By Josh Saunders

A penny dubbed one of the most valuable coins in American history’ goes under the hammer for £150,000.

The world-famous coin from World War II could be selling for exponentially more than its one-cent value at Heritage Auctions this Thursday (Jan 10).

During the time when copper was needed for bullets and wire to win the war, all pennies were being made from zinc-coated steel by the U.S. Mint.

But after an accident in 1943 a handful of one cent pieces were mistakenly made in copper and released into circulation.

Their existence was denied by the institution, meanwhile Americans hunted to see whether they held one of the ‘error coins’.

Until the first one ever to be discovered was found by a teenager discovered the piece in his change at a high school cafeteria, who kept it in his collection, refusing to sell it.


But now, 76 years on from the coin’s creation, the it is up for grabs for the very first at auction in Orlando, Florida, and online.

Sarah Miller, a Director of Numismatics at Heritage Auctions, said: “This is the most famous error coin in American numismatics and that’s what makes this so exciting.

“No one really knows what it’s going to sell for.”

After being made, the copper coins were lost in the flood of millions of zinc-coated steel cents, escaping detection by the U.S. Mint – who would later go onto deny their existence.

Until 16-year-old, coin-collector Don Lutes, Jr. of Pittsfield, Massachussetts, discovered the penny in change from his school lunch in March 1947.

Remembering rumours about the coin, he kept his find a secret and studied it.

He would write to the U.S. Mint to enquire further, but received the following reply, commonly given to anyone asking about the bronze pennies.

The statement read: “In regard to your recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943. All pennies struck in 1943 were zinc coated steel.”

Despite being made multiple offers for the coin, Lutes never sold the piece.

But following his death in September last year, the piece will go up for auction.

The piece will feature in Heritage’s Florida United Numismatists Show in Orlando between January 10 – 13.

Sarah Miller said: “At one time Lutes’ discovery coin was reportedly offered for sale for $10,000.

“But by that point, Lutes gave up on marketing his coin and decided to just keep it for his collection.”

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