I first heard of the Steel Cent from my mother.
She grew up during World War II, and knew them as “Steelies.” Usually made from copper, the 1943 penny was crafted in steel instead – because of the need for the other metal in war-time projects like munitions and wiring. But a problem cropped up quickly after the coin was released; the steelie is the only US coin that can be picked up with a magnet. It was also mistaken for a 10-cent coin because of its color.
The US Mint was able to figure out how to stamp pennies in the original color for 1944.
Over the years, steelies were retrieved and destroyed by the Mint to get them out of circulation. Despite that, many of these pennies have remained in pockets around America to this day, an anomaly to those who have never seen one. We have three or four in our household; the one in the picture came in a sandwich bag full of unsorted pennies that I bought at a coin shop yesterday. Not only did the bag hold a steelie, but it also had a number of “Wheatback” pennies – which were made from 1909 to 1958.