Rare penny found in Pittsfield in 1940s sells for $204,000 at auction

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Don Lutes Jr. collected the 1943 cent with a relief of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln when he was 16 years old from a school canteen as change and kept it over 70 years.

In 1943, during World War II, pennies were supposed to be made of steel because copper was needed for other uses.

Lutes died in September a year ago, and the coin is now up for auction. One penny, in particular, is now dubbed the "most famous error coin" by Heritage Auctions, who is auctioning the penny. It's thought it could fetch over $200,000, though it's so rare, a previous one sold for $1.7 million.

A similar coin sold for $1.7 million in 2010.

Sarah Miller from Heritage Auctions told Fox News, "This is the most famous error coin in American numismatics, and that's what makes this so exciting".

Lutes knew his coin was rare and held on to it.

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Only a handful of such coins have ever been discovered, according to Heritage Auctions.

All proceeds of the sale will go to the Pittsfield Public Library where, auction officials say, Lutes often visited.

But after his health started to decline in 2018, Lutes, 87, made a decision to part ways with it to ensure it went "to a good home", according to his friend, Peter Karpenski. Ford representatives told Lutes the legend was false when he wrote, but by 1958, a 1943 copper penny sold for $40,000, the equivalent of over $350,000 today.

Eventually, Lutes gave up trying to cash in on his coin and it stayed in his collection until his death in September.

However, it was later revealed that some bronze planchets were mistakenly left in machinery and pressed. They quietly slipped into circulation, to amaze collectors and confound Mint officials for years to come. The Treasury switched to minting pennies out of steel.

Lutes also reached out the the Treasury Department about his find, but he was met with a stale and standard response that all collectors were given.

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