A rare 1943 copper Lincoln cent - found by a MA teenager in his change after he paid for lunch at a school cafeteria - is expected to fetch up to $1.7 million when it is auctioned off.
So, in 1943, Lincoln pennies were made of zinc-coated steel to preserve copper. They were made at a time when bronze and copper were being saved to fill metal shortages during World War II.
Lutes came across the coin at a time when people across the country were eager to get their hands on one of the rare copper pennies. Luckily for Lutes, he kept it in his collection.
The penny is now up for auction and as of Wednesday morning, the current bid was at $120,000. It's likely to go much higher, however: a 2010 auction on a similar coin raised $1.7 million, of which only 10-15 are estimated to exist. Buoyed by the Henry Ford rumor, he contacted the vehicle firm, but they informed him it was false. Caldwell said the coin is one of 19 known bronze pennies minted in 1943.
Lutes was old enough to remember the "steel" pennies struck in 1943, which were still in circulation, so it piqued his interest when he found the copper-colored cent in his lunch change. "All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc-coated steel".
Only a handful of such coins have ever been discovered, according to Heritage Auctions.
It seems that a small number of bronze planchets was caught in the trap doors of the mobile tote bins used to feed blanks into the Mint's coin presses at the end of 1942.
"Despite the mounting number of reported finds, the Mint steadfastly denied any copper specimens had been struck in 1943", Heritage Auctions added, referring to the US Mint, which produces coinage for the US. Lutes died in September 2018 at the age of 87, according to Miller. PCGS CoinFacts, which offers information to all collectors of U.S. coins, estimates that there are only 10 to 15 such pennies. People are now bidding on one of those pennies through Heritage Auctions.