$204K paid for rare, auctioned penny; proceeds will go to Pittsfield library

$204K paid for rare, auctioned penny; proceeds will go to Pittsfield library

$204K paid for rare, auctioned penny; proceeds will go to Pittsfield library

The rare penny is one of about 15 copper coins that were accidentally minted by the Department of the Treasury in 1943.

Back in 1943, the production of copper pennies was halted in an effort to preserve the precious metal for shell castings and telephone wires during World War II.

Lutes came across the coin at a time when people across the country were eager to get their hands on one of the rare copper pennies.

Lutes took the Treasury statement for fact and kept the penny in his personal collection. It's thought it could fetch over $200,000, though it's so rare, a previous one sold for $1.7 million. Little did he know, some 70 years later that handful of pennies would be worth hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of dollars. An urban legend arose that Henry Ford would give anyone who found such a coin a new auto. The auction for the coin is open through January 14. "All of the proceeds of the sale of the coin will be donated to the famous Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield's Public Library, where Don was active for so many years before his death in September", Bradley said.

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But after his health started to decline in 2018, Lutes, 87, chose to part ways with it to ensure it went "to a good home", according to his friend, Peter Karpenski.

Karpenski said Lutes did not have any immediate family when he died, so he made sure his wish was carried out. According to the Heritage Auctions website, Lutes received the following response: "In regard to your recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943".

However, it was later revealed some bronze planchets were mistakenly left in machinery before the so-called "steelies" were pressed. 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.

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