Me: “Hello, Stack’s Bowers, this is Mark, how may I help you?”
Caller: “Hi, Yes, I have a rare 1943 penny.”
Me: “Is it gray in color?”
Caller: “No, it’s copper, and it looks like a regular penny.”
Me: “Does it stick to a magnet?”…..
This is how the conversation normally goes. Sometimes the client will bring the coin into the store, sometimes they won’t. But I’m always willing to take a look since, well, you never know! Pictured above are three recent purchases. The two coppers are plated steel, and the 1944 “Steel” is unusual. It’s a plated 1944 copper penny! The easy tell for the plated steel pennies is, of course, the magnet test. If it sticks to a magnet, it’s a 1943 Steel penny plated with copper. But not just any magnet will do. Refrigerator magnets with a business card printed on one side usually won’t do the job, they’re best suited for holding one of our business cards to your refrigerator. Just about any solid magnet will do the trick, though.
Then there’s the cast counterfeits. These are slightly more interesting because they’re usually made of a copper alloy, close to the proper weight of 3.1 grams, and they don’t stick to a magnet. These can usually be called out by the grainy appearance under magnification, the weight off by just a few tenths of a gram, or they just don’t look “right.” I’ve yet to have a good one come into the shop here in Philadelphia, but we’re building a nice collection of counterfeits!
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