Discovering What Steel Penny is Worth the Most: The Ultimate Guide

If you’re a collector of rare coins, you’ve probably heard of the steel penny. These were produced during World War II due to a shortage of copper, and were only made for one year – 1943. While they may not seem like they would be worth much, some steel pennies have fetched tens of thousands of dollars at auction.

So what makes a steel penny valuable? It all comes down to the mint mark and the condition of the coin. Many of the steel pennies produced in 1943 featured the “D” mint mark, indicating they were struck in Denver. However, there were also a few produced with an “S” mint mark, indicating they were produced in San Francisco. These San Francisco minted coins are significantly more rare, and thus more valuable.

Of course, condition is also a major factor in determining the value of a steel penny. Any damage to the coin, such as scratches or nicks, can greatly reduce its worth. On the other hand, a perfectly preserved steel penny with no issues can fetch a pretty penny (pun intended). So if you happen to come across a steel penny in good condition with the elusive “S” mint mark, you could be looking at a valuable addition to your collection.

History of Steel Pennies

Steel pennies, also known as wartime pennies, were produced during World War II when copper was in high demand for the war effort. The United States Mint made the decision to switch to zinc-coated steel for the penny to conserve copper. The steel penny was only produced in 1943 and was distinct from the traditional copper penny, leaving many collectors and enthusiasts fascinated by their history and rarity.

  • Steel pennies were only made in 1943 due to the metal shortage during World War II.
  • Over 1 billion steel pennies were produced, making them far less rare than some other coins.
  • Due to their zinc coating, many steel pennies have rust damage or discoloration, which affects their value.

While most steel pennies are not worth much, some can be valuable if they are in excellent condition and have a unique provenance. The most valuable steel pennies are those that were made in rare varieties or minted in error. One example is the 1943 copper penny, of which only 15 are known to exist. These pennies were made in small numbers due to an error at the mint, which makes them highly sought after by collectors.

Year and Mint Mark Average Circulated Value Uncirculated Value
1943 $0.10 – $1.50 $9 – $15
1943-D $0.10 – $1.50 $10 – $18
1943-S $0.10 – $1.50 $10 – $18

Overall, steel pennies have an intriguing place in numismatic history due to their production during a tumultuous period of time. While most steel pennies are not worth much, their historical significance and unique qualities make them a fascinating addition to any coin collection.

Factors Affecting Steel Penny Value

Steel pennies were minted for one year only, 1943, because of the shortage of copper during World War II. The steel penny is composed of zinc-coated steel, which means it is highly susceptible to rust and discoloration. However, some steel pennies are worth more because of the following factors:


  • The condition of the steel penny is essential in determining its value. Steel pennies that show minimal signs of wear and tear tend to be more valuable than those that are heavily damaged or corroded.
  • Coin grading systems are used to assess a coin’s condition, and professionals grade steel pennies on their luster, overall appearance, and wear. Steel pennies that are graded MS-67 or higher are considered highly desirable and can be worth significantly more than lower graded coins.
  • Cleaned or altered steel pennies, which are pennies that have been modified from their original state, are not as valuable because they no longer have their original luster and surface appearance.


The history and origin of a steel penny can significantly impact its value. If a steel penny has a unique backstory or was previously owned by a notable individual, it can increase its value. For example, a steel penny found in a particular location or a steel penny owned by a famous collector can add significant value to the coin.

Rarity and Mint Marks

The rarity of a steel penny is another crucial factor in its value. Certain mint marks and dates are rare and highly sought after by collectors. For example, steel pennies with the mint mark “S,” indicating they were minted in San Francisco, are much rarer than those minted in Philadelphia or Denver.

Mint Mark Mintage Number
S 191,550,000
P 684,628,670
D 217,660,000

Steel pennies with lower mintage numbers, such as those with the “S” mint mark, are valued higher by collectors because they are harder to find.

Different Grades of Steel Pennies

When it comes to determining the value of a steel penny, one major factor is the grade of the coin. Different grades can significantly impact a coin’s worth, and collectors take great care in identifying and grading the coins they collect.

Here are the different grades of steel pennies:

  • Uncirculated: These are coins that have never been used in commerce. They are in pristine condition, with no signs of wear and tear. Uncirculated steel pennies can fetch a high price, especially if they have strong luster and no surface issues.
  • Extremely Fine: These coins have slight evidence of wear, but they still retain most of their original detail and luster. Extremely fine steel pennies may have some minor scratches or contact marks, but they are still considered to be in excellent condition overall.
  • Very Fine: These coins have some moderate wear, but they still have clear images and lettering. Very fine steel pennies may have some surface scratches or other signs of use, but they are still considered to be in good condition.
  • Fine: These coins have significant wear, with some flattening on the high points of the design. Fine steel pennies may have some smoothing of the details and may be duller in appearance than other grades.
  • Very Good: These coins have even more wear than fine steel pennies, with a noticeable flattening of details and lettering. Very good steel pennies may have some smoothing on the fields and may show signs of discoloration or staining.
  • Good: These coins have heavy wear, with much of the design worn away. Good steel pennies may still be recognizable, but they often have significant smoothing of the surfaces and may have lost some of their original detail.

It is important to note that these grades are subjective and can vary depending on the individual collector or appraiser. Some coins may be given a plus or minus designation to indicate that they are slightly better or worse than the typical grade for that category.

In addition to the grade of the coin, other factors can also affect its value, including rarity, mint mark, and errors or varieties. Collectors should carefully consider all of these factors when buying or selling steel pennies.

Top 10 Most Valuable Steel Pennies

Steel pennies are a fascinating piece of United States currency history. The year 1943 marks a significant event in American coinage when the U.S. Treasury had to explore an alternative to copper for pennies due to a shortage during World War II. Steel pennies were born and were created by using a zinc-coated steel alloy. The coins were only minted for one year, making them a unique and highly sought after collector’s item. Here we discuss the top 10 most valuable steel pennies.

  • 1943 Copper Penny – The 1943 copper penny is one of the most valuable coins in the world. Some were mistakenly struck in copper instead of steel. Only around 20 of these coins exist and one even sold for $1.7 million at an auction.
  • 1943-D Bronze Penny – This penny has a unique and interesting backstory, as it was originally made in bronze instead of the zinc-coated steel alloy. Only a few of these pennies exist as the U.S. Mint quickly caught the mistake and replaced the bronze ones with the steel ones.
  • 1943-S Bronze Penny – Similar to the 1943-D bronze penny, a small number of these were mistakenly minted in bronze instead of the steel alloy. One example of this penny sold for $1 million at an auction in 2010.
  • 1943-D Steel Penny with a Double Die – This penny has a noticeable double die mark, meaning that the design was stamped twice on the coin. Only a few were found in circulation, making them highly prized among collectors.
  • 1943-S Steel Penny with a Double Die – Similarly to the 1943-D with a double die, this steel penny also has a noticeable double die mark on the coin. It’s considered one of the rarest steel pennies in existence.
  • 1943-S Steel Penny – Though relatively common compared to the other steel pennies on the list, the 1943-S steel penny is still a valuable collector’s item. It can fetch up to $85,000 at an auction.
  • 1943 Steel Penny with an Error – This penny has an error that causes the number 4 in 1943 to appear as a 1. The rarity of this penny has made it a highly desirable collector’s item.
  • 1943 Steel Penny with Double Mintmark – This steel penny has two “D” mintmarks stamped on it, making it a highly unique and desirable coin among collectors.
  • 1943 Steel Penny with a Repunched Mintmark – This penny is unique due to having an extra “D” stamped on it instead of being a double mintmark. It’s a widely recognized error that can increase its value significantly.
  • 1943 Steel Penny in Mint Condition – Though not necessarily an error or a rarity, a 1943 steel penny in mint condition is still highly valuable to collectors. It can fetch up to $20,000 at an auction.

The Value of Steel Pennies

As mentioned, the rarity, uniqueness, and error history of steel pennies make them a highly prized collector’s item for all types of coin enthusiasts. The value of these coins can range anywhere from a few hundred to well over a million dollars, depending on the coin’s rarity and its overall condition. It’s crucial to have your steel pennies professionally graded and authenticated by a reputable dealer or third-party grading service before attempting to sell them to ensure you get the best price possible.

Coins Values
1943 Copper Penny $1.7 million
1943-D Bronze Penny $100,000
1943-S Bronze Penny $1 million+
1943 Steel Penny with a Double Die $25,000+
1943-S Steel Penny with a Double Die $50,000+
1943-S Steel Penny $85,000
1943 Steel Penny with an Error $150+
1943 Steel Penny with Double Mintmark $5,000+
1943 Steel Penny with a Repunched Mintmark $75+
1943 Steel Penny in Mint Condition $20,000+

No matter if you’re a long-time coin collector or simply a curious individual looking to learn more about coins, steel pennies are an exciting and unique part of American history. Their rarity, history, and value attract collectors and ensure their place in the world of numismatics.

Famous Steel Penny Errors

As with any currency, errors can occur during the minting process. In the case of steel pennies, some of these errors have become quite famous and are sought after by collectors. Here are some of the most famous steel penny errors:

  • 1943 Copper Penny: While most steel pennies were produced in 1943 from zinc-coated steel due to copper shortages during World War II, a few pennies were mistakenly struck on copper planchets. These rare and valuable coins are often referred to as the “Holy Grail” of Lincoln pennies.
  • Double Die Penny: In 1943, a few steel pennies were struck from dies that had been improperly produced, resulting in some coins featuring double images of the date and lettering.
  • Off-Center Penny: As the name suggests, an off-center steel penny was struck with the design not fully centered. These coins can vary in degree of off-centering and are more rare than their fully centered counterparts.

The Value of Famous Steel Penny Errors

The value of these errors can vary greatly depending on the type of error and its condition. The 1943 copper penny is the most valuable of the steel penny errors, with some specimens fetching over $1 million at auction. Double die and off-center pennies can also be quite valuable, with prices ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Other Steel Penny Variations

While the famous errors receive the most attention from collectors, there are other variations of steel pennies that are also sought after. For example, some 1944 steel pennies were struck with a slightly different composition, resulting in a brighter appearance. These coins are known as “zincolns” and are considered a separate variety. Additionally, some steel pennies were struck with a small mint mark above the date, indicating where the penny was produced. These “S” and “D” variations are also highly collected.

The Rarity of Steel Pennies

Year Mint Number Produced
1943 Philadelphia 684,628,670
1943 Denver 217,660,000
1943 San Francisco 191,550,000
1944 Philadelphia 1,435,400,000

Steel pennies were only produced for one year (1943) and in limited quantities compared to other Lincoln pennies. This has contributed to their collectability and rarity. While they may not be the most valuable coins in every collection, steel pennies are an important part of American numismatics and a fascinating piece of history.

Identification of Authentic Steel Pennies

If you’re lucky enough to come across a steel penny, you’ll want to make sure it’s the real deal. Here are some tips to help you identify an authentic steel penny:

  • Check the date: Steel pennies were only produced in 1943, so if you have a penny from any other year, it’s not a steel penny.
  • Test the magnetism: Steel pennies are magnetic, so if your penny doesn’t stick to a magnet, it’s not made of steel.
  • Look for a specific color: Steel pennies are a dull grey color, unlike the shiny appearance of copper pennies. However, some copper pennies may appear grey due to normal wear and tear, so be sure to also check for magnetism.

But what if you want to know if your steel penny is worth more than just its face value? There are a few key things to look for:

First, look for any mint marks indicating where the penny was produced. Steel pennies from the Philadelphia mint are generally worth less than those from the San Francisco or Denver mints.

Next, check for any errors or varieties. For example, some steel pennies have double-dies, meaning that the stamp was imprinted on the coin twice, resulting in a slight doubling effect. These coins can be worth significantly more than a regular steel penny.

Finally, check the condition of the coin. Steel pennies with minimal wear and tear are worth more than those that have been heavily circulated or damaged.

Condition Value
Uncirculated $35+
Lightly Circulated $10-$20
Heavily Circulated or Damaged Face value or less

Now that you know how to identify an authentic steel penny and determine its value, keep your eyes peeled for these rare and valuable coins!

Collecting Steel Pennies as a Hobby

Numismatics, the study and collection of currency, has been a popular pastime for hundreds of years. Among the various types of coins, steel pennies are a unique and sought-after addition to any collection. Here, we will explore the subject of collecting steel pennies as a hobby from various angles, including their history, design, rarity, and value.

  • History: Steel pennies were produced by the United States Mint in 1943 as a result of the shortage of copper during World War II. The government needed copper for ammunition, so they turned to zinc-coated steel instead. However, the steel pennies proved unpopular among the public due to their tendency to rust and discolor, and they were only produced for that year.
  • Design: Steel pennies are distinct from other pennies due to their silver color, which differentiates them from the usual bronze-colored pennies. The front of the coin features the profile of Abraham Lincoln, while the back has the image of the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Rarity: Although millions of steel pennies were produced in 1943, they are considered rare today due to the fact that the government quickly removed them from circulation after that year. Additionally, many of the coins were melted down once copper became available again in 1944. Surviving steel pennies, especially those in good condition, are highly coveted by collectors.

Nowadays, steel pennies are considered valuable objects of historical significance, as well as an interesting addition to a coin collection. The value of a steel penny depends on several factors such as its condition, rarity, and demand from collectors. The most valuable steel pennies are those that were not minted with the same care as others, and therefore exhibit unique mistakes or errors.

Error or Variety Value (approximate)
Doubled Die Error $500+
Struck off-center $100+
Misaligned Die $50+

If you are interested in collecting steel pennies, you can start your search at local coin shops, flea markets, antique stores, or online marketplaces. To ensure that you are getting an authentic steel penny, make sure to check its weight, silver color, and other distinguishing features. With patience and attention to detail, collecting steel pennies can become a fascinating and rewarding hobby.

What Steel Penny is Worth the Most: FAQs

1. What is a steel penny?
A steel penny is a United States coin that was minted during WWII. Because copper and bronze were needed for military purposes, the U.S. Mint started producing pennies made of zinc-coated steel.

2. Are steel pennies rare?
Steel pennies are not particularly rare, but some years and mintmarks are more desirable than others, making them worth more.

3. What steel penny is worth the most?
The 1943-D bronze penny is the rarest and most valuable steel penny. In 1943, the U.S. Mint accidentally produced some pennies in bronze rather than steel, and only a few of them are known to exist.

4. What other steel pennies are valuable?
Some steel pennies from certain years and mintmarks in high grade can be worth a significant amount to collectors. For example, the 1943-S penny and the 1944-D penny are worth more than the other steel pennies.

5. What condition does a steel penny need to be in to be valuable?
Steel pennies in uncirculated condition are worth more than those that have been circulated. The better the condition, the more valuable the coin.

6. How can I tell if my steel penny is valuable?
You can consult a reputable coin dealer or get your coin appraised. You can also look up the coin’s value in a coin price guide to get an idea of what it might be worth.

7. Should I clean my steel penny?
No, you should never clean a steel penny or any other coin. Cleaning a coin can damage its surface and reduce its value.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Thanks for reading our article on what steel penny is worth the most. We hope you found this information helpful in determining whether your steel penny is valuable or not. Remember, while some steel pennies can be worth a significant amount, it’s important to take care of them and preserve them for future generations to enjoy. See you soon!