I friend of mine has found a 1943 cent that appears to be made of
copper. To whom should he submit the coin for evaluation, and what
value would you assign it if it proves to be a counterfeit?
Finding a genuine 1943 Lincoln cent struck in the 95 percent
copper, 5 percent zinc alloy is an extremely rare occurrence. It is
estimated that only 21 known examples exist, in comparison to the 1.09
billion zinc-coated steel 1943 cents struck collectively by the
Denver, Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints.
Though the possibility exists that the piece in question could be
genuine, it is exceedingly much more likely that the coin is a 1943
Lincoln zinc-coated steel cent, plated with copper to make it appear
bronze, or a 1948 cent on which the 8 in the date was carved to
resemble a 3. It could even be a die-struck counterfeit piece.
Before going to the trouble of spending time and money having this
piece authenticated by a specialist or third-party grading service,
there are simple, nondamaging tests one can perform.
Magnetism: The coin should be nonmagnetic. If the coin sticks to a
magnet, it is not bronze. Zinc-coated steel cents are magnetic.
Weight: A genuine bronze cent should weigh approximately 3.11
grams. Zinc-coated steel cents weigh 2.69 to 2.75 grams.
Date: The date on a genuine piece should have the same long-tailed
3 as seen on 1943 zinc-coated steel cents. The 3 used on the 1943 cent
is distinctive and does not match the 3 used on other cents, for
example that used on the 1933 and 1953 cents.
Strike: The coin should have an exceptionally sharp strike. Pay
close attention to the v.d.b. designer’s initials on the truncation of
Lincoln’s bust on the obverse, with borders built up almost as on
Matte Proof coins. (The distance between the faces of the dies was set
to the lesser thickness of steel blanks, so that they compressed the
thicker bronze blanks much more.)
If the coin passes all these tests, only then should it be
examined by a specialist or third-party grading service for
authentication. Because die-struck counterfeit pieces are also known,
even if a suspected example passes all these tests, the possibility
exists that it is nonetheless a fake.
There is no easy way to assign a value to a copper-plated piece,
an altered date coin or a die-struck counterfeit cent. Regardless of
an agreed upon price, any potential buyer should be made clearly aware
of the true origin of the piece before any purchase.
Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins
or other items for examination without prior permission from staff
member Erik Martin. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety
coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be
returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or call
(800) 673-8311, Ext. 274.