Rare penny from school lunch change up for auction

Rare 1943 bronze penny could fetch over $1 million at auction.             
    Heritage Auctions

A penny that a MA teenager found in his change from lunch money could be worth as much as $1.65 million (£1.3 million) when it is auctioned off. That year, the Treasury stopped using copper to mint pennies to save the metal for the war effort.

Lutes, who had the coin authenticated in 1958 by expert Walter Breen during a New England Numismatic Association convention in Worcester, died in September of a year ago and the coin was given to Heritage to auction off.

Don Lutes Jr, a 16-year-old coin collector from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, found one of the copper pennies in the change he received after buying lunch at a school cafeteria in March 1947.

Those bronze planchets then fed into the coin press, leading to the creation of several coins that were "lost in the flood of millions of "steel" cents struck in 1943".

However, a handful of the coins were mistakenly pressed with copper, including the one Lutes found.

Don Lutes, Jr., of Pittsfield, Massachusetts discovered a rare "copper" 1943 Lincoln Penny in his lunch money in 1947.

The coin was one of just 20 created by the US Mint in 1943 with a copper-looking surface, Heritage Auctions, who is selling off the coin after Mr Lutes' recent death, explained on its website.

But when Lutes contacted the Ford Motor Company, he was told the rumor was false.

Lutes knew his coin was rare and held on to it. The auction ends Thursday, and the current bid stands at $130,000. "Despite the mounting number of reported finds, the Mint steadfastly denied any copper specimens that had been struck in 1943".

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. Heritage believes it could sell for $170,000 or more at auction in Orlando. When they became dislodged, they were printed and circulated with the millions of steel copies.

A similar penny sold for $1.7 million in 2010. PCGS CoinFacts, which offers information to all collectors of USA coins, estimates that there are only 10 to 15 such pennies.