Two of the rarest U.S. coins ever discovered sold for nearly $500,000 at a public auction held in conjunction with the world’s largest coin show.
A newly-discovered 1943 Lincoln penny shot to $282,000 because it was made of the wrong material and a 1792 Penny – lost for 130 years – sold for $211,500 last week in Denver.
“This was the first time these particular coins were ever offered at auction and collectors were not going to let them get away,” said Jim Halperin, co-founder of Heritage Auctions, which offered the pennies at its auction held during the World’s Fair of Money. “There are each just 10 to 15 of these cents known to exist.”
The Lincoln penny is coveted because it 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.
Beginning in 1943 all U.S. pennies were made from zinc-coated steel. Popularly referred to as "steelies," these oddities have always been popular with collectors.
One of the few 1792 cents known to exist, research by the auction house revealed the cent to be a long-lost Birch Cent not seen since an auction in 1890. Coins like this one are referred to as “Birch cents” because the name of the engraver is struck on the coin. This particular coin, which was recently rediscovered in Europe, once belonged to collector Lorin G. Parmelee, who sold it at auction in 1890 for just $75.