As I watched a hush fall over the crowd, the auctioneer opened the lot for one of the most famous and sought-after error coins of all time. In front of a packed Platinum Night auction at the Denver convention center, a newly discovered 1943 Lincoln penny quickly shot to $282,000 because it was made of the wrong material.
Bidding opened on this coin and I was excited to see just how far bidders would push this newly discovered rarity. The penny is an oddity because it isn’t supposed to exist. The penny was supposed to be made of zinc-coated steel due to copper shortages during World War II, but it was erroneously made of bronze left over from 1942. This occurred when some bronze blanks from the previous year became lodged in the trap door of a tote bin used to feed the delivery system of the coin presses.
Heritage Auctions’ president Greg Rohan said this was the first time this particular coin was ever offered at auction and collectors were not going to let it get away. This is one of just 10 to 15 such pennies known to exist and is probably one of the most famous coins ever made – by mistake.
Beginning in 1943 all U.S. pennies were made from zinc-coated steel. Popularly referred to as “steelies,” these oddities have always been extremely popular with collectors, and the great majority of these steel coins were pulled from circulation by 1960.
When the penny sold for well into six figures, the auctioneer prompted a round of applause for the new owner who now owns the coin that shouldn’t exist.
Written by: Eric Bradley