Rare coin found in teenager’s pocket change could fetch a pretty penny at auction

In 1947, a Massachusetts teenager was given a handful of change from his school cafeteria. One of those coins could bring in six figures at an upcoming auction.

The rare coin was mistakenly minted in copper in 1943 when all U.S. cents were supposed to be made of zinc-coated steel – copper was needed to produce bullets and wire for the World War II effort, according to Heritage Auctions, which is selling the coin.

“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,” Sarah Miller, a director of numismatics at Heritage Auctions, said in a statement.

Soon after the switch to steel cents was made, stories about a small number of 1943 copper pennies began to circulate, the auction house said. Rumors swirled that Henry Ford would give a new car to anyone who found one of the coins.

A few years later, 16-year-old Don Lutes Jr., of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, discovered one such coin in his pocket change. Miller told USA TODAY he knew the coin was special because he was a collector.

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