February 23, 1943: First Steel Pennies Minted in the US

During World War II shortages in copper caused the Treasury to begin minting on February 23, 1943 pennies made of zinc covered steel.  The new pennies were 13% lighter than the old pennies.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but problems quickly cropped up.  The steel pennies were easily confused with dimes.   The zinc steel alloy was magnetized and magnets in vending machines, which picked out slugs, now also picked out the steel pennies.  Worst of all, the steel pennies easily rusted when exposed to any moisture, including human sweat.  The public outcry against the steel pennies was immediate and persistent.

The Treasury decided to respond by jettisoning the steel pennies, many of which were destroyed by the Government, with new pennies made out of an alloy of brass, from discarded shell casings, and copper.  These pennies looked and felt like the traditional copper pennies and the public was mollified.

Only about 40 copper pennies were struck by accident in 1943 with 12 known to be in existence.  They have been sold for as much as $82,500.00 to collectors.

Published in: on February 23, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 23, 1943: First Steel Pennies Minted in the US  
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