Rare penny could be worth more than $1 million

Share

A rare 1943 copper Lincoln cent - found by a MA teenager in his change after he paid for lunch at a school cafeteria - is expected to fetch up to $1.7 million when it is auctioned off.

The 1943 penny was one of 20 accidentally pressed in copper that year - when the coins were made of zinc-coated steel because copper was needed for WWII shell casings - making it massively valuable, according to Heritage Auctions, which sold the cent. Only 20 were ever made and for years the US government denied its existence, but one coin was found by Don Lutes Jr.in his school cafeteria in March 1947.

Lutes Jr heard the rumors but was told they were false so kept the coin for his collection.

A rare penny found by a 16-year-old high school student in Pittsfield back in 1947 is up for auction starting at $120,000.

The cent, dubbed "the most famous error coin", sold for $204,000 on Thursday after a live auction bidding-frenzy at the Florida United Numismatics convention, in Orlando.

In 1947, Lutes reached out to the U.S. Treasury to inquire about the curious coin but was told it had not made any copper pennies in 1943. While a pretty penny, it was far below the million dollars-plus experts said the coin might fetch.

Lutes knew his coin was rare and held on to it. However, an accident at the U.S. Mint led to the creation of just a handful of copper pennies, which mixed in with the flood of zinc-coated steel coins being sent out.

"Stories appeared in newspapers, comic books and magazines, and a number of fake copper-plated steel cents were passed off as fabulous rarities to unsuspecting purchasers", according to Heritage Auctions.

But after his health started to decline in 2018, Lutes, 87, chose to part ways with it to ensure it went "to a good home", according to his friend, Peter Karpenski.

All of the proceeds made by the coin have been donated to the Pittsfield Public Library, where Lutes volunteered for a number of years.

Instead, the treasury opted to produces zinc-coated steel pennies as an alternative.

However, a few of the copper planchets that were used to cast the Lincoln cent in 1942 got lodged in a trap door of a bin used to feed blanks into the press. They quietly slipped into circulation, to amaze collectors and confound Mint officials for years to come.

Share