Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    1943 Bronze Cent, AU55, CAC
    Noted Transitional Alloy Error

    1943 Struck on a Bronze Planchet AU55 NGC. CAC. The copper used for coining bronze cents was needed for the manufacture of munitions during World War II. and zinc-coated steel was selected as a replacement. Much experimentation took place before the government arrived at that decision. Patterns dated 1942, featuring a bust from the Columbian two centavos, were struck in various materials; unusual alternatives included plastic, rubber, bakelite, fiber, and glass. Those substances proved unsuitable for circulating coinage, even during a war emergency. Other candidates for the 1943 cent alloy were zinc, manganese, white metal, aluminum, and lead, The pattern cent Judd-2054 was struck in the zinc-coated steel that proved to be the best option.

    Each of the three mints then in operation (Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco) produced 1943 cents in great quantities. Altogether, about one billion "steelie" cents-the only magnetic U.S. coin issue -- were issued during 1943. They quickly became unpopular since the silver color, and a similar diameter, caused them to be accepted as dimes by the unwary. The steel cents also became discolored quickly. Meanwhile, the U.S. military was accumulating a vast quantity of spent copper ammunition cases, negating the need for the new alloy. The zinc-plated steel cent became a one-year experiment when copper returned to the alloy after 1943.

    Given the huge mintages of cents during 1943, it is not surprising that a small number of examples would be struck on bronze planchets intended for 1942 cents. Rather than malfeasance on the part of mint employees, the likely theories are: planchets could have been wedged in the trap doors of the bins used to transport them; planchets may have been left over in the feeders; or the bins simply might not have been completely emptied before the transition to the zinc-plated steel cent. In any event, a few bronze cents were struck at each of the three facilities in 1943. In 1944, when the alloy reverted to bronze, again there were some transitional alloy errors, with some coins struck in zinc-plated steel at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. The 1944 Philadelphia zinc-plated steel cent is somewhat less rare than the 1943 bronze cent, possibly since zinc-plated steel cent planchets were used by the U.S. Mint to strike 1944 two franc pieces for Belgium.

    Given the fame of the 1943 bronze cent, it is curious that none were discovered until March 1947, when sixteen-year-old Don Lutes, Jr. received one in his change from his high school cafeteria. He did not immediately report his find, however. The first to do so was Conrad Ottelin, a Cleveland physician, whose letter to The Numismatist was published in 1947. It was actually Ottelin's son who noticed the unusual 1943 cent while inspecting the family change. Over the years, additional examples were discovered. The search for examples was partially motivated by an unfounded rumor that the Ford Motor Company would exchange a new car for a bronze 1943 cent.

    Today, PCGS estimates there are only 10 to 15 extant 1943 Philadelphia bronze cents. Just one 1943-D bronze cent is known, and there are only five 1943-S bronze cents. Any appearance of a 1943 bronze cent at auction is an important event for the advanced Wheat Cent collector.

    The present lightly circulated example displays attractive golden-brown color. Lincoln's cheekbone and jaw show slight wear, but ample luster remains, and there are no consequential marks. The 1943 bronze cent is the best known of all transitional alloy mint errors, and this problem-free Choice AU example will undoubtedly be the subject of intense bidding.

    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.
    PCGS-Certified Coins
    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); Important Selections From the Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part IV (Heritage, 2/2021), lot 3008, realized $372,000. Beautiful blue-brown surfaces with generous luster, softly struck on Lincoln's beard and coat. Certification #40273606. Pictured on PCGS CoinFacts.
    2. MS62 Brown. Albert Michael Pratt; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2017), lot 3899. Formerly in an NGC holder, certification #2067200-002. An attractive walnut-brown specimen with a tick over the 4 in the date. Note: This coin is being offered in the Platinum Night section of this auction.
    3. 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.
    4, 5. 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.
    6. 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; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2019), lot 3701. PCGS certification #25510132. Pictured on PCGS CoinFacts.
    7. 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.
    8. XF45. Summer FUN Signature (Heritage, 7/2019), lot 3012. Sandy-tan example with a few scattered marks. Softly struck on 43 in the date. Photo on PCGS CoinFacts. Certification #37650115.
    9. XF45 PQ. CAC. Pre-Long Beach Sale (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2017), lot 756. Not identified by certification number.
    10. 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.

    NGC Certifications
    These grading events will undoubtedly duplicate some coins listed above.
    11. MS63 Brown.
    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.
    17. AU55. CAC. Donald G. Partrick; Certification #5746962-013. The present coin.
    18. AU55. Another AU55 submission.
    19. 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.
    20, 21. AU50; two submissions.
    Ex: Donald G. Partrick.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 22E5, PCGS# 82709)

    Weight: 3.11 grams

    Metal: 95% Copper, 5% Tin & Zinc

    View all of [The Donald G. Partrick Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2021
    22nd-25th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 26
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,042

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    Sold on Apr 22, 2021 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 14 days left to consign to the 2021 August 18 - 22 ANA WFOM US Coins Signature Auction !

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage Auctions is very well keyed into the evolving market place, what better exposure can anyone ask for?
    Consignor of The Virginia Cabinet
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search