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topic 23366

Rust removal from zinc pennies


I have a large number of 1943 zinc pennies. They got damp and rusted. How can I remove the rust?

Addison G [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Hopewell Junction, New York, USA


In response to your question, 1st you must understand zinc plating. Zinc is what's called a "sacrificial" coating, which means that it will sacrifice itself to corrosion, and protect the metal. So if your pennies are rusted, then consider that the zinc did its job. It rusted, and saved the penny. It may not look pretty, but it saved the metal. You can probably get the rust off but not w/out ruining the penny.(maybe try hot phosphoric acid, or hydrochloric, around a 6M concentration run at 120 °F.)

Joel A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, USA


Actually Addison, the 1943 pennies are zinc plated steel, not zinc. I'd clean them off with an alkaline rust remover, of which your local hardware store should have several brands.
The downside of that plan is that the alkaline will certainly attack what is left of the zinc plating. Since they are valuable to you (presumably) I suggest that you should be very careful about testing it on one, and watching any reaction like a hawk, and having lots of water on hand to rinse it off.
I'd also consider the phosphoric acid that Joel mentioned, (some of the rust removers have phosphoric acid as the active ingredient) but not the hydrochloric acid. HCl will corrode the steel.

lee gearhart
Lee Gearhart


It is hard to believe, but, try hair spray from a dollar store. Be sure to rinse immediately. Sometimes wiping hard with a towel, wrap w/ plastic wrap (very tightly) and then wrap for display leaving the plastic wrap intact.

David S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Philadelphia, Pa USA


I found a 1943 silver penny and I would like to know what possible could have made it that way or if it was made that way. is it worth anything?

Greg [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Clinton, Maryland, USA


My wife and I were cleaning the back yard up and she found a 1939 wheat penny. I washed the dirt off but how do I get the rust off. We have recently started a coin collection since moving to Springfield Vt. This is the oldest coin so far that we have found.

Andrew E [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
hobbyist - Springfield, Vermont


To Greg in Maryland: That penny of 1943 is really steel. It was made after/ during a war, so copper was harder to come by. The highest of value it COULD be are $75 for a Bold Double "D" mint mark [1943 D] near flawless, $15 for near flawless 1943 S, $8 for near flawless 1943 D, and 1943 plain is $6. I have one two, thought its value is only as low as $.02, high is $0.05.

To Andrew E: Congratulations on your lucky and rare finding! May I suggest that you could use "Goo Gone [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]", "Goof Off [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]", or "Barkeepers Friend [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]" to help clean your penny. Though when using "Goo Gone" be very careful for it tends to take the details off a very little bit if left alone for too long.

I hope I was some help to you all.

Catherine Minnick
- York, Pennsylvania, USA

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