The iconic Lincoln Wheat penny underwent a significant change in 1943 when copper was replaced with steel due to copper shortages during World War II. This change carried over into 1944 as well, resulting in special steel wheat pennies being minted that year.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: You can identify a 1944 steel wheat penny by using a magnet – steel pennies are attracted to magnets while copper pennies are not. Also, look for a distinct steel gray color and check the date.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about determining if you have one of these unique 1944 steel cents in your collection.

Background on Wheat Pennies and the Change to Steel in 1943

Lincoln Wheat penny bronze

Wheat pennies, also known as Lincoln cents, were first introduced in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. These coins featured a portrait of Lincoln on the obverse side and two stalks of wheat on the reverse side, which is how they got their nickname.

For over three decades, these copper coins were the standard penny in circulation in the United States.

When Wheat Pennies Were First Introduced?

The first Wheat penny was minted in 1909, and was designed by sculptor Victor David Brenner. It was the first U.S. coin to feature the image of an actual person, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, on the obverse side.

Prior to the Lincoln penny, the majority of U.S. coins featured allegorical or symbolic representations of concepts like Liberty, Freedom, or Justice. Considering that Lincoln’s cent departure from this tradition, and shift towards featuring real individuals, it was a significant milestone in American numismatic history.

The wheat penny quickly gained popularity among collectors due to its unique design and historical significance.

Why Copper Was Replaced With Steel in 1943

During World War II, there was a shortage of copper due to its high demand for military purposes. To conserve this valuable metal, the U.S. Mint made the decision to switch from copper to steel for the production of pennies in 1943.

These steel pennies were only minted for one year and were intended to be a temporary measure until the copper shortage was resolved.

However, the steel pennies posed several problems. They were often mistaken for dimes due to their similar color and weight, and they also tended to rust easily. As a result, the steel pennies did not gain as much popularity among collectors as the copper wheat pennies.

Steel Wheat Pennies Continued to Be Minted in 1944

How To Tell If You Have A 1944 Steel Wheat Penny

Despite the initial plan to only produce steel pennies in 1943, a small number of steel wheat pennies were minted in 1944. These coins were the result of leftover steel planchets that had been prepared for the 1943 pennies but were not used.

If you think you may have a 1944 steel wheat penny, it is important to have it authenticated by a professional coin dealer or grading service. Genuine 1944 steel pennies are quite rare and valuable, so it is worth taking the time to confirm its authenticity.

Remember, counterfeit coins do exist, so it’s always best to consult with an expert.

For more information on Lincoln Wheat pennies and their value, you can visit official United States Mint web page.

How to Tell if a Wheat Penny is Steel Rather Than Copper

Various Lincoln pennies

If you’re a coin collector or simply interested in rare and valuable coins, you may come across a Wheat penny from 1944. What makes this particular penny unique is that it was minted during World War II when copper was in high demand for the war effort.

To conserve copper, the U.S. Mint made a small number of pennies from steel instead. These steel pennies are highly sought after by collectors due to their scarcity. Here are a few ways to determine if you have a 1944 steel wheat penny:

1. Use a Magnet to Test Attraction

One of the easiest ways to determine if your Wheat penny is made of steel is to use a magnet. Copper is not magnetic, while steel is. Take a small magnet and hold it near the penny. If the penny is attracted to the magnet, it is likely made of steel.

However, keep in mind that some counterfeit coins may be made with a steel core and coated with copper to mimic the appearance of a genuine steel penny. So, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional or reference reputable websites like US Mint for further authentication.

2. Look for Distinct Steel Gray Color

Another way to identify a 1944 steel Wheat penny is by its color. Steel pennies have a distinct gray hue, unlike the reddish-brown color of copper pennies. Hold the penny under a good light source and compare it to a known copper penny.

If it appears more gray in color, there’s a high chance it is a steel penny. However, keep in mind that over time, steel pennies can develop a light rust or patina, so be sure to clean the coin gently if you suspect it might be a steel penny.

3. Examine the Date for 1944

The final step in determining if you have a 1944 steel Wheat penny is to check the date. Steel pennies were produced in 1943 due to the wartime shortage of copper. However, a small number of steel pennies were also minted in 1944.

Carefully examine the date on your penny, and if it reads 1944, you may have a true treasure in your hands. It’s recommended to consult a professional coin appraiser or reference reputable coin collecting websites for a more accurate assessment of its value.

Remember, the 1944 steel Wheat penny is a rare find, and finding one in your pocket change or inherited coin collection can be quite exciting. However, it’s essential to ensure its authenticity through proper testing and consultation with experts in the field.

Tips for Finding and Caring for Steel Wheat Pennies

Steel wheat pennies are a fascinating piece of numismatic history. Minted in 1943 due to a copper shortage during World War II, these unique coins are highly sought after by collectors. If you’re wondering how to tell if you have a 1944 steel Wheat penny, here are some tips to help you in your search.

Check Your Coin Jar or Collection for Pre-1958 Wheat Cents

If you’re lucky enough to have a coin jar or a collection of old coins, it’s worth taking a closer look to see if you have any pre-1958 wheat cents. Steel Wheat pennies were officially minted in 1943, followed by a small amount of coins minted in 1944 which are incredibly rare.

Still finding other steel Wheat pennies from 1943 is a thrilling discovery. Take the time to carefully examine each coin in your collection, looking for the distinctive silver-gray color of the steel cent.

Search Bank Rolls of Pennies

If you’re a serious coin collector, consider searching bank rolls of pennies when looking for steel Wheat pennies. While it may take some time and effort, you never know what you might find. Purchase a few rolls of pennies from your local bank or credit union, and start searching through them.

Look for any coin that stands out from the others in terms of its color or weight. Remember, steel Wheat pennies are attracted to magnets, so you can use a magnet to help identify potential candidates.

Handle Carefully to Avoid Damage

Once you have identified a potential steel Wheat penny, it’s important to handle it with care to avoid any damage. Steel cents are more prone to rust and corrosion compared to their copper counterparts.

Avoid touching the coin with your bare hands, as the oils and moisture from your skin can cause further damage. Instead, use cotton gloves or hold the coin by its edges. Store the coin in a protective holder to prevent any scratches or exposure to environmental elements.

Remember, finding a 1944 steel Wheat penny is extremely rare, but the search for it is an exciting and thrilling adventure not only for coin collectors.

Value and Significance of 1944 Steel Wheat Pennies

Higher Value Than Copper Counterparts

One of the key reasons why the 1944 Steel Wheat Penny is highly sought after by collectors is its higher value compared to its copper counterparts. While most pennies minted during that era were made of copper, due to the shortage of copper during World War II, a small number of steel pennies were produced.

These steel pennies were later coated in zinc to prevent corrosion.

The scarcity of the 1944 Steel Wheat Penny makes it a rarity in the numismatic world. According to experts, the value of a 1944 Steel Wheat Penny in good condition can range from $35,000 for MS50 to $175,000 for a coin with grade MS64. However, if the penny is in almost perfect condition its value can skyrocket to a few hundred dollars or even more!

Collectors and enthusiasts are always on the lookout for these steel pennies as they represent a unique piece of history and a valuable addition to their collections. The rarity and higher value of the 1944 Steel Wheat Penny make it a prized possession for coin collectors.

Historical Significance of Steel Composition

The steel composition of the 1944 Wheat Penny holds significant historical value. During World War II, copper was considered a valuable resource needed for the war effort. As a result, the U.S. Mint decided to experiment with alternative materials for penny production.

This led to the production of the 1944 Steel Wheat Penny, which was the only steel penny ever minted for circulation in the United States.

The steel composition of the 1944 penny also makes it distinctive from other coins of that era. Its silver-gray appearance and magnetic properties set it apart from the traditional copper pennies. This uniqueness adds to its appeal and makes it a fascinating piece of history for collectors.

Moreover, the steel composition of the 1944 penny also poses challenges for collectors. Over time, steel pennies are prone to rust and corrosion, making it difficult to find well-preserved specimens. This further contributes to its scarcity and higher value in the market.


The classic Lincoln wheat penny took on a temporary steel makeover in 1943 and 1944 due to wartime copper shortages. While steel Wheat pennies can be found only with the 1943 and 1944 minting years engraved, the 1944 issue marks the end of an era for these iconic cents.

With their unique steel gray appearance, magnetic properties, and historical significance,  a 1944 steel cent in your collection can be an exciting and valuable find for your collection. Now that you know what to look for, keep your eyes peeled when searching through wheat pennies – you never know when a World War II relic may turn up!

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