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HomeUS Coins1944 Lincoln Cent : A Collector's Guide

1944 Lincoln Cent : A Collector’s Guide

1944 Lincoln Cent in Bronze. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1944 Lincoln Cent in Bronze. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

The 1944 Lincoln cent followed the experimental and largely derided 1943 Lincoln steel cent. The 1943 cent was a historic first for the United States Mint; it was the first one-cent coin not struck in copper. The zinc-plated steel cents entered production in February 1943 and wrapped up on December 31.

For the 1944 issue, the Acting Secretary of the Treasury filed notice of the Treasury Department’s intent to revert to bronze cents on a December 15, 1943, filing. Three days later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the necessary authorizations into law.

The 1944 Lincoln cent was struck in astronomically high numbers and at the time it was struck, it was the first U.S. cent with a mintage of one billion coins, or more. By the 1980s, the Mint could routinely pump out the same amount of coins in a matter of two or three months.

Production of a 95% copper -5% zinc coin commenced on January 1, 1944. The official story was that the cents were struck using spent brass cartridges from the war effort. Numismatic researcher David W. Lange dismissed this idea in his Complete Guide to Lincoln Cents, saying that the 1944 Lincoln cent’s enormous 1,435,400,000 mintage (the first Lincoln cent with a billion or more coins struck at a single mint in a single year) was much too high for all of the coins to be struck from the reclaimed war material. Lange does acknowledge, however, that some shell casing material was utilized to strike some 1944 cents.

How Much Is the 1944 Lincoln Cent in Copper Worth?

The 1944 Lincoln cent struck in copper is not a rare coin. It saw heavy circulation after its release and only disappeared from circulation due to attrition or for the fact that the general public started to withdraw Wheat cents from circulation as they became less prevalent a decade or two into the Lincoln Memorial cent era. In circulated condition, the 1944 Lincoln cent remains abundant in “unsearched roll” offerings and other Wheat cent bulk assortments.

A run-of-the-mill circulated example might sell on eBay for between 50¢ and $1. In Mint State Red, however, the value of the 1944 Lincoln cent increases to about $12.50 in MS65RD and about $150 in MS67RD. Many uncertified uncirculated rolls in original Red likely survive, and current population data does not reflect the true size of the surviving population. In the top grades, we expect some growth, but the majority of the uncertified Red coins, we estimate, would grade MS65RD or below, which puts these coins below the terminal point for coin certification.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

1944 Lincoln Cent in NGC MS68RD. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1944 Lincoln Cent in NGC MS68RD. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

The PCGS population of MS67+RD coins stood at just five pieces, with none finer when the first example Heritage Auctions offered appeared in September 2014. Since then, the population has increased to one shy of 100 (as of April 14, 2024) and will likely eclipse that number by the time you read this market analysis. With this increase, we’ve seen a decline in hammer prices from  $2,232 to about $300 today. With the explosion of MS67+RDs also came a small increase in the number of MS68RD coins.

As we mentioned earlier, we do not think a full assessment of the remaining Mint State Red 1944 cents has yet occurred. As these coins get sorted and submitted, we will likely see continued market declines for these superb gem examples.

Also worth noting is that of the major auction firms, GreatCollections most frequently offers this date in high grade.

Top Population: PCGS MS68RD (4, 4/2024), NGC MS68RD (1, 4/2024), and CAC MS68RD (1:0 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

  • NGC MS68RD #2076759-003: Stack’s Bowers, March 1, 2019, Lot 7056 – $1,560; GreatCollections, October 22, 2023, Lot 1443664 – View.
  • PCGS MS68RD #43877354: GreatCollections, May 1, 2022, Lot 955521 – View.
  • PCGS MS68RD #25674724: “The Jerald L. Martin Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2019, Lot 4105 – $11,400. Jerald L. Martin Collection on insert.
  • PCGS MS67+RD CAC #37758301: Stack’s Bowers, August 10, 2020, Lot 4560 – $336.
  • PCGS MS67+RD #25207737: Heritage Auctions, June 4, 2015, Lot 3213 – $1,057.50.
  • PCGS MS67+RD #25276583: Heritage Auctions, September 5, 2014, Lot 3719 – $2,232.50.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1944
Denomination: One Cent (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 1,435,400,000
Alloy: 95% Copper, 5% Zinc
Weight: 3.11 g
Diameter: 19.00 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer: Victor David Brenner
REV Designer: Victor David Brenner
Quality: Business Strike

 

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1944 Lincoln Cent Struck on Steel

1944 Lincoln Cent Off-Metal Error. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1944 Lincoln Cent Off-Metal Error. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.
A 1944-P Steel Cent was advertised for sale by dealer Roy W. Servin in the July 1974 issue of The Numismatist.
A 1944-P Steel Cent was advertised for sale by dealer Roy W. Servin in the July 1974 issue of The Numismatist.

Possibly 25 to 30 examples exist. The 1944 steel cent was discovered by collector Richard Fenton in 1945.

According to David Lange, one example of the 1943 copper and 1944 steel cent was given as a gift to Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock, who later gave them to a “female acquaintance.”

In late 1987, collector Rick Ortega of Jacksonville, Florida, discovered one in an unsearched bag of 1943 steel cents that he purchased from dealer Don Kittsmiller, operator of Duval Coins. Kittsmiller thought the coin was a likely counterfeit, but recommended that Ortega submit the coin to ANACS for authentication.

Collector John Whitney Walter owned at least three examples. The PCGS MS64 population has doubled since 2013.

Top Population: PCGS MS64 (4, 4/2024), NGC AU58 (1, 4/2024), and CAC MS64 (1:0 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

*Note: The CAC census report claims one coin stickered at MS65. No MS65 coin is reported in either NGC or PCGS data.

  • PCGS MS64 #18523968: Heritage Auctions, January 2016, Lot 5270; “The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part VI,” Heritage Auctions, August 18, 2021, Lot 3001 – $108,000. Simpson on insert.
  • PCGS MS64 #05571105: Heritage Auctions, June 17, 2021, Lot 3043 – $180,000.
  • PCGS MS64 CAC #26441690: Stack’s Bowers, August 14, 2013, Lot 4411 – $158,625.
  • PCGS MS63 #689344-010: “The John Whitney Walter Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2018, Lot 1404 – $48,000.
  • PCGS MS62 #34859787: Stack’s Bowers, March 22, 2018, Lot 2190 – $45.600.
  • PCGS MS61 #31671190: “The Bob R. Simpson Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2016, Lot 5268 – $30,550. Simpson novelty insert. notable deep hit behind Lincoln’s head. Dark spot below B of LIBERTY.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1944
Denomination: One Cent (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: Up to 30 are known, few in Mint State.
Alloy: Zinc-coated Steel
Weight: 2.7 g
Diameter: 19.00 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer: Victor David Brenner
REV Designer: Victor David Brenner
Quality: Business Strike

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I one 1943d and 1943s there are two steel coins by I’m sending to upgrade them yet I afraid they may not comes back that why I still have them c

    • I believe those are not the rare ones unfortunately. It’s the 1943 copper pennies that are sought after by collectors..

  2. Hey I have a penny that is 1943 don’t know if it’s a steel penny or a tin one how do I find out about it please if a coin collector can help me I would Appreciate it a lot.

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