US Coins

1943 copper 1¢ resurfaces

A bronze 1943 Lincoln cent discovered in 1976 and first authenticated in November 1976, but that has largely been out of the public eye since, has resurfaced.

The off-metal error cent was originally discovered in a Pennsylvania gumball machine 53 years ago and subsequently determined genuine by ANACS decades ago, before being sequestered in a private collection since. The coin now has been authenticated a second time, by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. as Extremely Fine Details, Obverse Scratched.

The wrong planchet error was created when leftover planchets from 1942 production became mixed in with the intended zinc-coated steel cent planchets in 1943 and were struck. Fifteen or more examples are believed extant from Philadelphia Mint production struck on planchets of the 95 percent copper composition from 1942. A single example is known of a 1943-D Lincoln bronze cent and seven 1943-S bronze cents are known.

counterfeit 1913-S Indian head, Bison on Plains 5-cent coinInside Coin World: Mint mark key to identifying counterfeit: A fake 1913-S Buffalo nickel, foreign coins pulled from Roosevelt dime rolls and 1873 Seated Liberty half dollars are column topics in the March 11, 2019, issue of Coin World.

Recent recertification

The recently resurfaced piece was found originally in 1976 by the father of a Philadelphia-area salesman, in a gumball machine next to the cash register at the father’s restaurant, located across the street from the third U.S. Mint at Spring Garden and Seventeenth Street. 

The daughter of the coin collector who subsequently purchased the 1943 bronze cent from the salesman’s father, said the salesman knew her father was a coin collector because he advertised in the window of his Philadelphia butcher shop that he bought old coins.

The butcher, now 81 years of age and retired, was offered the 1943 bronze cent for $1,000 by the salesman’s father, but the collecting butcher was skeptical and would only consider buying the coin if it was professionally authenticated as genuine first.

The collector informed the finder of the 1943 bronze cent that authentication could be done by the American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS), founded in 1972. The collector’s daughter said her father purchased the coin after ANACS supplied the necessary documentation to the coin’s finder that the cent was genuine.

“My mother was livid that my father would purchase a penny for $1,000,” said the collector’s daughter. “It was just another coin in his collection at a time that my father needed money for our family and for my college tuition. He didn’t listen and purchased the coin hoping it was indeed real.”

Panic-stricken after the purchase, the woman’s parents took the coin to Stack’s in New York City for further confirmation and an assurance whether the numismatic firm would buy the error coin for the same $1,000 he paid for it. Once told by someone at Stack’s that the firm was interested in buying the coin, the collector said he would have to think about it first, and decided after much deliberation to keep it.

It appears that the coin has been out of the public eye since. A listing of known examples published in conjunction with the auction of another example by Heritage Auctions did not list this coin, although the list had a disclaimer that duplicate listings might be included and other pieces may not be included.

ANACS records from the time this coin was first authenticated reportedly are inaccessible.

The highest price paid for one of the wrong planchet errors was in excess of $1 million in 2018 by private treaty for a Philadelphia Mint strike graded Mint State 63 red by Professional Coin Grading Service and stickered with a green label by Certified Acceptance Corp.

The last copper-alloy 1943 Lincoln cent to cross the auction block was the Donald Lutes Jr. discovery piece found in 1947 by the teenaged Lutes in change from his high school cafeteria in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Lutes held on to the coin for 71 years until consigning it to Heritage Auctions for its Florida United Numismatists convention sale held Jan. 10. The coin, graded by NGC as About Uncirculated 53 brown, realized $204,000. 

The number of submissions of 1943 and 1943-S bronze cents combined to PCGS, ANACS, NGC and Independent Coin Graders exceeds the number of known examples.

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