Rare penny from school lunch change up for auction

Andrew Cummings
January 10, 2019

Heritage Auctions, the house responsible for auctioning the rare penny, said on its website that only a "handful of legitimate specimens" have ever been found.

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

Done Lutes, from MA, was 16 when he was handed the one cent coin at the cafeteria in 1947. "All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc coated steel".

"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.


"Despite the mounting number of reported finds, the Mint steadfastly denied any copper specimens had been struck in 1943", Heritage Auctions added, referring to the US Mint, which produces coinage for the US.

According to Heritage Auctions, the "bronze Lincoln cent is the most famous error coin in American numismatics". Lutes contacted the Ford Motor Company but was told the rumor was false.

A popular rumor among collectors at the time claimed Henry Ford was offering to trade a new auto for one of the rare "copper" pennies struck in 1943, but Lutes made a decision to just keep the coin after contacting the Ford Motor Company and discovering the offer was nothing but an urban legend.

That extremely rare one-cent piece could rack up as much as $1.7 million when it's auctioned off Thursday in Dallas, the New York Post reported.


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.

When he inquired with the US Treasury about the coin's value, he was told that it was "fraudulent" and all pennies issued in 1943 were made from zinc-coated steel.

"They eventually became dislodged and were fed into the coin press, along with the wartime steel blanks". Legit prints of the coin have been found from all three active U.S. Mints: 10-15 from the Philadelphia Mint, six from the San Francisco Mint and one from the Denver Mint. In 2010, a 1943 penny created with a bronze planchet sold for $1.7 million.


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