Back in March of 1947, a Massachusetts teenager named Don Lutes Jr. found a rare penny in his lunch change at his school’s cafeteria. Donny kept the penny for more than seven decades until his recent death. The man died in September before realizing that his penny could fetch up to $1.7 million in an auction next week.
Why would a damn penny nearly indiscernible to any other penny be worth so damn much?
The penny ended up being one of the rare 1943 penny that was one of 20 that was accidentally minted on copper, not steel, that year. In 1943, pennies were made of zinc-coated steel to preserve copper to make shell casings and other goods for World War II. But, as New York Post points out, a small number of blanks made of copper were gobbled up in mint presses and accidentally circulated.
“This is the most famous error coin in American numismatics, and that’s what makes this so exciting,” Sarah Miller of Heritage Auctions told Fox News.
What sucks for my man Don Lutes is that he tried to exchange his coin for money when word spread about the rare coins years ago when rumors began circulating that automobile business magnate Henry Ford would give a new car to anyone who could deliver him an authentic copper coin, but the US Mint falsely denied that the special pennies were in circulation. When he asked the Treasury about it, Donny was told his coin was fake and worth squat.
So, Don Lutes tossed the coin in his personal collection for 70 years and died not knowing that he was sitting on a cash cow all along.
Heritage Auctions will auction off the penny on Thursday. And Donny Lutes is turning over in his grave.
[h/t New York Post]