Unique penny brings $1.7M, proceeds going to charity

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LINCROFT, N.J. – A famous, one-of-a-kind Lincoln cent mistakenly struck in the wrong metal 67 years ago during World War II has been sold by a New Jersey coin dealer for a record $1.7 million. It was purchased by a Southwestern United States business executive, and proceeds from the sale went to a charity.

“This is the world’s most valuable penny,” said rare coin dealer Laura Sperber, President of Legend Numismatics of Lincroft, N.J., who obtained the unique penny for the unnamed collector. “It’s the only known example of a 1943-dated Lincoln cent incorrectly struck in a copper alloy at the Denver Mint. It took four years of aggressive negotiations with the coin’s owner until he agreed to sell it.”

Zinc-coated steel was being used for pennies in 1943 to conserve copper for other uses during World War II, and this one was mistakenly struck on a bronze coin disc left over from 1942.

“The new owner is a prominent Southwestern business executive who’s been collecting since he was a teenager, searching through pocket change looking for rare coins,” said Sperber. “As a youngster he thought he’d actually found a 1943 copper penny in circulation but it was not authentic. He still has that in his desk drawer, but now he’s the only person to ever assemble a complete set of genuine 1943 bronze cents, one each from the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and he plans to display them.”

The anonymous collector who sold the coin donated it to a charitable organization so they could sell it with all of the proceeds going to the charity,” according to Andy Skrabalak of Angel Dee’s Coins and Collectibles in Woodbridge, Va., who acted as agent on behalf of the former owner.

Most 1943 pennies are steel-gray in color and not worth much more than face value.

“Don’t think you hit the jackpot if you have a common 1943 cent in the sock drawer. There were tens of millions of pennies made of steel in 1943, and most are worth only a few cents each today. We estimate that less than 20 pennies were erroneously struck in bronze that year at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints, and this is the only known example from the Denver Mint. That’s what makes genuine bronze 1943 Lincoln cents so valuable,” explained Don Willis, President of Professional Coin Grading Service of Santa Ana, Calif., the rare coin certification company whose experts authenticated the unique 1943 Denver bronze cent.

In addition to the $1.7 million coin, the anonymous Southwest collector also paid $250,000 for a 1944-dated Philadelphia Mint cent mistakenly struck on a zinc-coated steel coin blank intended only for 1943 pennies, and paid $50,000 for an experimental 1942 cent composed mostly of tin, according to Sperber.

Sperber said the collector’s valuable, mis-made World War II era cents will be publicly displayed at a major rare coin convention in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 6-8, 2011. ?


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