Two Rare U.S. Cents Realize Nearly $500,000


Two of the rarest U.S. coins ever discovered sold for nearly $500,000 at a Heritage sales event held Aug. 2 in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Denver.

1943 CENT Struck on a Bronze Planchet
1943 CENT Struck on a Bronze Planchet MS62 Brown NGC. The cent realized $282,000 at public auction.

A newly-discovered 1943 Lincoln cent shot to $282,000 because it was made of the wrong material and a 1792 cent – lost for 130 years – sold for $211,500.

"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 extremely popular with collectors, and the great majority of these steel coins were culled from circulation by 1960.

1792 P1C Birch Cent
1792 P1C Birch Cent, Judd-5 (?), Pollock-6 (?), R.8 — Denticles Repaired, Edge Filed — PCGS Genuine Secure. XF Details. The cent realized $211,500 at public auction.

Then there is the 1792 cent, with few known to exist. Research by the auction house revealed it 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 famed collector Lorin G. Parmelee, who sold it at auction in 1890 for just $75.

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. To learn more about the company, visit

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