Rare 1943 copper Lincoln cent found in lunch money goes to auction

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16-year-old Don Lutes Jr. held onto his discovery for more than seven decades until his death this year. The find is expected to fetch more than $1 million.

In 1947, 16-year-old Don Lutes Jr. a rare 1943 Lincoln cent in his lunch money when he was a high school student in Massachusetts. The ‘most famous’ coin is one of twenty accidentally struck copper coins, the existence of which the government denied for years. Lutes Jr. wisely held on to the penny for some 70 years, until his recent death in September.

Now the coin is being auctioned off and is expected to fetch somewhere between $1 and $1.7 million.

Front of Penny from 1943

Heritage auctionsThe 1943 Lincoln cent was found in a high school student’s lunch money in 1947.

“This is the most famous error coin in American numismatics and that’s what makes this so exciting: No one really knows what it will sell for,” says Sarah Miller of Heritage Auctions.

1943 Lincoln penny1943 Lincoln penny

Heritage auctionsA similar coin brought home $1.7 million in 2010.

Copper was reserved in the 1940s for making shell casings, telephone wire and other war supplies during World War II. Alternatively, pennies were made from galvanized steel. Some copper pennies entered circulation accidentally and many rushed to find one, with the specialty being called “the holy grail of coin errors.”

It was rumored that even car magnate Henry Ford would trade a new car for the coin if anyone came across him. But this myth reportedly turned out to be false.

But according to the Heritage Auction site, “the Mint steadfastly denied that any copper specimens had been struck in 1943,” but the rumors were eventually proven to be true after copper planchets were found in the bins used to press blank coins to feed. late 1942.

Penny just in casePenny just in case

Heritage auctionsDon Lutes was initially told by the U.S. Treasury Department that his find was a fake.

Lutes received offers for the coin for years until he himself approached the U.S. Treasury Department about it. He was assured that “all pennies minted in 1943 were made of galvanized steel” and told that what he thought he had was in fact a fake. Lutes kept the coin anyway.

A similar penny sold for $1.7 million in 2010, and the current bid at Heritage Auctions hovers at $130,000.


Then read about this doorstop that turned out to be a meteorite worth $100,000. Then view the collection of Marie Antoinette’s most prized jewels offered at auction.