Rare penny found in cafeteria change could sell for over $1 million

Rare penny found in cafeteria change could sell for over $1 million

Fewer than 20 of the rare 1943 Lincoln pennies were ever made- and that was due to an error.

In 1943, during World War II, pennies were minted out of steel because copper was reserved for other uses, such as shell casings and telephone wires. However, a handful of the coins were mistakenly pressed with copper, including the one Lutes found.

Lutes took the Treasury statement for fact and kept the penny in his personal collection.

Sarah Miller of Heritage Auctions told SWNS (via Fox): "This is the most famous error coin in American numismatics and that's what makes this so exciting".

Bids for the coin is now at $100,000 but another 1943 copper cent was sold by a New Jersey dealer to an anonymous buyer for $1.7 million in 2010. In 2010, a 1943 penny created with a bronze planchet sold for $1.7 million.

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Lutes got the coin authenticated in 1958 by Walter Breen during a New England Numismatic Association convention in Worcester.

In 1943, during World War II, pennies were supposed to be made of steel, because copper was needed for other uses, but a handful of the coins were mistakenly pressed with copper, and Don Lutes Jr. discovered one of them in his change from his MA high school lunch in 1947.

"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 the Heritage Auctions website. Lutes had reached out to the Ford company about his find, but he was informed the rumor wasn't true. The penny was created after "a small number of bronze planchets was caught in the trap doors of the mobile tote bins used to feed blanks into the Mint's coin presses at the end of 1942", according to auction house. Zinc-coated steel plates were "considerably harder" than those used in earlier designs, so penny pressers had to strike the blank steel coin much harder. The resulting "copper" cents were lost in the flood of millions of "steel" cents, escaped detection by the Mint's quality control measures, and quietly slipped into circulation.

The Mint similarly denied Lutes discovered such a coin when he placed an inquiry with the Treasury Department regarding his find. "PCGS CoinFacts estimates the surviving population at no more than 10-15 examples in all grades".

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