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10 January 2019, 06:39 | Hattie Nash
The penny was put up for auction, and as of Wednesday morning, January 9, the bid was at $120,000.
At the height of World War II in 1943, copper was a strategic metal used to make shell casings, telephone wires, and other wartime necessities. The young coin collector made a decision to keep the cent in his collection for more than 70 years, until he died in September.
Only 20 were ever made and for years the USA government denied its existence, but one coin was found by Don Lutes Jr.in his school cafeteria in March 1947.
"In regard to your recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943", the department wrote.
To save rations, the Treasury Department at the time authorized the US Mint to strike 1943 cents on zinc-coated steel plates, known as planchets, rather than on copper blanks.
"Despite the mounting number of reported finds, the Mint steadfastly denied any copper specimens had been struck in 1943".
It's all thanks to a historical quirk: the penny is one of a few 1943 examples made in copper, at a time when the mint was supposed to only be producing zinc-coated steel to save copper for the war effort.
Heritage Auctions now lists Lutes's authentic 1943 Lincoln cent at a whopping $130,000, which jumps to $156,000 with the added Buyer's Premium.
Eventually, Lutes gave up trying to cash in on his coin and it stayed in his collection until his death in September. Lutes heard this rumor and inquired with Ford Motor Company, but they set the record straight, denying that Ford had many any such promise. "All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc-coated steel". The auction ends Thursday, and the current bid stands at $130,000.
One penny, in particular, is now dubbed the "most famous error coin" by Heritage Auctions, who is auctioning the penny.
The auction is set to end January 10, 2019.
"They eventually became dislodged and were fed into the coin press, along with the wartime steel blanks". It's thought it could fetch over $200,000, though it's so rare, a previous one sold for $1.7 million. Today, we know there are surviving examples from all three active mints, including 10 to 15 from Philadelphia, half a dozen from San Francisco, and just one from Denver.
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