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

Heritage Auctions

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.

The cent is one of the most famous error coins in USA history, pressed on copper and not zinc-plated steel. These white colored "steelies" were produced in large numbers and seen in circulation throughout the 1950s and '60s when collectors started pocketing them, but rumors of extremely rare "copper pennies" soon circulated the channels - ones that were made by mistake and subsequently covered up by the U.S. government.

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

After Lutes passed away in September, his coin was given its eye-watering potential value.

- Now that's a pretty penny. Now, some 70 years later, the coin is being auctioned off. and the current highest bid is well over $100,000. Heritage believes it could sell for $170,000 or more at auction in Orlando. It's thought it could fetch over $200,000, though it's so rare, a previous one sold for $1.7 million.

"What makes this so exciting is that it's the only time ever in history when the discovery coin for this piece has been available for sale. This lot represents a true "once in a lifetime" opportunity".

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

Around the end of 1942, a small number of bronze planchets - a plain metal disk that is stamped as a coin - got caught in the trap doors of the mobile tote bins used to feed the blanks into the Mint's coin presses, according to Heritage Auctions.

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"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.

No need to pinch pennies when it comes to this coin.

Lincoln pennies produced in 1943 were meant to be made from zinc-coated steel, but a handful of coins put into circulation used copper instead.

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

When Don Lutes Jr. was just 16 years old, he discovered a rare Lincoln penny among his lunch money change while getting food at his MA high school back in 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.

This mysterious and ultra-valuable coin Lutes came across?

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