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How Much is the 1943 Chrome-Plated Penny Worth?


1943 steel penny (obverse).

This is an image of the normal 1943 steel penny (obverse).

Photo courtesy of the Coin Page
Question: How Much is the 1943 Chrome-Plated Penny Worth?
Reader Jose Marin sent in the following question:

I would like to know how much a 1943 silver looking penny is worth? I also would like to know if there is such thing as a chrome penny. If there is, what's the diference between a chrome and steel penny?
Answer: The coin you have found is actually a chrome-plated steel cent. The 1943 Steel Cents were issued during World War II so that the government could conserve copper for the War effort. The zinc coating on these cents was very thin and quickly wore off. Another contributing factor to this quick wear was that the Mint plated the cents BEFORE they were punched out of the metal strip. In other words, the whole flat pieces of steel were plated on both sides with zinc, and then the round penny-shaped blanks were punched out, leaving the edges of the blanks unplated. Because low-carbon (low-grade) steel was used, it was prone to rusting easily. Once the edges starting degrading, the zinc coating soon followed, although it wouldn't have lasted long in any case in circulation.

The zinc-coated pennies were pretty much a disaster as far as the public was concerned. They were easily confused with dimes when shiny and new, and filthy and ugly and unpleasant to handle when used a bit. They were only issued for one year, after which the government began recalling them from circulation. They never issued any statements to this effect, hoping to prevent penny hoarding, but the banks were told to weed them out and millions of these unwanted cents found their way back to Mint, which had them melted down (or dumped into the Pacific Ocean, depending on whom you believe.)

The source of the chrome 1943 cents is that one or more major coin dealers decided to profit from this entire situation sometime in early 1960's. Because even many of the Mint State 1943 pennies had by then lost their shiny zinc finish (due to the exposure of the edges, which began the corrosion process,) there were an abundance of Mint State steel pennies around that were high grade Uncirculated, but that looked like crap. These enterprising coin dealers "restored" them by plating them in chrome and other similar-looking substances, making them look all shiny and new again, and then sold them in sets of one from each Mint.

Unfortunately, coins that have been plated in anything (even gold) outside the mint have no value to serious coin collectors, so these chrome-plated 1943 cents are considered to be "junk" on the coin market. Various attempts have been made to remove the chrome, but so far nobody has succeeded in doing so while leaving the original coin unharmed. It may not even be possible, since the chrome and chrome-like stuff is molecularly bonded to the surface. But who knows what future technology might be able to accomplish? In the mean time, these coins sort of float around, usually in bulk wheat cent bags, although responsible and honest coin dealers remove them whenever practical.
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