1943 Lincoln Steel Cent

in Lincoln Pennies

The appearance of the 1943 Lincoln Steel Cent was the result of a shortage experienced in the nation for the two metals typically used in the construction of the cent before that time – copper and tin. That shortage (owed mostly to the participation of the United States in World War II) forced the Treasury Department and the United States Mint to seek alternatives for cent coin (also known as penny) compositions.

Shortly following the formal entry of the United States into World War II in late 1941, it became apparent that the US would be experiencing metal shortages as many supplies were diverted to the war effort. Knowing that, the US Mint commissioned several studies seeking alternatives for cent coin compositions that next year but was still forced to halt production altogether on the smallest circulating coin in December of 1942 despite having actually drastically reduced the mintages the several previous months.

Knowing of the difficulties of the Mint to procure copper and tin, Congress authorized a change in the composition of the cent coins but demanded that it not last more than three years. Within five days of that authorization on December 18, 1942, the Mint formally announced the cents would be struck from zinc-coated steel.

First appearing in early 1943, the new Lincoln Steel Cents immediately drew criticism from the public. They did not like the fact that the steel coins were much lighter in color leading some to confuse them with the dime. In addition, the coins were quickly becoming spotted and stained as the zinc coating over the steel was not proving adequate to prevent them from rusting.

Despite the public’s resistance, the US Mint still turned out over a billion of the steel cents in 1943 as it struggled to meet the demand created by lower mintages the previous year. However, by December of 1943 it unveiled a new plan to use spent shell casings in the production of the cent coins returning them to a bronze composition.

Over the next several years, it was reported that the US Mint quietly procured as many of the 1943 Lincoln Steel Cents as possible to take them out of circulation. But, with over a billion struck, many remained in the hands of the public making them relatively easy to still obtain today.

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