What is a Silver Penny?

Man climbing a rope

A silver cent is a type of penny that was minted in the United States in 1943. Silver cents were not actually made of silver, but rather steel that had been finely coated with zinc. For a collector’s item, these coins are relatively common and easily found in coin stores, although it is rare to accidentally find a silver coin still in circulation.

The 1943 silver coin was minted in steel instead of the usual copper. This was due to the growing need to dedicate all available copper to the military during World War II. Military forces needed copper for use in munitions and other wartime applications, and the silver penny was only part of the plan to conserve copper for the war effort.

Despite the patriotic motivation for this change, the results included some unforeseen problems. Steel darkens even faster than copper, due to its high iron content. Rust also formed on the edges of the coin, quickly deteriorating them. Perhaps the most annoying problem was that the new silver coins could easily be mistaken for coins when giving or receiving change for a purchase, due to their color and also their lighter weight compared to copper coins.

The public outcry that resulted from these problems led the United States Mint to stop producing the silver penny after just one year, although there were also some 1944 silver cents earned before the transition was completed. A large number of 1943 cents were collected by mints and destroyed, meaning those that have survived can be collected. A circulating 1943 silver cent is worth around $0.12 to $0.15 US Dollars (USD), while one in new, uncirculated condition is worth around $0.50 USD.

See also  What is an insurance premium? (with photos)

The few 1944 silver cents that were made are sometimes considered to have been minted by mistake, and in any case are much rarer than the 1943 variety and can be priced significantly higher. Because of another similar mistake, some of the coins made in 1943 were minted in copper instead of steel. Like the 1944 silver penny, the 1943 copper penny is quite rare, with fewer than 50 ever made and only about a dozen of them located. One of these coins, still in new condition, was sold at auction for over $200,000 USD in 2004.

In light of such prices, many examples of forgery were made by bathing 1943 pennies in copper. This was also sometimes done to produce innovative items rather than an attempt at fraud. Anyway, the best method to tell a copper penny from a copper-plated steel one is easy; steel is attracted to a magnet, while copper is not.

Leave a Comment