Rare penny found in 1947 could be worth more than $1 million

Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions

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 the forties.

Following government orders to preserve copper for the war effort, the mint began creating Lincoln pennies on steel planchets coated with zinc in 1943.

There were rumors at the time that the Ford Motor Company would offer the prize of a new vehicle to anyone who could give Henry Ford one of the copper pennies.

It is believed only 20 of the rare coins were made.

Lutes knew his coin was rare and held on to it.

Giving up, Lutes reached the conclusion that the coin was worthless, but kept it in his coin collection nevertheless for the next 70 years.

Lutes' prized possession could fetch a pretty penny.

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

The top bid after a two-week online auction is $130,000, according to Heritage Auctions.

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.

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"This lot represents a true "once in a lifetime" opportunity", Heritage Auctions told potential buyers on its website.

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.

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. 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.

In 2010, a New Jersey dealer sold a similar 1943 copper penny for $1.7million.

"In regard to your recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943", the department wrote.

Don Lutes Jr, a 16-year-old coin collector from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, found one of the copper pennies in the change he received after buying lunch at a school cafeteria in March 1947.

A US Army veteran, he would amass some 50,000 coins by the 1970s when he retired from the family manufacturing business, according to Karpenski.

Lutes heard about the rumours of the coins and wondered if his was one of them.

The Pittsfield resident was a quiet man with a small circle of friends that included fellow members of the coin and genealogy clubs he belonged to.

Lutes wanted the proceeds from the sale of his prized penny to go to the library, Miller said.

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