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

No need to pinch pennies when it comes to this coin.

When Don Lutes Jr. was just 16 years old, he discovered a rare Lincoln penny among his lunch money change while getting food at his Massachusetts high school back in 1947.

The 1943 coin, described as “the most famous error coin in American numismatics,” is one of only about 15 made — and it could be worth a fortune.

Copper pennies from that year typically don’t look very different from the coin as it appears today, but it does look different from the ones manufactured in 1943. That year, the one-cent coin was supposed to be struck in steel so to preserve copper for more high priority-uses during World War II. Some copper left over from pennies past managed to make its way into the presses, resulting in coins struck with the wrong material. 

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1942 Jefferson Nickel
Asking Price: $16,999.95

Photo credit: eBay

1932 Washington Quarter
Asking Price: $20,800.00

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1963 Franklin Half Dollar
Asking Price: $23,900.00

Photo credit: eBay

1954 Roosevelt Dime
Asking Price: $25,000.00

Photo credit: eBay

1921 Morgan Dollar
Asking Price: $34,999.00

Photo credit: eBay

1970 Washington Quarter
Asking Price: $35,000.00

Photo credit: eBay

1914 Lincoln Cent
Asking Price: $35,750.00

Photo credit: eBay

1877 Indian Cent
Asking Price: $37,100.00

Photo credit: eBay

1807 Draped Bust Quarter
Asking Price: $42,000.00

Photo credit: eBay

1889 Morgan Silver Dollar
Asking Price: $175,000.00

Photo credit: eBay

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“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 Heritage Auctions website. “Despite the mounting number of reported finds, the Mint steadfastly denied any copper specimens that had been struck in 1943.”

The Mint similarly denied Lutes discovered such a coin when he placed an inquiry with the Treasury Department regarding his find.

“In regard to recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943,” the response read. “All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc coated steal.”

It was enough for him to give up on authenticating the coin and he opted instead to keep it in his collection. Lutes passed away in September and his coin will be up for auction through January 9, Fox News reported.

Its unclear how much it will sell for, but a similar coin struck at the Denver Mint fetched a record $1.7 million when it was auctioned off in 2010.

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