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Rare Penny Found in Boy’s Lunch Money Could Fetch Up to $1.7 Million in Auction

A rare 1943 copper Lincoln cent — found by a Massachusetts teenager in his change after he paid for lunch at a school cafeteria — is expected to fetch up to $1.7 million when it is auctioned off.

The coin, produced accidentally by the U.S. Mint, has been described as the “most famous” coin made in error, according to Heritage Auctions.

In 1942, pennies were supposed to be struck from steel, in order to conserve copper for shell casings, telephone wire, and other “wartime necessities.” However, a small number of bronze blanks were caught in the Mint’s presses and were struck into pennies in the new year. 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.

It is believed only 20 of the rare coins were made. One teen, 16-year-old coin collector Don Lutes Jr. of Pittsfield, Mass., found one in the change he got after buying lunch at a school cafeteria in March 1947.

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