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Experimental glass penny may draw $30K during Jan. 5 show

An experimental glass cent, produced in 1942 as an alternative to the short supply and high demand for copper during the war, will cross the block Jan. 5, during a sale presented by Heritage Auctions during the Florida United Numismatists convention.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The only known surviving intact experimental all-glass penny is coming to auction. The coin, manufactured in 1942 as a possible alternative to copper, is expected to sell for $30,000 or more. It will be part of a public auction offered online by Heritage Auctions Thursday, Jan. 5.

The glass penny is one of the highlights of a multi-million-dollar public auction of rare coins and paper money. Heritage is presenting the sale in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists convention.


“The present 1942 glass experimental piece is the only intact example discovered in nearly 75 years since the experiments,” said Mark Borckardt, Senior Numismatist and Cataloger at Heritage Auctions. “Although glass was never used for emergency U.S. coinage, this piece represents a unique artifact of the ingenuity and determination of Mint officials and private industry.”

Glass Penny Product of Experimentation for Solution

At a small auction in 2016, author and collector Roger W. Burdette eyed the coin. Made of tempered, yellow-amber transparent glass, the coin features glass from Corning Glass Company. Only two examples of this historic experiment exist. The other example of this glass cent is broken in half, Burdette’s research shows.

“Wartime scarcity of copper required the U.S. mint replace copper for the one cent coin,” Burdette said. “Plastics fabricators, particularly those who made buttons, began to experiment with pieces the size of a cent but the Blue Ridge Glass Company of Kingsport, Tennessee, requested an opportunity to experiment with glass in late 1942.”

Of Various Alternatives — Glass Made the Most 'Cents'

The manufacturing process of Blue Ridge Glass resides within the United States Mint documents in the National Archives. After considering various alternatives, such as glass, plastic and even rubber, the Mint eventually struck cents made of zinc-coated steel in 1943.

Despite his best efforts, Burdette does not know where the glass penny spent the last 75 years before he discovered it in August. “We know that before doing any of the work, Blue Ridge Glass had some of the employees carry some of the blanks in their pockets for a few days as a test, but the blanks chipped and created sharp edges,” Burdette said. “I think it would have been tough for the public to accept them as money.”

Timing of the glass tests, of December 1942, prohibited the coins from being considered by the U.S. Mint as a viable option.

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