This man held onto one of the rarest American coins in existence for 70 years.

During World War II, metals such as copper and bronze were regarded as strategic elements that needed to be kept out of the hands of the general public in order to be used in the war effort. As a result, beginning in 1943, new pennies were manufactured of steel, which was exceedingly unpopular at the time. The American populace preferred their familiar “copper” pennies, but a printing error in 1943 resulted in an extremely valuable coin.

Bronze, a copper-based alloy with up to one-third tin or other metals, has always been used to make twentieth-century pennies.Known as “Steelies,” the 1944 year for steel pennies, a year in which no steel pennies were supposed to be created, are also exceedingly desirable because by that point, the United States Treasury had returned to bronze pennies, or what we often refer to as “copper” due to their reddish hue.

The United States Mint switched to bronze pennies made from discarded bullet shell casings in 1944, which looked like regular pennies (pennies haven’t been made of “pure” copper since the nineteenth century). However, there was an error in that pressing as well. Between 12 and 20 genuine bronze pennies were accidentally fed through the coin press in 1943, and they are currently among the most collectible American coins on the market.

For many years, the United States government disputed the existence of these coins, writing to eager collectors, “please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943.” “All 1943 pennies were zinc-coated steel.” The very few pieces that have come up for auction or in collectors’ hoard, on the other hand, demonstrate that the 1943 “copper” penny is actually very real.

At this point, only 10 or 15 are thought to be left in the globe.One such coin was discovered by a young Don Lutes, Jr. in the change from his lunch money in 1947, when he was just 16 years old. Lutes had kept his uncommon penny all this time, until he died in September of 2018. His famous 1943 “copper” cent is now up for auction through Heritage Auctions in Florida.

The predicted worth of the penny is $1.7 million, yet the first offer was only $100,000 in the early hours of the auction. We’re curious to see how high this auction can go, especially because the penny is the least valuable coin in American currency. The Platinum Night auction at the Florida United Numismatists Convention in Orlando concludes on January 10th, 2018.

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