Throughout the Lincoln cent series, a number of interesting varieties have been collected to one degree or another. Some of these were unknown to numismatists until they began examining coins under high power magnification. Included are variants such as the 1909-S over a previous erroneous horizontal S (listed in the 2021 Guide Book for $1,200 in MS-63 grade) and the curious 1944-D with the mintmark over an earlier S (today valued at $450 in MS-63 condition).
In a class by itself is the 1943 zinc-coated steel cent. During the height of World War II, copper was in short supply due to the military effort. In 1942 experiments were made in an effort to seek an acceptable substitute for the scarce metal. At the Philadelphia Mint and at the Hooker Chemical Company (North Tonawanda, New York) impressions from special dies (medal dies made for the purpose) were produced in fiber, zinc, and other substances. In the following year, 1943 zinc-coated steel was adopted as the standard, and more than a billion Lincoln cents were produced in this format at the three mints. A few leftover bronze planchets from the previous year found their way into the coining process, with the result that a number of 1943 bronze Lincoln cents are known. Years ago these received great publicity. It was said, for example, that Henry Ford would deliver a new automobile in exchange for such a piece. During a later era, the 1960s and 1970s, several 1943 copper cents crossed the auction block or were offered privately and sold in the range of a few thousand dollars up to close to $10,000 level, thus establishing a valuation.
From 1944 through 1946 used cartridge cases were melted down and cent planchets were made from them. Inevitably a few of the earlier zinc-coated steel planchets found their way into coining presses early in 1944, producing incorrect metal strikings somewhat related to the 1943 copper issues. 1944 steel cents have come on the market a number of times and have attracted attention among specialists.
Low mintages also attracted attention among numismatists, in particular, the 1931-S with the Depression causing mintage of the cent in San Francisco to be reduced with only 866,000 examples leaving the coining press. The 1931-S was the only issue since the 1909-S V.D.B. to register a total of less than a million. There were enough sharp collectors and dealers around who acquired these in substantial quantities. The 1931-S later became scarce in circulation due to low mintage. The demand for worn pieces, engendered by Whitman penny boards, quickly made it a sought-after issue, placing additional pressure on the supply of Uncirculated pieces. Today, while the 1931-S in Uncirculated grade is easier to find than the 1931-D (of which about five times as many were minted), still there is a ready market due to its rarity in lesser grades.