What makes a 1943-P nickel rare? The 1943-P Jefferson nickel is one of the most sought-after coins for collectors, with rare specimens selling for thousands of dollars. But what exactly makes this coin so special and valuable? Read on to learn all about the history, rarity, and value of the 1943-P nickel.
Background on the 1943 Jefferson Nickel
Introduction of the Jefferson nickel series in 1938
The Jefferson nickel was introduced in 1938, replacing the Buffalo nickel. This came after the initial popularity of the Buffalo nickel had waned and a desire emerged to honor Thomas Jefferson in coinage.
The new design featured Jefferson on the obverse and Monticello, his Virginia estate, on the reverse.
The series debuted to popular reception in 1938. With over a billion minted in its first two years, the Jefferson nickel became a staple of American commerce. The original design by artist Felix Schlag would largely endure over decades.
Transition to wartime nickels in 1942-1945
By 1942, copper usage was restricted to aid the Allied Powers’ World War II effort. The U.S. Mint experimented to find suitable metals to replace copper content in nickels. This resulted in silver, low-grade silver alloy, and finally, tombac being used during the war years of 1942-1945.
Most of the composition changes were invisible to the public. But the most famous change came in 1943 when zinc-coated steel blanks produced a unique but short-lived steel wartime Jefferson nickel.
The 1943 steel cents and silver nickel planchets
The 1943 steel cent is well-known, as steel prominently altered its appearance. But fewer numismatists are aware that 1943 also saw the accidental production of rare Jefferson nickels struck on leftover silver planchets. An estimated 40 such specimens exist.
These coins went undetected for years. Upon discovery decades later, they were authenticated by the U.S. Mint as having trace elements consistent with silver planchets. Today, these extremely scarce coins command prices up to $200,000 at auction.
Why the 1943-P Nickel Stands Out
Far lower mintage than other wartime Jefferson nickels
The 1943-P Jefferson nickel’s mintage of 19,515,365 makes it far less common than the other Jefferson nickels minted during World War II. This mintage is downright tiny compared to the 1943 copper-alloy nickels of various other mints, with 640 million other 1943 Jefferson nickels minted at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints.
This huge production gap helps contribute to the scarcity and value of the 1943-P nickel.
Accidental striking on silver planchets
A very unusual and exciting subset of the 1943-P nickels are those accidentally struck on silver planchets which were intended for other denominations. With brilliant silver color and ‘tinniness’ to their ring, these are breathtaking surprises that bring immense joy to collectors.
Only an estimated 12-15 of these silver 1943-P nickels are known to exist, making them immensely rare and desirable finds.
High demand from collectors and investors
As one of the classic wartime coin rarities, the scarce 1943-P Jefferson nickel has long been popular with coin collectors, especially those assembling 20th-century US type sets or Jefferson nickel albums.
More recently, with valuable rare coins increasingly seen as hard assets for investment, the 1943-P has caught the interest of bullion and commodity investors. This surge of investor interest has sent values climbing over the last decade.
In August 2018, an example graded MS-67 by PCGS with a full steps designation sold at auction for $204,000, giving a glimpse of this coin’s tremendous potential. While most examples trade hands at more modest prices, interest, and values continue trending upwards for this WWII classic rarity.
Key Date Status and Value
One of the best semi-key date 20th century coins
The 1943-P Lincoln wheat penny is viewed by numismatists as one of the best semi-key date coins minted in the 20th century (Professional Coin Grading Service, 2023). As one of the earlier dates during World War II, the 1943-P was produced in smaller numbers as copper was valuable to the war effort.
This relative scarcity makes the 1943-P Lincoln penny more desirable to coin collectors and investors.
Valuable in any condition but especially uncirculated
The 1943-P penny has value even in lower grades but is worth significantly more in mint condition. According to the PCGS CoinFacts guide, an average circulated example grades at about Extremely Fine-40 and retails around $3.
However, in MS-65 condition, the Red designation coins trade for over $100 (Professional Coin Grading Service, 2023). Uncirculated rolls are also popular among Lincoln penny collectors looking to find that elusive high-grade example.
Record sales over $200,000 for finest known coins
The finest known specimens of the 1943-P cent have realized huge auction prices in recent years. In January 2018, Legend Rare Coin Auctions sold an incredible MS-67+ example certified by PCGS for an astounding $204,000 (Spiegel, 2018). This is the highest price paid so far for a 1943 bronze cent.
As demand increases for top-quality classic US coinage, more record sales are likely in the coming years.
How to Identify a Rare 1943-P Nickel
Weight and visual indicators
A key way to identify a potentially valuable 1943-P nickel is by its weight and visual features. Authentic 1943-P nickels were made of a copper-silver-manganese alloy instead of the normal copper-nickel, making them lighter in weight.
Carefully weigh your 1943-P nickel on a precision scale – it should be around 3.1 to 3.2 grams, compared to normal Jefferson nickels that weigh 5 grams.
Visually inspect the nickel for signs it may be a rare and valuable specimen. Examine the nickel’s surface for wear – less friction indicates fewer circulations, making it more desirable to collectors. Note nicks, scratches, or markings as these will decrease the coin’s value. The coin’s strike should also show good clarity in details like Monticello’s dome windows and columns.
Authentication by professional coin grading services
Consider having your 1943-P nickel authenticated and certified by reputable third-party coin grading services like PCGS or NGC. Their experts will assess the coin’s mint state condition and rarity, assigning it a numeric grade from 1 to 70.
This professional assessment provides a guarantee of authenticity and grade, which is vital for determining market value. For example, a 1943-P nickel-certified MS67 by PCGS sold for over $350,000 in 2018!
Besides grading conditions, services will also verify key features like weight, coloration, surface marks, strike sharpness, and matte-like texture. They use highly specialized equipment like microscopes, magnification, weighing scales, and computer software.
Fees range but this independent verification assures buyers and drives up resale prices. Consider protective slabs to preserve the coin’s grade if selling to collectors.
What to do if you find one
Firstly, consider yourself extremely fortunate if you discover a rare 1943-P nickel! Safeguard it immediately to prevent damage – place it in a protective flip, sleeve, or hard plastic capsule. Avoid touching the coin’s surfaces directly and store it safely away from moisture, dust, or potential handling by others.
Document it carefully with detailed photos and written records.
Strongly consider having the coin professionally appraised and authenticated by a reputable service. This will likely require mailing it insured or delivering it directly for assessment. Be very selective of buyers – get multiple valuations from coin dealer shops or auction houses.
Expect most collectors to be enthusiastic about an authenticated 1943-P nickel! Consider auctioning it for maximum exposure and competitive bids.
Finally, appreciate your unique find! Relatively few 1943-P specimens survived in high mint condition. You have discovered a mint-condition slice of history representing an intriguing chapter of WWII coinage.
From the 1943 steel penny to silver nickels, these unusual coins fascinate numismatists and historians alike. For the fortunate finder, such elusive rarities bring great excitement coupled with surprising windfalls.
What Makes A 1943-P Nickel Rare – Conclusion
With its low mintage, accidental rarity variants, and popularity with collectors, the 1943-P Jefferson nickel stands out as a semi-key date 20th-century coin. While common worn examples can be found for a couple of dollars, uncirculated coins trade for hundreds up to six figures for the very finest known specimens certified by PCGS or NGC.
The 1943-P nickel makes a fascinating treasure hunt target and a valuable addition to any numismatic collection.