1943 bronze cent's origins puzzle researchers

Composition including silver unlike any other seen
By , Coin World
Published : 01/07/13
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A 1943 Lincoln cent struck on a bronze planchet of a composition whose purpose cannot be determined is crossing the auction block Jan. 24 in New York City.

The unique composition cent will be offered by Stack’s Bowers Galleries as part of its Rarities Night session during its Jan. 22 to 24 New York Americana Sale.

The newly identified bronze 1943 Lincoln cent is certified Mint State 63 red by Professional Coin Grading Service.

The composition of the bronze 1943 Lincoln cent consigned to the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction is 91.7 percent copper, 7.5 percent zinc, and 0.8 percent silver, according to an elemental analysis arranged by PCGS.

The wrong-planchet error was consigned for auction by a New England family, one of whose members found the rarity in a roll of Lincoln cents decades ago, according to Stack’s Bowers.

Lincoln cents struck in 1943 at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints were intended to be produced on zinc-coated steel planchets. The composition was changed from a bronze alloy to zinc-coated steel to conserve the much-needed copper for war efforts.

An unknown number of 1943 Lincoln cents were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mint production facilities on cent planchets remaining from 1942. The 1942 composition had been 95 percent copper, 3 percent zinc and 2 percent tin, and changed during the year to 95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc — the latter the same composition restored in 1944.

According to the analysis, the composition used for the coin in the auction not only does not match the expected specifications for a 1942 Lincoln cent, it also did not match any of the known compositions for similarly sized world coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint.

The piece weighs 3.08 grams, slightly below the 3.11-gram weight of a 1942 cent. The weight of the 1943 zinc-coated steel cents was either 2.69 grams or 2.75 grams, depending on when in 1943 a particular cent was struck.

The bronze 1943 cent to be offered by Stack’s Bowers was first inspected at the firm’s Wolfeboro, N.H., premises by numismatists John Pack and Melissa Karstedt.

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