Guide to Collecting Steel Pennies

Guide to Collecting Steel Pennies

Posted by Andrew Adamo on Feb 22nd 2024

This Collecting Steel Pennies Guide will cover all you need to know about steel pennies, including their history, what they are, why people collect steel pennies and how to collect them, and more. Let’s dive in!

US Steel Pennies Value & History

The US steel penny is a coin that was minted in 1943 during World War II. 

The U.S. Mint produced of penny out of steel because there wasn't enough copper. These steel pennies were only made for one year and are different from all other pennies ever made in the US. They were made in all three U.S. Mint facilities: Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. A steel penny has a face value of one cent today, the same as all other U.S. pennies, and can still be used as legal tender. However, due to its historical significance, some steel pennies can be worth more than their face value to collectors.

PCGS MS 68+. 

AUCTION RECORD: $218,500 • AU58 • 01-06-2010 • Heritage Auctions

Why Collect US Steel Pennies?

People collect US steel pennies for many reasons. Some find them appealing because they are affordable and easy to get, making them a great choice for collectors. Steel pennies are usually cheaper than other coins. For some, the goal of gathering a full set of steel pennies is an enjoyable and satisfying hobby.

Moreover, for those who love American history, owning a steel penny provides a real link to an important time in U.S. history, World War II.

What Year Were Steel Pennies produced?

Steel pennies were only produced in 1943 during World War II because there was not enough copper. But it's interesting to know that in 1944, when the U.S. Mint started making pennies from copper again, a few steel pennies were mistakenly made with the 1944 date. These are now rare and sought after by collectors.

How Rare Are Steel Pennies?

Steel pennies aren't generally rare, but some are more sought after because of certain qualities like mintage, condition, errors, or unique features

  • 1943-S Steel Penny: Most steel pennies came from Philadelphia and Denver, but only 191,550,000 were made in San Francisco. This number is large, but when compared to other coins with much smaller production numbers, the 1943-S steel penny is considered more uncommon than other steel pennies.
  • Double Die Error: A few 1943 steel pennies have a double die error, such as the 1943/2-S, where the date and other parts of the coin appear doubled. These coins are rare and attractive to collectors.
  • High-Grade Steel Pennies: Steel pennies that are in top-notch condition, showing little to no wear and no damage, are valued higher.

However, a coin being rare doesn't automatically make it valuable or desirable. Other aspects like its historical background, cultural significance, and how it looks also matter to collectors.

What are 1943 Steel Pennies Worth?

1943 steel pennies are often worth more than one cent (their face value). 1943 steel pennies value can change based on how rare they are, their condition, any minting mistakes, and special characteristics. For instance, steel pennies from 1943 that were made in San Francisco (1943-S) and are in uncirculated, original condition have been sold for between 15 to 60 cents. Similarly, uncirculated 1943 steel pennies from the Philadelphia and Denver mints have gone for 10 to 50 cents. The value of a 1943 steel penny to collectors can differ a lot.

How to Start Collecting Steel Pennies

Starting a coin collection, especially with steel pennies, varies based on your experience level and budget. If you're new to coin collecting, here's how to begin:

  • Identify your goals: Before you start collecting, think about why you want to collect steel pennies. Is it for historical value, numismatic appeal, or for personal interest? Having a clear goal in mind can help you focus your collection and make smarter choices when buying.
  • Set your budget: 

    While collecting steel pennies can be budget-friendly, prices for certain coins can be steep. Decide on a budget you're comfortable with to prevent spending too much.

  • Buy a Coin Album or Folder: To keep your steel pennies safe and in good condition, use a coin album or folder. This not only preserves their quality but also makes your collection easier to share and enjoy.
  • Learn About Steel Penny Designs: Although steel pennies have a unique look, understanding their specific designs and variations is crucial. This knowledge will help you spot counterfeits and make better buying decisions.
  • Decide where to buy steel pennies: You can purchase steel pennies from a variety of sources, including online coin shops such as Bullion Shark and auctions. Research potential sellers and read reviews to ensure you buy from a reputable rare coin company.

By taking these steps and paying attention to aspects like rarity, condition, and minting errors, you can start building a collection of steel pennies that is both rewarding and attractive. 

What Should I Look for When Collecting US Steel Pennies?

If you want to build a collection of steel pennies, consider checking:

  • Date and Mint Marks: Pay attention to the coin's date and where it was minted. Certain dates and mint locations are more uncommon and can be more valuable.
  • Mint Errors: Look for possible mint errors, such as double strikes or coins that are not centered correctly. These errors can make a coin more valuable.
  • Condition: Check how well the coin has been preserved. Coins in better shape are usually more valuable than those that are heavily worn or damaged.
  • Authenticity: Carefully inspect the coin's design, both on the front and back, to make sure you're not collecting fake or counterfeit coins.

Ways to Collect Steel Pennies

The way collectors gather steel pennies can vary, and your approach should align with what you find interesting and what you aim to achieve. For instance, some collectors focus on the possible value of the coins as collectibles, whereas others might choose to collect based on the mint branch that produced them. Let's explore these different strategies for collecting steel pennies in more detail.

1. Focusing on Numismatic Value

When you collect steel pennies based on their numismatic (collectible) value, you pay attention to how rare and in what condition each coin is. This method means you need to learn about the various types, mistakes, and quality levels of steel pennies to spot the ones that might be worth the most.

2. Focusing on Mint Location

This way of collecting steel pennies is about trying to get a coin from each place they were made. It's an interesting approach for those who enjoy learning about the history of the U.S. Mint and the different locations that produced steel pennies. The goal here is to gather a steel penny from each minting location to complete your collection.

Where to Buy US Steel Pennies

With many purchasing options for U.S. Steel Pennies—such as local dealers, coin conventions, auctions, and online sellers—we advise you to purchase from a trusted and reputable seller to avoid purchasing fakes or overpaying for coins.

At Bullion Shark, we are one such seller with a BBB rating of A+ and over 30 years of experience in the industry. is a great place to start your steel penny collection, with a vast inventory of authentic coins and a wealth of knowledge and resources to help you on your collecting journey.

Visit our website today and explore our available coins, guides, and other valuable resources to start your steel penny collection off on the right foot!

There are many places to buy U.S. Steel Pennies, including local coin shops, coin shows, auctions, and online stores. It's important to buy from a reliable and well-respected source to avoid getting fake coins or paying too much.

Bullion Shark is a trusted seller with an A+ rating and 15 years in the coin business. Our website,, is a great place to begin collecting steel pennies. We offer a wide selection of genuine coins, along with plenty of information and tools to support your collecting adventure.

Check out our website to see our collection of coins, educational materials, and other helpful resources to kick-start your steel penny collection the right way!

Check out our other coin guides:

Guide To Collecting Quarters

Guide To Collecting Roosevelt Dimes

Guide To Collecting Buffalo Nickels


Why were steel pennies made?

Steel pennies were made in 1943 because the United States needed to conserve copper for the war effort during World War II. Copper was a critical material used in the manufacturing of shell casings, wiring, and other military supplies. To meet this demand, the U.S. Mint produced pennies out of zinc-coated steel for one year.

How can I tell if my penny is steel?

A steel penny is magnetic, which is the easiest way to identify it. If you have a penny from 1943, you can use a magnet to see if it sticks. Steel pennies have a distinctive silver color due to their zinc coating, unlike the traditional copper color of other pennies.

What are the most valuable steel pennies?

The most valuable steel pennies are those that have been preserved in high grades (e.g., MS-67 and above) or those with significant errors. Some of the most sought-after errors include the 1943 copper penny (a few were mistakenly struck on copper planchets left over from 1942) and the 1944 steel penny (when the Mint switched back to copper in 1944, a few steel planchets from 1943 were mistakenly used).

How much is a 1943 steel penny worth?

The value of a 1943 steel penny varies based on its condition and whether it has any errors. Most circulated 1943 steel pennies are worth only a few cents above their face value, but uncirculated coins can fetch from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. The extremely rare 1943 copper pennies and 1944 steel pennies can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on their condition.

Where can I find steel pennies?

Steel pennies can sometimes be found in circulation, though it's rare. Coin dealers, auctions, estate sales, and online marketplaces are more reliable sources for finding these coins. Coin shows and clubs can also be good places to meet other collectors who might have steel pennies for sale or trade.

How should I store and care for my steel penny collection?

To prevent damage and corrosion, steel pennies should be stored in a cool, dry place. It's best to use non-PVC coin holders, tubes, or albums to protect them. Handling your coins with cotton gloves can prevent oils from your skin from causing corrosion or tarnish. Avoid cleaning your coins, as this can significantly reduce their value.

Are there any common mistakes to avoid when collecting steel pennies?

One common mistake is cleaning steel pennies, which can damage their surface and reduce their numismatic value. Another mistake is not using proper storage methods, leading to corrosion or damage. Finally, be cautious of counterfeit or altered coins, such as those that have been plated to resemble rarer varieties.