Rare penny found in Pittsfield selling for $120,000

Set of old shells from World War II

The 1943 copper penny "is the most famous error coin", according to Heritage Auctions. All cents were supported to be made with zinc-coated steel in order to conserve copper for the war effort. However, a handful of the coins were mistakenly pressed with copper, including the one Lutes found.

After being dispelled by the Treasury Department, Lutes made a decision to keep his 1943-branded coin for his personal collection. The World War II collector's item is "one of the most valuable coins in American history", according to 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. In 2010, a 1943 penny created with a bronze planchet sold for $1.7 million. PCGS CoinFacts, which offers information to all collectors of United States coins, estimates that there are only 10 to 15 such pennies. "Stories appearing in newspapers, comic books, and magazines sparked a nationwide search for these reported rarities by schoolchildren, bank tellers, and citizens from all walks of life".

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. 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".

And despite a growing number of reported finds, the Mint "steadfastly denied any copper specimens had been struck in 1943", Heritage Auctions wrote. Over the years, after many inquiries and attempts to buy it, he contacted the US Treasury, but was told the coin was "fraudulent" and that all 1943 pennies were zinc coated steel, with no exceptions.

Lutes's coin, now verified, will remain on auction until January 10, according to Fox News.

Rare 1943 bronze penny could fetch over $1 million at auction. The few resulting "copper" cents were lost in the flood of millions of "steel" cents struck in 1943 and escaped detection by the Mint's quality control measures. They quietly slipped into circulation, to amaze collectors and confound Mint officials for years to come.

Between 10 to 15 of the coins with a copper appearance made in facilities including the Mints of Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver are thought to exist today.

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