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    Description

    1944 Steel Cent, MS64
    From the Bob Simpson Collection
    Tied for the Finest Graded

    1944 1C Struck on a Zinc-Coated Steel Planchet MS64 PCGS Secure. Ex: Simpson. This Platinum Night session, rich in its offering of not one but two 1943 bronze cents -- one each from Philadelphia and San Francisco -- is fittingly accompanied by a generous selection of 1944 steel cents, the "first cousins" to the 1943 bronze cents. Some numismatists have unkindly referred to these coins as "poor cousins" but, in fact, they stem from the same source -- Mint mixups on blanks or planchets of the wrong material for the given year -- and are equally desirable while being both more affordable and more obtainable.

    Both the 1943 bronze cents and the 1944 steel cents can be considered transitional-year errors. Both had their source in the need for copper as a strategic metal for the wartime Allied efforts. The United States' Office of Production Management, later called the Wartime Production Board, identified copper as a strategic material by early 1941, but the nation's mints had enough material on hand to stretch into late 1942. Japan's invasion of Alaska's Aleutian Islands chain in mid-1942 increased the sense of urgency around building up a stockpile of materials for the "arsenal of democracy."

    Roger Burdette's interesting United States Patterns & Experimental Pieces of WW-II notes that "one of the non-strategic metals was low carbon steel, used for one-cent coins in 1943." But further on, Burdette notes that "from 1941 through 1944 the Philadelphia Mint, and to a lesser extent those at San Francisco and Denver, began a bewildering series of ad hoc experiments. These were intended to identify substitutes for critical metal in coinage alloys, then were expanded to include complete replacements for metal, and finally concentrated on meeting objections to the substitute metals actually used in coinage."

    Experiments in the "far afield category" proposed material substitutes including cellulosic plastics, as well as glass, fiber, and ceramic alternatives. Eventually the Mint settled on the zinc-coated steel planchets so familiar to use today. Those planchets were extremely unpopular and subject to oxidation of the zinc coating (in the presence of water) into a powdery substance, zinc oxide, as well as plain old rusting (iron oxide) of the steel substrate. The cents, with their silvery color, were also frequently confused with dimes.

    The Mint reverted in 1944 to using melted copper munitions shell cases to replace the unpopular one-year 1943 coinage -- but a few blank steel planchets left over from 1943 were struck in error with the 1944 date, just as a few of the 1943 cents were mistakenly struck from bronze planchets remaining from 1942.

    In addition, the Philadelphia Mint engaged in striking Belgian two franc coins in 1944 (KM-133) from zinc-coated steel planchets that were apparently the leftover 1943 cent planchets; the weights and compositions are identical. No such Belgian coins were struck at Denver or San Francisco, however, helping to explain the larger survival of 1944 steel cents from Philadelphia. Nonetheless, the steel cents, due to their fragile and reactive chemical composition, are seldom seen in high grades, regardless of their mint of origin.

    The present near-Gem is one of two examples in this grade at PCGS, although it is difficult to conceive of a second example equally fine. The surfaces boast a light touch of gold more prominent on the reverse, where a few minuscule dark flecks also appear as the only mentionable distraction. The only other example at this grade level was auctioned as lot 4411 of the ANA Rarities Night auction (Stack's Bowers, 8/2013), where it realized $158,625. Population: 2 in 64, 0 finer (11/15).
    Ex: Americana Sale (Stack's Bowers, 1/2013), lot 13262.
    Selections from The Bob R. Simpson Collection.

    Coin Index Numbers: (PCGS# 82722)

    Weight: 2.70 grams

    Metal: 100% Zinc Coated Steel


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [Selections from the Bob R. Simpson Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2016
    6th-11th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,777

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