Made in error by the U.S. Mint, the penny is now going on auction and expected to reach over $2 million.
All US pennies were supposed to be made of zinc-coated steel that year to conserve the copper needed for wartime essentials like shell casings and telephone wire, according to Heritage Auctions, a Dallas-based auction house. The young coin collector chose to keep the cent in his collection for more than 70 years, until he died in September.
Don Lutes Jr, a 16-year-old coin collector from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, found one of the copper pennies in the change he received after buying lunch at a school cafeteria in March 1947.
"In regard to recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943", the Treasury's response to Lutes said.
"The coin became so famous that it was once falsely reported that Henry Ford would give a new auto to anyone who could provide him with a 1943 "copper" cent", Heritage says. The U.S Mint rejected claims that the 1943 Lincoln copper cents existed.
"The few resulting "copper" cents were lost in the flood of millions of "steel" cents struck in 1943 and escaped detection by the Mint's quality control measures", Heritage Auctions said. Lutes heard this rumor and inquired with Ford Motor Company, but they set the record straight, denying that Ford had many any such promise.
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So Lutes concluded his coin was probably valueless, and stored it as a curiosity in his coin collection for the next seven decades. "All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc coated steal".
Heritage Auctions will offer the coin from January 10-13 during its Florida United Numismatists Show in Orlando. The sale ends at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Lutes's coin, now verified, will remain on auction until January 10, according to Fox News.
Don Lutes, Jr., of Pittsfield, Massachusetts discovered a rare "copper" 1943 Lincoln Penny in his lunch money in 1947.
"They eventually became dislodged and were fed into the coin press, along with the wartime steel blanks".
The teenager held on to the penny, thinking he would sell it one day. "PCGS CoinFacts estimates the surviving population at no more than 10-15 examples in all grades".