Rare 1943 penny sells for $200,000, far below expectations

Posted January 12, 2019

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.

When copper was needed for bullets and wire to win World War II, a 1943 accident at the U.S. Mint created one of the most valuable coins in American history.

An extremely rare bronze coin that was picked up by a high school student in MA in 1947 and preserved until his death in September could fetch up to $1.7 million at public auction.

The penny is now up for auction and as of Wednesday morning, the current bid was at $120,000.

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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.

A similar penny sold for about $1 million in the past.

Rumor had it that Henry Ford had offered to give a vehicle in exchange for a single bronze penny. "In other words, this was the first one that was ever found", said Sarah Miller, Director of Numismatics for Heritage Auctions' New York office.

But after his health started to decline in 2018, Lutes, 87, chose to part ways with it to ensure it went "to a good home", according to his friend, Peter Karpenski. According to the Heritage Auctions website, Lutes received the following response: "In regard to your recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943. All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc-coated steel".

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However, it was later revealed some bronze planchets were mistakenly left in machinery before the so-called "steelies" were pressed.

"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.

Karpenski said Lutes did not have any immediate family when he died, so he made sure his wish was carried out. They quietly slipped into circulation, to amaze collectors and confound Mint officials for years to come.

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