1942 - WWII - USA

One Cent Patterns

In 1942, to conserve metal for the WW-II, the US Mint experimented with alternative materials for Coinage very much like the Ceylon 1942 one Cent Bakelite Pattern.

A zinc coated Steel coin was selected and minted in 1943 of slightly lighter 2.7 grams weight than the 3.11 grams Bronze Lincoln Wheat Cent that had been minted since 1909. From 1944 it was minted in as a 3.11 grams copper-zinc until 1982 after which it has been minted as a copper plated zinc coin of 2.5 grams.

See a discussion of experimental cents were minted in the US on behalf of the U.S. Treasury by eight plastic and one glass firm in late 1942 (P4001-P4053).

Since the mint was unwilling to release official dies the mint engraver John Sinnock created a fantasy dies for the purpose.

The Plastic known by trademark name Bakelite was discovered in 1908 by Dr. Leo Baekeland in his laboratory in Yonkers, N.Y.. The article The United States Experimental Cents of 1942 by William G. Anderson (The Numismatist December 1975. p. 2643-2648) reports that the Bakelite Corporation of Bloomfield, New Jersey, molded them from a plastic resin loaded with powdered metal to bring them to the weight of the one-cent piece (P4001).

The Blue Ridge Glass Corporation of Kingsport, Tennessee, produced dark brown glass pieces. The treasury terminated that program with excuse of the coins being brittle. The true reason was which was later understood was because of the Uranium oxide which gives floresence glow under UV light, was used as an anti-counterfeiting device since was needed by the then top secret Manhattan Project of WWII.

The US mint struck using regular-issue dies experimental cents made from different metals (Bronze, zinc-coated Steel, Manganese(?), Aluminum, antimony and lead (P2073-2977), and all of these are said to have been destroyed, although few rare pieces have been listed on auction.

For details see The Numismatist article and the Catalog United States Patterns and Related Issues by Andrew W. Pollock III 1994 Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc. P 390-391 and 429-430.

Alternative Materials for One Cent Coinage Treasury Report. December 1973, 69 page, does not discuss the 1942 trials but states the reasons why Plastic was rejected in 1974

I thank Andrew Pollock for a copy of the Treasury report which make very interesting reading on the U.S. mint selection process.

See Also 1942 White Metal Pattern Cents coin