One Massachusetts teen stumbled across a rare find while paying for his lunch in the school cafeteria, and the find is worth over one and a half million dollars in today’s market.
His coin, a 1943 copper Lincoln cent, is reported to be the “most famous coin” ever to be made in error by the U.S. Mint. Pennies in 1942 were generally struck from steel, not copper.
Copper was considered a wartime necessity and used for telephone wire, shell casings, and other supplies. Early in the new year of 1943, however, a few bronze blanks were accidentally caught in the presses and turned into “copper” cents.
The Mint didn’t identify them before they were turned over to the public where they quickly became lost in circulation.
Only Twenty Made
With only twenty of these pennies made, the odds of one being given to a high school teen in his lunch money change are astronomical. Luckily, Don Lutes Jr of Pittsfield Massachusetts was a coin collector and spotted his find immediately when counting his change in March of 1947.
Lutes had heard a rumor that Henry Ford was giving away free cars to anyone who could present him with a 1943 “copper penny,” but when he tried to cash in on his prize with Ford Motor Company, he found out the rumor was false.
Lutes then tried to turn his penny back over to the U.S. Mint, but was told that there were no “copper pennies” struck that year.
Lutes held onto the coin until his death in September of 2018, when his estate placed the coin for auction. While the bids are currently only at $100k, in 2010 a similar coin was sold to an anonymous buyer by a New Jersey coin dealer for $1.7 million.
The proceeds from the sale of that coin went to charity.
Heritage Auctions is excited over the lot, explaining that, “While a number of other examples have surfaced over the years, no other specimen has been celebrated and written about as much as this remarkable coin.
This piece inspires a special pride of ownership not equaled by any other example. This lot represents a true ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.”