Since copper had become a scarce and strategic metal during World War II, the composition of the cent was altered. The 1943 Steel Cents (Buy on eBay) would be struck in zinc plated steel, rather than the usual 95% copper. The so-called “steelies” represent an intriguing issue of the Lincoln Cent series, although the composition change ultimately proved to be a failure.
The Steel Cents experienced numerous problems within circulation. The new cents were sometimes confused with dimes due to the similar color. Some vending machines had problems with the new cents since they could be picked up by a magnet. Finally, since the zinc coating did not cover the edges of the coins, they were susceptible to rust and corrosion in moist or wet environments.
The 1943 Steel Cents were struck in large numbers with mintages of 684,628,670 in Philadelphia, 217,660,000 in Denver, and 191,550,000 in San Francisco. After only a single year, the steel composition was abandoned when Mint was able to resume the copper-based composition by using salvaged bullet casings to augment their copper supply.
The composition change did result in the creation of some rare error coins. The 1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent was created when some planchets with the previous composition accidentally made their way into the press machines. This error has been identified in small numbers for each of the three mint facilities. Counterfeits do exist, however most can be easily identified by checking if the coin will stick to a magnet.
- Designer: Victor D. Brenner
- Composition: Steel Coated with Zinc
- Weight: 2.70 grams
- Diameter: 19 mm
- Edge: Plain