Pennies get a bad rap sometimes. Not only are they the least valuable form of American currency, but they’re expensive to make, too: it now costs more than a penny to make one! Yet they can still be special. Besides the fact that they bear the likeness of Abaraham Lincoln—undeniably one of America’s most revered presidents—some of these copper coins are shockingly valuable.
Just take the 1943 copper Lincoln penny. They’re absurdly difficult to find, but if you’re lucky enough to come across one, boy, you’ve hit the jackpot! Why’s that? Well, just take a look… and you might want to check your couch cushions while you’re at it.
Even if you’ve never referred to any of these humble one-cent coins a “Lincoln Penny,” you’re almost certainly familiar with them. That’s because, since 1909, they’ve been widely circulated in the United States.
Through the majority of the 20th century, Lincoln pennies were made almost entirely out of copper, save for 1943. Once the country became embroiled in World War II—and every gram of copper was needed—the U.S. Mint was forced to be creative with its penny production.
As copper became more and more expensive, the U.S. Mint started to cut the amount with various metals, like zinc, tin, or nickel. From 1865 to 1962, pennies still contained a whole lot of copper—about 95 percent—while the rest was comprised of about five percent zinc or tin.
Yet in 1943, during World War II, the government needed more copper for ammunition production. The solution? They needed to temporarily make pennies out of zinc-plated steel, and even, on a handful of occasions, zinc-plated copper (though this seldom happened).
Once World War II was over, the government made a concerted effort to completely remove steel pennies from circulation to bring production back to normal, but some outliers still remained…
Soerfm / Wikimedia Commons
Meanwhile, a small handful of almost-completely copper pennies were made by mistake during the very same period. Because of their rarity, they’re all extremely valuable in the present day!
In 1943, there were two pennies in production: the steel ones, which were temporarily standard; and a handful of copper outliers. So if you have a penny from 1943, it’s likely steel—but if it’s copper, you have a chance to make a fortune! And identifying the difference may be easier than you’d expect…
As recently as September 2010, one of these rare, bronze Lincoln pennies earned its owner $1.7 million at an auction… even though it was originally a normal penny worth just one single cent! Laura Sperber (pictured) was the coin collector who sold it.
So, how do you know if you have a genuine 1943 Lincoln penny? The first part is easy: if you don’t see a genuine 1943 year stamp, then it simply wasn’t produced in 1943 and therefore can’t be a 1943 Lincoln penny! But there’s much more to it than that…
The next part is a little more difficult, as you’ll have to figure out what the penny’s chemical composition is. Luckily, you don’t necessarily need to be a professional chemist to complete this process!
You could start by just taking a good look at your penny. If it seems to be more silver-colored, like quarters, nickels, and dimes are, then it’s probably a steel Lincoln penny—and not very rare.
You might be onto something really special if what you see looks more like the copper-coated pennies you’re more familiar with. Even so, you can’t identify the difference between a steel and copper 1943 Lincoln penny by sight alone. You need a very simple item that you likely already have in your home…
All you’ll need is a magnet for this next part. Why’s that? Well, a steel penny will be magnetic! Any magnet will do: just hold it over the 1943 Lincoln penny, and if it sticks to the magnet, it’s not one of the rare copper pennies.
JD’s Variety Channel / YouTube
Make no mistake: a steel 1943 penny is still a special find. But since billions of them were produced, they’re not nearly as difficult to locate as genuine 1943 Lincoln pennies made of copper, of which only a few dozen were ever made!
A worn-out steel Lincoln penny could be worth somewhere between 20 and 50 cents, while a well-preserved one could be worth as much as $10 and $20. That’s not too shabby, especially considering that these days, ordinary pennies can often feel more useful as quirky art supplies than actual currency!
Obviously, earning $20 from a one-cent penny isn’t a bad deal at all, but it’s still nothing compared to the literal millions of dollars you could earn if you get your hands on a genuine 1943 copper penny.
By this point, you may be wondering if you should shout from the rooftops that you’ve struck rich if you found a penny from 1943 that didn’t stick to the magnet. Hold your horses—don’t get too excited just yet!
Paramount Pictures / YouTube
If you think that you might have a genuine 1943 copper penny in your possession, the best thing to do is to take it to a respected auction house or a certified coin collector yourself to have it appraised.
It’s not advisable to take the penny to an ordinary pawn shop, however, because they’re more than likely not qualified to properly appraise it. This just means that they’ll offer you a lower price than you deserve, and who wants that?
Pawn Stars / YouTube
It may sound like a great deal of work, but if you put in the proper amount of research and effort, you may very well have somewhere around $1.7 million just waiting for you in your pocket! And to think that it was once worth just one cent…
The 1943 copper Lincoln penny is an exceptionally rare find, so don’t fret if you feel the need to check all of your change. If you happen across one, though, get ready to cash in!
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