Lucky Penny: $250,000+ Coin Goes on Display - NBC Southern California

Lucky Penny: $250,000+ Coin Goes on Display

A La Jolla man didn't know the treasure sitting in his desk drawer.



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    Unsuspectingly kept in a desk drawer for 33 years then in a car trunk for a month, this unique 1974-dated **Lincoln** cent struck in aluminum at the Denver Mint is expected to bring a quarter-million dollars or more in an auction that will be conducted this spring by Heritage Auctions.

    What is sitting inside your desk drawer as you read this sentence?

    Maybe some rubber bands? A pair of scissors that don't quite close all the way? Or some reminder slips regarding phone calls you're two or three years late in returning? 

    What about coins? It's a timely question, given that Randy Lawrence of La Jolla had a penny in his own desk drawer, inside a plastic sandwich bag, for over three decades, a penny that turned out not to be very penny-like.

    Numismatic experts have deemed the coin worth 25,000,000 pennies, give or take, which, if you don't have an abacus nearby, equals $250,000.

    Dollars. Yep. In case that dollar sign looked like it might not belong there.

    It's a "genuine 1974 Denver Mint Lincoln cent that was struck in aluminum, the only one of its kind known dated 1974 from the Denver Mint," says a representative.

    The "experimental penny" will be displayed through Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Long Beach Coin, Currency, Stamp, & Sports Collectible Expo.

    As with any interesting coin tale, the 1974 Denver Mint Lincoln aluminum cent enjoyed a few twists and turns along the way.

    Mr. Lawrence inherited the penny from his father 33 years ago. And while the penny indeed was drawer-bound for much of that time, it spent last August in the trunk of Mr. Lawrence's car, as he drove from Denver to La Jolla.

    Not long after that, the unwitting owner of one very precious penny contacted Michael McConnell, owner of the La Jolla Coin Shop, to sell his coins.

    When Mr. McConnell realized what the penny was, he contacted Mr. Lawrence right away. "I wouldn't be able to sleep without notifying him," said the professional numismatist.

    Nice. And there the story takes an even nicer turn: The two men will "share in the sale of the cent" this spring, and "will donate 'a significant portion of the proceeds' to a San Diego charity that helps the homeless."

    The penny's ultimate price could exceed a quarter of a million dollars. Heritage Auctions, the company responsible for its Long Beach display, will be overseeing the process.

    If you'd like to see what can indeed be called a lucky penny, make for the Long Beach Convention Center by Feb. 1. Plenty of coin enthusiasts and experts'll likely be checking out the silver beauty, so come prepared to learn more about the Denver Mint, rare finds, and those headline-making, oh-so-surprising desk drawer discoveries.

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