If you’ve ever wondered why coin collectors hunt for a 1944 steel penny, keep reading. They are some of the most valuable pennies in the world, and a few are worth over $100,000.
During World War II, the US Mint struck millions of steel pennies to conserve copper for use in wartime development of military technologies, including communications and sonar systems and radar.
In 1943, due to an error somewhere along the production line, about 35 examples of the zinc-coated steel cent were unknowingly struck bearing the date 1944, making these among the rarest Lincoln cents ever made.
History of the Steel Penny
During World War II, copper was a vital metal needed for war materials. The US Mint made pennies out of steel covered in zinc to conserve copper. This experiment worked well, and they continued to produce steel pennies until the end of 1943.
How to Tell if a 1944 Wheat Penny is Steel
A few 1943 pennies were struck in bronze (copper). Bronze cents metal errors are extremely rare, valuable pennies, and command a huge premium. Some speculate they were struck by accident, while others believe they were deliberately struck as souvenirs for Mint officials.
Copper prices dropped after the war, and pennies returned to the material in 1946.
The 1944 steel cent (also known as a steelie or a war penny) is an extremely rare Lincoln cent struck in steel with a zinc coating at the Philadelphia Mint in 1944 during World War II. These penny coins were struck by accident and are, therefore, quite rare.
The scarcity of this penny and its historical significance make it an attractive item for many coin collectors. If you come across a steel penny, several factors can determine whether it’s worth more than just one cent.
Why Do 1944 Steel Pennies Exist?
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States of America halted the production of copper pennies.
The US Mint used other materials to make pennies, including steel and zinc-coated steel. These materials were used to make one-cent pieces through the end of World War II. After the war, the U.S. Mint returned to copper planchets to strike pennies.
Some collectors and experts theorize that steel coin blanks, or steel planchets, were left in the hoppers and accidentally struck, then distributed. As a result, a small number of 1944 steel cents were produced and released into circulation by mistake.
The Steel Planchets
It’s also possible that the steel planchets for Belgian two-franc coins (produced by the Philadelphia Mint for a short time while minting foreign coins) were struck with the dies for Lincoln cents by accident.
Belgian two-francs resemble pennies in size (although slightly larger), so it’s conceivable that the Philadelphia Mint struck those planchets by mistake.
The 1944 Philadelphia minted steel penny is perhaps one of the rarest American coins ever produced by the United States Mint.
For years, it has been speculated that only around 35 of these coins were ever circulated, but recent findings have shown that there may be a few more than experts estimated.
How Much Are 1944 Steel Pennies Worth?
The 1944 steel Lincoln penny is worth between $75,000 and $110,000, depending on its condition.
1944 Steel Penny with No Mint Marks
Typically, the error coin has value because of its rarity. The 1944 steel penny is no different. Coin values for steel cent errors can reach tens of thousands of dollars.
Spotting Counterfeit 1944 Steel Pennies
How can you identify fake 1944 steel wheat pennies? If you have a 1944 steel wheat penny and want to know if it’s real or fake, you can spot a few details to confirm.
The date should be stamped nicely on your coin with no signs of fading or doubling. The coin should also have nice even wear across its face and “wheat” imprints on the reverse (back) of the coin.
The coin’s color should be a light silver-gray color with no brown spots or discoloration anywhere on the coin.
How to Tell if a 1944 Penny is Steel
If you think you have a 1944 steel penny, you should weigh it first. 1944 steel pennies weigh 2.7 grams, while an ordinary copper coin weighs 3.11 grams.
Another trick would be to use a magnet to see if there’s steel in the penny. It will stick to the magnet if it’s a 1944 steelie.
It’s important to know that the 1943 copper penny and the 1944 steel penny are among the most forged US coins on the market today. You are far more likely to run into a fake 1943 copper penny or 1944 steel wheat penny than an authentic coin.
A quick search online will reveal several “reproductions,” fakes, and other forgeries for sale at fairly hefty price tags.
Do your homework before buying one of these rare pennies, and speak to an expert for authentication.
Appraisal and Selling
The first thing you should do is take the coin to an appraiser or have it looked at by a professional coin dealer. They can tell you more about the coin, but they can also tell you how much it could be worth.
A third-party authenticator will help you determine whether your coin is genuine or counterfeit. These companies will grade your coin based on several factors.
The 1944 Steel Penny Mint Mark
The first is the mint mark, which indicates which US Mint struck the coin.
For example, a 1944 steel penny with no mint mark was made in Philadelphia; one with a “D” was made in the Denver Mint, and one with an “S” was made at the San Francisco Mint.
The next factor is the actual condition of the coin itself. This condition is graded on a scale from 1 to 70, with 70 being perfect (and extremely rare).
A well preserved 1944 steel penny might be valued at $100,000 or more.
PCGS Ratings and Grades
There are several PCGS grades for a 1944 Steel Penny. Mint state (MS) is the highest grade a coin can achieve on the PCGS rating scale.
Mint State is ranked from 70 to 65, with the MS70 rating being the perfect coin.
For the average condition 1944 steel penny, values can still be tens of thousands. Here’s a look at a few PCGS graded 1944 steelies and the final sale price of the most recent transaction.
MS64 Sold on 6/2021 for $180,000
MS64 Sold on 8/2021 for $108,000
MS63 Sold on 8/2018 for $87,500
AU55 Sold on 2/2001 for $11,500
AU55 Sold on 1/2010 for $25,300
AU53 Sold on 4/2008 for $34,500
EF45 Sold on 1/2008 for $29,900
Pennies Struck with Shell Casings
From 1944 to 1946, the penny was struck with copper shell cases from used ammunition shells. During World War II, copper was a vital component of the war effort. Once the war ended, copper shell casings were melted down and used to strike new pennies.
The coins are very common, and most are worth face value. They can still be found in pocket change.
Selling a 1944 Steel Penny
You can put your 1944 steel penny on eBay and hope for a reasonable price, or you can go to a professional coin dealer to get what it’s worth.
Coin dealers are professionals who buy and sell coins for a living. They know all of the ins and outs of coin collecting and have built up a good reputation in their area.
The Coin Specialist
Using coin specialists is convenient because you don’t even have to leave your home. You call them up, and they send someone out to your house to look at your coin. If you tell them how much you want for it, they’ll either buy it right then or make an alternate offer.
If they buy the coin, they’ll give you cash or check right then and there, so you don’t have to wait for weeks like with eBay auctions.
If they don’t want to buy the coin, they’ll know of someone who will be interested in buying it from you.
The Rare Coin Collectible
Regardless of whether your 1943 penny or 1944 steel penny is graded as genuine, you should be proud. Few coins are ever minted that become important and sought after enough to warrant third-party grading and a worldwide bidding war for the finder.
It’s a small club, with only a handful of each coin in circulation.
The 1943 copper penny and 1944 steel penny are highly sought after by collectors and coin enthusiasts due to their historical value.
Their value greatly depends on the state of preservation, but for the most part, these pennies are rarely found in anything less than fine shape, as many have spent their lives in the hands of collectors.
The Hunt for the Steel Penny
At the end of the day, whether a 1943 copper cent or a 1944 steel cent is worth more money is a subject best left to the professionals.
With that being said, if you own one of these coins and want to know what it’s worth on today’s market — or if you want a ballpark estimate — you can contact companies that specialize in coins that are graded as authentic.
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