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

Rare penny found among lunch money change could go for up to $1.7 million at auction

A rare copper penny that could be worth more than $1 million is up for auction through Heritage Auctions

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.

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.

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 MA home.

Lutes took the Treasury statement for fact and kept the penny in his personal collection. However, in 2010, one certified by the Professional Coin Grading Service was sold for a record $1.7 million by Legend Numismatics. Little did he know, some 70 years later that handful of pennies would be worth hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of dollars.

MA native Don Lutes Jr., who died in September, found a 1943 copper Lincoln penny in his lunch money change back in 1947.

"Stories appeared in newspapers, comic books, and magazines and a number of fake copper-plated steel cents were passed off as fabulous rarities to unsuspecting purchasers", according to the auction house's website.

The cent is one of the most famous error coins in USA history, pressed on copper and not zinc-plated steel. Lutes had reached out to the Ford company about his find, but he was informed the rumor wasn't true. "All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc coated steel".

"Despite the mounting number of reported finds, the Mint steadfastly denied any copper specimens had been struck in 1943". In an effort to conserve copper, the Treasury Department asked the U.S. Mint to cast all pennies in 1943 out of zinc-coated steel blanks.

Only a handful of such coins have ever been discovered, according to Heritage Auctions.

However, a few of the copper planchets that were used to cast the Lincoln cent in 1942 got lodged in a trap door of a bin used to feed blanks into the press.

The U.S. Mint denied that any copper pennies were pressed, but reports began to circulate that the error coins were being found by the public. They quietly slipped into circulation, to amaze collectors and confound Mint officials for years to come.

'PCGS CoinFacts estimates the surviving population at no more than 10-15 examples in all grades.

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