Editor’s note: Since the coin described in the following article could be worth a considerable amount of money, at their request, the Herald has agreed not to publish the real names of the people involved. Any names contained in the story are pseudonyms.
HAZARD — The odds of winning the Mega Millions lottery are one in 176 million. And while it may not have been the lottery, one local teen was recently struck by incredible luck when he found a one cent piece possibly worth upwards of $100,000, and if verified would be one of only a handful known to exist.
To date in the world, there are only 12 known fully copper pennies minted in 1943 in existence. Only 40 were ever made, and one local boy may have just found lucky number 13.
“Ken” is a 13-year-old boy in Perry County with a love of coin collecting. This normal middle school aged student has made an obsession out of looking for rare coins.
He said his father got him into it when he brought him several collectible coins. “He brought back one of those silver 1943 Jeffersons, an Indian head, and some wheat pennies,” he said.
Since then he has been a collecting machine. Nearly every day he takes $75 in coins to a local bank and exchanges it for another $75 in coins. He then methodically goes through them, looking for rare coins.
“A friend of mine told him to go to banks and get rolls of coins and go through them,” said Ken’s mom. “He has done it every day for about a year now.”
Ken said he usually exchanges his coins for smaller change like pennies and nickels so he can have more to go through. “Dimes and quarters, you only get a few rolls of them,” said Ken.
In the past he has found hundreds of interesting coins but very few of much value. “I have found buffalo nickels, liberty nickels, a nickel from the Bahamas,” he noted.
About a month ago while going through a roll of pennies he said his face lit up with excitement when he found what he knew to be a rare coin.
The fully cooper 1943 penny was minted by mistake, according to the U.S. Mint. During World War II, the United States changed what they made many of their coins from in order to conserve metals used in weapons. This change happened for the 1943 pressing, however, a few of the old fully copper blanks still left in the machines from the last year were pressed.
Only 40 are believed to have ever been made, and so far only 12 have been found and verified. Only one was believed to have been accidentally pressed at the Denver mint, which is marked with a small “D” on the coin. This penny sold for $1.7 million in 2010.
The fully cooper penny can be identified by the year on the penny and using a magnet to make sure the core is not made of steel. Once Ken identified the coin using his coin collecting books and online resources, he was happy to know that at the very worst condition the coin is worth a significant amount.
“I was like … this thing is worth at least $10,000,” he said.
The value is based on condition and minting mark. While a professional would have to give an accurate value assessment, or what a buyer is willing to pay, the cost could vary all the way from $10,000 to well over $100,000.
And while Ken is happy with his find, he said he will continue to search for rare coins, though his mom said her house is currently full of them.