Rare coin found in boy's lunchbox worth $2.4 million

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Don Lutes, Jr., of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, found the bronze 1943 Lincoln cent in the change he was given at his school cafeteria in 1947, according to sellers Heritage Auctions.

A penny pressed in 1943 is fetching well over $100,000 at auction. "This lot represents a true "once in a lifetime" opportunity".

Following government orders to preserve copper for the war effort, the mint began creating Lincoln pennies on steel planchets coated with zinc in 1943.

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The legend of the penny only grew when a rumor spread saying that Henry Ford would award a new auto to whoever could provide him with one of the fabled coins.

"Stories appearing in newspapers, comic books, and magazines sparked a nationwide search for these reported rarities by schoolchildren, bank tellers, and citizens from all walks of life". But some bronze blanks caught in the machine and mixed in with the "steelies".

Made of copper, the 1943 Lincoln penny is described as the "most famous" coin made in error. They quietly slipped into circulation, to amaze collectors and confound Mint officials for years to come. Legit prints of the coin have been found from all three active U.S. Mints: 10-15 from the Philadelphia Mint, six from the San Francisco Mint and one from the Denver Mint. Lutes heard this rumor and inquired with Ford Motor Company, but they set the record straight, denying that Ford had many any such promise.

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"In regard to your recent inquiry, please be informed that copper pennies were not struck in 1943", the department wrote. However, an accident at the U.S. Mint led to the creation of just a handful of copper pennies, which mixed in with the flood of zinc-coated steel coins being sent out. Luckily for Lutes, he kept it in his collection.

"While a number of other examples have surfaced over the years, no other specimen has been celebrated and written about as much as this remarkable coin", Heritage Auctions said.

"No one really knows what it's going to sell for".

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The pennies "captured the imagination of coin collectors, school children, and members of the general public alike", but alluded even the most persistent collectors; only a handful of legitimate specimens have turned up in the following seven decades - including the one belonging to Don Lutes Jr, who passed away in September.