I started collecting coins about 8 or 9 years ago. I was standing in a convenience store, waiting to pay for a soda. I started looking through my change. I noticed that one of the pennies was from 1943. I thought to myself “Hey, I wonder what was going on when this coin was made.” World War II came to mind. I paid for my soda, spending that penny. A couple days later, a man was interviewed on the radio. He said that he had “lost” a 1943 penny and that it was in general circulation. He said that it was worth about $50,000. Now, there are some problems with his story. Not many people “lose” very expensive coins. Valuable coins are usually kept in airtight containers, in cases. I did find a 1943 penny, and I did hear the interview a couple days later.
Anyway, a 1942 penny is just a curiosity. This one’s worth about 15 cents. What makes the 1943 penny so different has to do with World War II. At the end of the 1942 production run, the government decided to change the makeup of the 1943 penny. Instead of using a copper mix, they used steel for that year. Copper was in high demand to make shell casings, etc.
The production line was loaded with steel blanks, but the machine itself still had something like 30 or 40 copper blanks left in it from the 1942 year. Rarity equates to value in the coin world, so 30-40 of any kind of coin means they’re worth a bundle. Steel was only used for one year. Citizens understandably disliked the gray penny, and the Mint returned to copper blanks in 1944. Steel pennies rust, so they eventually get a coppery patina on them. Maybe I just found a rusty steel penny, maybe it really was copper. Who knows?
Most steel pennies aren’t worth much. this one’s worth about… 15 cents. I keep it in an airtight case because I like the 1943 penny (wonder why? 🙂 ) The Mint changed the obverse design in 1959. Here are the two designs, pre-1959 on the left, the modern design on the right:
Now, if you’re really paying attention, you’ll notice that the coin on the right was struck using the wrong die. Instead of using the normal production die, this coin was struck with the Proof die. Proof dies are normally only used in the San Fransisco Mint for special coin runs meant for collectors. In 2000, one of the proof dies escaped and wound up in the Philadelphia Mint, resulting in a short run of pennies with the wrong obverse. You can only tell the difference by comparing the space between the A and M in America, and the proximity of the FG to the Lincoln Memorial. In good condition, this coin is worth something like $50. Mine is pretty banged up, so it’s worth much less. That’s ok, I like the idea of having a rarish coin. Rarity means value… and not just monetary value 😉