Heritage Auctions says Don Lutes Jr., of Pittsfield, was 16 when he found the coin in change he received at his school cafeteria in 1947.
The planchet was one of 20 coins accidentally pressed in bronze during World War II when copper, which normally used to press coins, became an important material and therefore steel and bronze began to be used. Only 20 were ever made and for years the USA government denied its existence, but one coin was found by Don Lutes Jr.in his school cafeteria in March 1947.
Lutes took the Treasury statement for fact and kept the penny in his personal collection.
Heritage Auctions says more than 30 people bid on the rare coin Thursday night.
It had previously been tipped to make eight times that amount, after a similar coin went for a staggering $1.7 million at a 2010 auction.
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Lutes' prized possession could fetch a pretty penny. People are now bidding on one of those pennies through Heritage Auctions.
Lutes knew his coin was rare and held on to it.
"Stories appeared in newspapers, comic books and magazines, and a number of fake copper-plated steel cents were passed off as fabulous rarities to unsuspecting purchasers", according to Heritage Auctions. The Treasury switched to minting pennies out of steel. After Lutes's health started to decline, he moved to a nursing home.
A few bronze blanks were caught in the trap doors of the mobile tote bins that were used to feed the coin presses, and they were fed into the coin press along with the steel wartime blanks, auction officials said. He died in September. "The few resulting copper cents were lost in the flood of millions of steel cents struck in 1943 and escaped detection by the Mint's quality control measures", according to Heritage Auctions. They quietly slipped into circulation, to amaze collectors and confound Mint officials for years to come.