Rare coin given to schoolboy as change now worth $2.3m

Cornelia Mascio
Gennaio 10, 2019

The cent is one of the most famous error coins in US history, pressed on copper and not zinc-plated steel. It was found in MA in 1947.

The rare penny is one of about 15 copper coins that were accidentally minted by the Department of the Treasury in 1943.

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. The young coin collector made a decision to keep the cent in his collection for more than 70 years, until he died in September.

Heritage Auctions will offer the coin from January 10-13 during its Florida United Numismatists Show in Orlando.

A rare coin found by a teenager in the change from his lunch money could be sold for more than $2 million when it goes to auction.

"The few resulting "copper" cents were lost in the flood of millions of "steel" cents struck in 1943 and escaped detection by the Mint's quality control measures", Heritage Auctions said.

The penny is considered to have been made in error because in the 1940s, copper was meant to be reserved for wartime necessities such as shell casings and telephone wires.

Lutes came across the coin at a time when people across the country were eager to get their hands on one of the rare copper pennies.

"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", the auction house wrote on its website. "All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc coated steal [sic]". They eventually became dislodged and were fed into the coin press, along with the wartime steel blanks.

So amongst the millions of "steel" pennies were a tiny number of "copper" cents that managed to quietly enter circulation. Lutes had reached out to the Ford company about his find, but he was informed the rumor wasn't true.

He also contacted the Treasury Department about his penny.

Lutes died in September 2018 at the age of 87, according to Miller.

Heritage Auctions now lists Lutes's authentic 1943 Lincoln cent at a whopping $130,000, which jumps to $156,000 with the added Buyer's Premium.

Around 10 years after Lutes had given up on trying to monetize his find, a 14-year-old from California had his coin authenticated and placed in the 1958 ANA Convention Auction.

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