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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.
“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.
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$1 MILLION FIND: Rare 1943 penny given out with high-school lunch change could fetch big bucks at auction… https://t.co/kmd9tTcKoU
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Rare penny found among lunch money change could go for up to $1.7 million at auction: https://t.co/h9Rm9HF57u via @AOL
Rare penny found among lunch money change could go for up to $1.7 million at auction https://t.co/U2hZ6WpsSf
Penny found in lunch money could be worth $1.7M https://t.co/t6GNIYIxZU