Friday, January 11, 2019

A Copper Penny Sells for Big Bucks

...but was it enough?

This story is strong evidence of ever-changing values in the appraisal world.

Don Lutes Jr. got a copper penny in his lunch money change in 1947. The 16-yr-old from Pittsfield, MA was smart enough to realize that the coin was rare -- in 1943, the U.S. government switched to steel for its pennies. Only about 20 pennies were minted in bronze, perhaps from leftover copper in the vats from the 1942 run.
     Somehow they slipped into circulation.

Lutes kept the penny for decades, and recently decided to sell it, to benefit the library he volunteered for.

Heritage Auctions sold the penny Jan. 10, along with other coins from Lutes' collection. (Sadly, Lutes never lived to see it -- he died in Sept. 2018.) The final price?

$204,000 smackeroos.

Interestingly enough, a similar coin sold in 2017 for $1.7 million. But Heritage Auctions' appraiser only valued yesterday's penny, pre-auction, at $200,000. Right on the money, so to speak.

The interesting question: This example is considered the 'discovery' specimen -- i.e., the first of the 'King of Errors' 1943 pennies. (How they came to this -- it was the first  to be discovered -- or at least announced publicly.) Normally, that makes it more valuable than the others.
     So why was the appraisal so much lower? 

      Condition? Wear? (It certainly is not in pristine condition.)

              (This penny, in particular, has a dream provenance, documented as early as 1947.)

      Recent 'comps?' (comparables -- "replacement of like and kind")
                The 2017 auction price is recent enough to argue for a much higher value.

Perhaps the 2017 penny sale was WAY overvalued?

At any rate, the buyer of this one probably got a bargain -- provided they're willing to wait some years to resell it. 

Luckily Lutes didn't spend it this way --
"Penny Candy" by Norman Rockwell

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