Two previously unreported copper alloy 1943 Lincoln cents, one
exhibiting a major obverse die break, have surfaced and been
authenticated, graded and encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
The two coins are among four wrong-planchet Lincoln cent errors —
three dated 1943 and one 1942 — that Florida collector Michael Pratt
inherited upon the 1992 death of his father, Albert Michael Pratt, a
former die setter at the Philadelphia Mint. Michael Pratt says he has
no evidence of how the wartime cents came to be in his father’s
possession, since he doesn’t recall his father discussing the coins
while he was alive.
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The intended alloy for Lincoln cents struck in 1943 was zinc-coated
steel, since copper was needed for military applications during World
Planchets composed of the 1942 alloy — first of 95 percent copper, 3
percent zinc and 2 percent tin, and later 95 percent copper and 5
percent zinc — presumably remained in hoppers that were eventually
filled with zinc-coated steel planchets. The planchets of different
alloys were subsequently fed into the coinage presses and struck into coins.
Copper-alloy 1943 Lincoln cents were struck at the Philadelphia, San
Francisco and Denver Mints.
With the certification of the two Pratt 1943 cents, the number of
copper alloy Philadelphia Mint strikes increases to more than 12. The
exact number is not known because of duplicate listings and grading
Only one copper-alloy 1943-D Lincoln cent is known, along with six
examples of copper-alloy 1943-S Lincoln cents.
The four Lincoln cents certified for Michael Pratt by NGC are:
➤ A copper alloy 1943 Lincoln cent, graded NGC Mint State 62 brown.
➤ A copper-alloy 1943 Lincoln cent with major die break, graded NGC
MS-61 brown. The major die break, referred to in the error specialty
field of the hobby as a “cud,” occurred when a portion of a coin die
broke and separated from the die. During striking, the planchet’s
metal flowed into the resultant cavity, creating a raised featureless
blob on the resultant coin, in place of the missing design elements.
The cud on this piece appears along the truncation of the bottom of
Abraham Lincoln’s coat with the bottom border. The NGC Price Guide
lists a value of $575,000 for the error.
➤ A 1943 Lincoln cent struck on a planchet intended for a
Netherlands 25-cent coin, graded NGC MS-61. The composition of the
planchet is .640 fine silver. The Philadelphia Mint was contracted by
foreign governments to strike coinage for their respective countries
during World War II.
➤ A 1942 Lincoln cent struck on a planchet intended for a 20-centavo
coin of Ecuador, graded NGC MS-63. The composition is brass.
All four NGC grading labels bear an Albert Michael Pratt pedigree.
The 1942 coin struck on the 20-centavo planchet has been purchased
for an undisclosed sum in a private transaction by Florida dealer John
A. Zieman Jr. of Z-man’s Coins. Zieman said he is retaining the
coin for his personal collection with his daughter, Alexandrea, who is
an NGC grader.
The elder Zieman arranged for Pratt’s submission of the four coins
to NGC for authentication and grading.
According to Zieman, he was still discussing with Michael Pratt
possibilities for the disposition of the copper-alloy 1943 Lincoln
cent with major obverse die break, the 1943 cent struck on a
Netherlands 25-cent planchet and the NGC MS-62 brown 1943 Lincoln cent.
News of the discovery jolted the collecting community. “1943 cents
struck on bronze planchets are one of the ‘Holy Grails’ of U.S.
numismatics” says David J. Camire, NGC grading finalizer, error coin
specialist and co-author of 100 Greatest Mint Errors, which ranks the
1943 copper alloy cent struck at the Philadelphia Mint as the No. 4
coin. “It is very exciting to see two examples in a single submission,
especially the unique example featuring the die break on the obverse.”
The four cents that Albert M. Pratt possessed for nearly five
decades before his 1992 passing were almost discarded, according to
Pratt said during the executing of their father’s estate, Michael’s
eldest of two sisters, who was executor of the estate, told her
siblings to take whatever remained in cardboard boxes stored in their
father’s garage, because otherwise the boxes and their contents would
be sent to the landfill.
It was then that Pratt discovered a small wooden box with a sliding
lid inside one of the cardboard boxes he chose from the garage. Inside
the wooden container were the four cents, each wrapped in paper.
The nondescript wooden container was the right size to hold a single
cigar. Michael Pratt said his father smoked cigars.
Michael Pratt said he initially made attempts to have the pieces
authenticated, but the professionals to whom he showed either the
coins or pictures of them questioned their authenticity.
Pratt said he didn’t aggressively pursue detailed analysis of the
pieces at the time. He said he subsequently moved from New Jersey to
Florida, bringing the coins with him and storing them.
Pratt said he didn’t become a coin collector until circa 2005, when
he began a collecting interest in Walking Liberty half dollars, small
U.S. cents and American Eagle silver coins.
Despite his father having spent a nearly 25-year career at the
Philadelphia Mint, Pratt said, his father introduced him to philately
Albert Pratt began his employment at the Philadelphia Mint on Dec.
26, 1941, as a machine operator, and was promoted to die setter on
June 4, 1944. He retired from the U.S. Mint effective June 30, 1971.
The Treasury Department recognized Pratt with the Albert Gallatin
Award, the department’s highest career service honor. The award is
named after Albert Gallatin, who served the longest tenure as Treasury
secretary, from May 14, 1801, to Feb. 8, 1814, spanning the
presidencies of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Only 18 months ago, Michael Pratt, while thinking about his father
and his legacy, rekindled his interest in those wartime Lincoln cents
his father had left behind.
Pratt’s initial contact with John Zieman occurred in January 2017 in
Florida at the West Hernando Coin Club coin show, when Pratt showed
Zieman the copper-alloy 1943 Lincoln cent with major obverse die break.
“I got out my loupe and took a closer look,” Zieman said. “First
thing I noticed was the rather large die break (CUD) on the obverse.
My thoughts were if someone was trying to counterfeit this coin why
would they complicate it by adding a cud? I then told Mike that if a
fake, it was the best fake 1943 copper I have ever seen.”
Zieman said he preliminarily examined the remaining coins Pratt
owned during several subsequent encounters at flea markets where he
was set up.
‘I was stunned’
During the opening day of the ANA National Money Show in March 2017
in Orlando, Zieman showed the copper alloy 1943 Lincoln cent with the
major die break to error coin specialist Fred Weinberg.
“I was stunned,” Weinberg said. “I looked at it carefully with a
magnifying glass, and couldn’t see any potential casting marks,
pitting on the surface, or any hint that it was plated. The weight was
correct, the surfaces looked good, but I was quite excited to see
in-hand what might have been a genuine 1943 copper cent struck with a
large cud on it.”
Zieman then presented to Weinberg for examination the 1942 Lincoln
cent struck on the Ecuador 20-centavo planchet and told Weinberg his
client had two more 1943 cents that Weinberg would likely be
interested to examine. Zieman also explained to Weinberg the origin of
Weinberg said he advised Zieman to take his client and all of the
coins to NGC’s offices in Sarasota, Fla., along with the supporting
Treasury Department documentation on the client’s father’s
Philadelphia Mint employment, and deliver them to Camire.
The following day at the National Money Show, Weinberg said Pratt
came to his bourse table and showed him the other copper-alloy 1943
Lincoln cent and the 1943 cent struck on the Netherlands 25-cent planchet.
Weinberg said he first examined the copper-alloy 1943 cent.
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“I weighed the first 1943 copper cent and the weight was correct,”
Weinberg said. “As I had done the day before with the ‘cud copper’
cent, I looked carefully with a glass for any indication that the coin
might be a struck counterfeit and could not find any indication of this.”
Weinberg said he then weighed the 1943 cent struck on the
Netherlands 25-cent planchet. The coin, much darker than the ones he
had previously examined, weighed 3.6 grams, 0.5 gram heavier than the
3.1 grams it should have weighed if struck on a normal copper alloy
Lincoln cent planchet.
Weinberg said he re-emphasized to Pratt the same recommendation he
had made to Zieman the day before to hand deliver all of the coins
with documentation to Camire at NGC.
They subsequently did.