartime needs of copper for use in ammunition and other military equipment during World War II, the United States Mint researched various ways to limit dependence and meet conservation goals on copper usage. After trying out several substitutes (ranging from other metals to plastics) to replace the then-standard bronze alloy, the one-cent coin was minted in zinc-coated steel. This alloy caused the new coins to be magnetic and 13% lighter. They were struck at all three mints:Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. As with the bronze cents, coins from the latter two sites have respectively "D" and "S" mint marks below the date.

However, problems began to arise from the mintage. Freshly minted, they were often mistaken for dimes. Magnets in vending machines (which took copper cents) placed to pick up steel slugs also picked up the legitimate steel cents. Because the galvanization process didn't cover the edges of the coins, sweat would quickly rust the metal. After public outcry, the Mint developed a process whereby salvaged brass shell casings were augmented with pure copper to produce an alloy close to the 1941 - 42 composition. This was used for 1944 - 46-dated cents, after which the pre-war composition was resumed. Although they continued to circulate into the 1960's, the mint collected large numbers of the 1943 cents and destroyed them.

The steel cent is the only regular-issue United States coin that can be picked up with a magnet. The steel cent was also the only coin issued by the United States for circulation that does not contain any copper. (Even U.S. gold coins at various times contained from slightly over 2% copper to an eventual standard 10% copper)

Looking for one for your collection? Stop in and check out our collection of coins at KMG GOLD.

Posted by Mike Gupton at 12:00 AM 0 Comments