In 1947, MA teenager Don Lutes Jr, who was just 16 at the time, was given a rare 1943 Lincoln penny in his change after buying his lunch from the school cafeteria, Fox News reports.
The truth about these accidental copper pennies surfaced later when the US Mint announced a number of small bronze coin blanks were caught in trap doors at the end of 1942 and subsequently pressed into pennies in 1943, escaping detection by the Mint.
In 1943, the Treasury Department requested the U.S. Mint create Lincoln pennies on steel planchets coated with zinc in order to preserve cooper for use in the Second World War. Only 20 were ever made and for years the US government denied its existence, but one coin was found by Don Lutes Jr.in his school cafeteria in March 1947.
Lutes died in September a year ago, and the coin is now up for auction.
The coin sold for $204,000 in Orlando Thursday, said an auction spokesman in an e-mail.
The Mint denied issuing any copper coins but speculation grew about the existence of the rare pennies, with auto manufacturer Henry Ford stating he would give a new vehicle to anyone who could source one for him. Caldwell said the coin is one of 19 known bronze pennies minted in 1943.
Only a handful of such coins have ever been discovered, according to Heritage Auctions.
Before the switch to steel just a few pennies were mistakenly minted in copper.
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. Lutes died in September 2018 at the age of 87, according to Miller.
All of the proceeds made by the coin have been donated to the Pittsfield Public Library, where Lutes volunteered for a number of years. They quietly slipped into circulation, to amaze collectors and confound Mint officials for years to come.
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.