US Coins

TV show tells the story of the 1974-D aluminum cent

Updated at 11:38 a.m. Jan. 24:

The Jan. 23 episode of the Fox Business Network’s primetime reality series Strange Inheritance focused on the intrigue surrounding the only known example of a 1974-D Lincoln cent struck on an aluminum planchet.

The half-hour episode titled “Pretty Penny” featured “the story of a U.S. Mint worker who leaves his son a bag of change, which included a one of a kind aluminum penny that completely rocks the coin-collecting world.”

The show’s host, Jamie Colby, interviewed Randy Lawrence, son of Harry Lawrence, who served as deputy superintendent of the Denver Mint where the aluminum cent was struck. The aluminum cent was reportedly given to Harry Lawrence upon his 1980 retirement, and ended up in the hands of Randy Lawrence upon the passing of his father not long after. The aluminum cent was contained in a plastic sandwich bag of coins the elder Lawrence left to his son.

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The 1974-D aluminum cent was scheduled for public auction, but was recovered by U.S. Mint authorities in 2016 after it was declared illegal to own reportedly because its production was not officially authorized.

Also participating in the segment was numismatist Paul Montgomery, who was one of six professional numismatists who in 2003 authenticated as genuine the George O. Walton example of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin after more than 40 years off the numismatic community's radar. The Feb. 2, 2015, episode of Strange Inheritance featured the Walton 5-cent coin, with Montgomery’s participation.

Coin World queried Colby about how the Jan. 23 segment of Strange Inheritance was developed:

How did you come across the story and what led you to feature it on your program?

“We have an amazing team of researchers who know of my interest in numismatics. When this coin was discovered decades after the heir’s father received it as a retiring employee from the US Mint there was local news coverage and speculation about it. We decided we had to learn more about it and I was dying for viewers to get a look at it too!”

How did Paul Montgomery get involved in the show?

“I had interviewed Paul in Season 1 of Strange Inheritance about a 1913 Liberty Head nickel. He’s immensely knowledgeable about all coins and coin history and was equally interested in seeing our heir’s coin story told.” 

When and where did you get access to the 1974-D aluminum cent?

“This season, we traveled to a coin convention in Los Angeles the same week we traveled to San Diego to meet our heir Randy Lawrence who inherited the aluminum penny from his father. It was on special display there by the Mint and Randy Lawrence was proud to have recognition that it had once belonged to his father who for decades had worked at the US Mint in Denver.” 

Do you have anything new in the segment that hasn’t been reported elsewhere?

“Well I think when we sat down with Randy he was resolved the million or more dollars the penny was estimated to be worth were not coming his way and that the government had won the disagreement over whether or not it could be retained privately or sold. He’d sued the Mint trying to retrieve his confiscated coin and thereafter voluntarily turned it over. I’m not aware it has been reported that the Mint now publicly designates it as coming from Randy Lawrence’s family. ... Randy tells Strange Inheritance viewers Monday night on Fox Business it did at one time legally belong to his father. Between earlier interviews and his appearance on Strange Inheritance I felt his attitude toward not regaining the coin was clearly more conciliatory, joking 'the government took my last penny!’”

If you haven't seen the episode yet, check your local listings for upcoming showings.

In the meantime, here's a preview. 

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