Don Lutes Jr. kept the 1943 copper penny he stumbled upon in his high school cafeteria seven decades ago in a safe behind a wall in his Massachusetts home.
All US pennies were supposed to be made of zinc-coated steel that year to conserve the copper needed for wartime essentials like shell casings and telephone wire, according to Heritage Auctions, a Dallas-based auction house. But a small number of copper pennies were created by mistake. Only a few of them exist today, making them special to coin collectors.
Lutes knew his coin was rare and held on to it. But as his health declined last year, Lutes decided to sell the coin because,” he wanted to make sure it went to a good home,” said Peter Karpenski, a friend and fellow coin collector.
Lutes’ prized possession fetched a pretty penny — US$204,000 — after a live auction in January at the Florida United Numismatics (FUN) convention in the US. Heritage Auctions, which oversaw the sale, estimated the coin was worth at least $170,000.
“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. In other words, this was the first one that was ever found,” said Sarah Miller, Director of Numismatics for Heritage Auctions’ New York office.
The 1943 copper penny is probably the USA’s most famous error coin. Around the end of 1942, a small number of bronze planchets got caught in the trap doors of the mobile tote bins used to feed the blanks into the Mint’s coin presses. Those planchets went unnoticed when the bins were refilled with zinc-coated steel planchets in 1943. It is estimated that only 10 to 15 of the 1943 copper pennies exist today.
This post is based on an article by Darran Simon, which appeared originally on CNN Website updated on 11th January 2019