The 1943 bronze Lincoln cent is listed among both the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins and the 100 Greatest U.S. Error Coins, where the authors call it "the most famous error coin made by the U.S. Mint." Copper was a strategic material in 1943, at the height of World War II. In order to conserve resources for the war effort, Congress authorized the Mint to strike cents on zinc-coated steel planchets in 1943, instead of the usual bronze blanks. However, it seems that a small number of bronze planchets remained stuck in the lids of the tote bins the Mint used to feed the coin presses at the end of 1942. When the bins were refilled with the zinc-coated steel planchets at the start of production in 1943, those blanks became dislodged and were fed into the presses, along with the authorized "steel" planchets, resulting in the famous "copper" cent errors. Among the hundreds of millions of wartime composition "steel" cents produced in 1943, the few bronze examples went unnoticed and entered circulation undetected. For many years, Mint officials categorically denied that any bronze composition cents were struck in 1943, but authentic examples are known from all three active U.S. Mints today.
The bronze examples began turning up in the 1940s, amazing coin collectors and puzzling Mint officials, who could not account for their existence. The fame of the 1943 "copper" cents extended far beyond numismatic circles, as nationwide advertisements appeared in magazines, newspapers, and comic books, offering fabulous rewards for authentic specimens. There was a widespread, but untrue, rumor that Henry Ford would exchange a new car for any legitimate 1943 "copper" cent (this caused the Ford Motor Company many problems for years). Current (5/19) population data shows 20 bronze 1943 Lincoln cents from the Philadelphia Mint certified at PCGS and NGC combined, including an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers (see roster below).
The present coin is an attractive Choice XF specimen that shows some light wear on the strongly impressed design elements. A touch of softness shows on the 43 in the date, but the 3 has the long, hanging tail that distinguishes legitimate specimens of this issue (some counterfeits have been created by removing part of the 8 digit from 1948-dated cents). The pleasing surfaces exhibit light olive-tan hues in most areas, with highlights of steel and brown. The expected number of minor abrasions are present, with some chatter in the right obverse field, but no large or distracting marks are evident. Some traces of original mint luster remain intact. The overall presentation is most attractive for this sought-after, storied rarity.
1943 Philadelphia Bronze Cents Certified Populations
This is a listing of the certified grading events at PCGS and NGC. Duplications and crossovers are likely; some Genuine examples may be omitted.
1. MS62 Brown. Found in circulation by Marvin Beyer, Jr., age 14, around 1957; ANA Convention Sale (Abe Kosoff, 1958), where the coin was withdrawn by Marvin Beyer Sr. before the sale; reportedly sold to the Greer Company of Los Angeles for $40,000 in 1959; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Superior, 10/2000), lot 4146, as MS61 ANACS, $60,375; Benson Collection, Part II (Goldbergs, 2/2003), lot 148 as MS61 Brown PCGS, $97,750 (certification #50035361); subsequently graded MS62 Brown PCGS Secure; Bob Simpson (9/2012); Simpson Collection. Beautiful blue-brown surfaces with generous luster, softly struck on Lincoln's beard and coat. Certification #18523486. Pictured on PCGS CoinFacts.
2. MS61 Red and Brown. "James Schirrippa," per PCGS CoinFacts. Sharply struck with deep orange and purple-blue patina and some brownish toning on the lower reverse, hints of green in the obverse field. Carbon spot at L(IBERTY). V-shaped mark right of C(ENT). In the Staten Island Collection Lincoln Cents, Off-Metal Strikes Registry Set (#2 behind the Simpson Collection). Certification #50040291. Pictured on PCGS CoinFacts.
3, 4. MS61 Brown. Two submissions; one is certification #19228068, last seen in the High Desert Collection. Pictured on PCGS CoinFacts. Lovely orange-gold and light-blue surfaces on both sides. PCGS still shows two in this grade, although as mentioned, one with certification #50035361 was later upgraded to the #1 Beyer-Simpson coin above. It is unclear if there are still two other PCGS coins in the MS61 Brown grade.
5. AU58. According to a photo (page 322, #8) in the 1996 Wexler-Flynn Lincoln cent Authoritative Reference, this coin was earlier certified by ANAAB with certificate #FD0251. Bob Simpson; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2016), lot 5266, realized $305,500. PCGS certification #25510132. Pictured on PCGS CoinFacts.
6. AU55. Americana Sale (Stack's Bowers, 1/2013), lot 13257, brought $317,250; Regency Auction (Legend-Morphy, 5/2014), lot 12, realized $329,000. Currently in the Numism1 Set Registry inventory at PCGS and contained in the Hoiner 100 Greatest U.S. Coins Registry Set. Well-struck overall with medium milk-chocolate surfaces, small flecks at bottom of coat (below 1) and front of Lincoln's head above the eyebrow. Weakness shows on O(NE) and AM(ERICA). Certification #26441689. Pictured on PCGS CoinFacts.
7. XF45. Sandy-tan example with a few scattered marks. Softly struck on 43 in the date. Certification #37650115. The present coin.
8. XF45 PQ. CAC. Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2017), lot 756. Not identified by certification number.
9. Genuine PCGS (VF Details). A "teenaged newspaperboy"; bought at a Dearborn, Michigan, coin show around 1987; Goldberg Auctions (9/2007), lot 2462, brought $60,375; New York Signature (Heritage, 11/2013), lot 3508, realized $88,125. PCGS #21445181. Some unfortunate test cuts were made in the surfaces. Photographed as #4 in the Wexler-Flynn reference.
These grading events will undoubtedly duplicate some coins listed above.
10. MS63 Brown.
11. MS62 Brown. Albert Michael Pratt; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2017), lot 3899. Certification #2067200-002. An attractive walnut-brown specimen with a tick over the 4 in the date.
12. MS61 Red and Brown.
13. MS61 Brown. Albert Michael Pratt; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2018), lot 4763. Certification #2067200-001. Reddish-brown and steel patina, with a large obverse die break on the rim at 6 o'clock.
14, 15, 16. AU58; three grading events. One coin was once depicted on NGC Coin Explorer, unidentified as to grade or certification number -- but it is the former Simpson coin, number 5 above, now in a PCGS holder.
18. AU53. Discovered in a school cafeteria in 1947 by Don Lutes, Jr.; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2019), lot 4362, realized $204,000. Certification #4629671-001. Pictured on NGC Coin Explorer. Lightly worn olive-brown example with a short horizontal gouge below the 3 in the date.
19, 20. AU50; two submissions. (NGC ID# 22E5, PCGS# 82709)
Weight: 3.11 grams
Metal: 95% Copper, 5% Tin & Zinc