Rare World War II-era penny flops at auction

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Heritage Auctions says Don Lutes Jr., of Pittsfield, was 16 when he found the coin in change he received at his school cafeteria in 1947.

The coin is one of around 20 Lincoln pennies printed with a copper-looking surface, Fox News reported. They were made at a time when bronze and copper were being saved to fill metal shortages during World War II.

Don Lutes, Jr., of Pittsfield, Massachusetts discovered a rare "copper" 1943 Lincoln Penny in his lunch money in 1947.

He kept it in his collection since then, but passed away in September.

The penny is now up for auction and the current bid is at $130,000.

It had previously been tipped to make eight times that amount, after a similar coin went for a staggering $1.7 million at a 2010 auction.

It was even reported, falsely, that Henry Ford would give a new vehicle to anyone who provided one of the rare coins to him.

Experts say to look for a very sharply engraved penny.

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Heritage Auctions will offer the coin from January 10-13 during its Florida United Numismatists Show in Orlando.

Karpenski said he met Lutes in 1970 when he joined the Berkshire Coin Club.

The penny (above), dubbed "the most famous error coin", is thought to be only one of 10 to 15 in existence today.

All of the proceeds made by the coin have been donated to the Pittsfield Public Library, where Lutes volunteered for a number of years.

But after his health started to decline in 2018, Lutes, 87, made a decision to part ways with it to ensure it went "to a good home", according to his friend, Peter Karpenski.

"In regard to recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943", the Treasury's response to Lutes said.

However, it was later revealed some bronze planchets were mistakenly left in machinery before the so-called "steelies" were pressed. Zinc-coated steel plates were "considerably harder" than those used in earlier designs, so penny pressers had to strike the blank steel coin much harder. The resulting "copper" cents were lost in the flood of millions of "steel" cents, escaped detection by the Mint's quality control measures, and quietly slipped into circulation.

Lutes had asked the Treasury Department about the penny he found.

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