A one-of-a-kind aluminium penny minted out of Denver in 1974 was recently handed over to the federal government, settling a two-year-old court battle over the coin’s rightful owner.
An aluminium penny?
In the early 1970s, copper prices jumped and reached a level where it became more expensive to produce a single penny than it was actually worth, so the US Mint decided to experiment with other metals.
The Philadelphia Mint ended up striking 1.5 million aluminium pennies, but they were never put into circulation. That’s because they didn’t work in vending machines and didn’t show up on an X-ray if swallowed.
All of the pennies were melted down.
A one-of-a-kind retirement gift
The 1974-D aluminium penny was originally owned by Harry Lawrence, former deputy-superintendent of the Denver Mint.
His son, Randy, inherited the coin after his death.
He claims that the 1974-D aluminium penny was given to his father as part of his retirement gift, with the “D” signalling that it was struck in Denver.
There was no official record of Denver being authorised to strike such pennies though.
Former interim Mint director, Alan Goldman, speculated that the Denver penny might have been made as part of a practical joke.
The legal battle begins
Randy Lawrence, who had unknowingly kept the treasure in a sandwich bag for decades, took the penny to La Jolla Coin Shop owner Michael McConnell who confirmed the rarity of the coin.
They planned to auction the coin for at least $250,000 and had fought off the US Mint’s efforts to seize the penny.
But a few months ago, a key deposition indicated that the penny was never part of an authorised pressing. The penny was deemed to be property of the US Mint.
“It belongs back in their hands” Lawrence said, hours before the hand-off to the federal government.
The US Mint will now put the special coin on display for millions to see.
The penny that was banned by the authorities
The aluminium version from 1974 is not the first penny to cause controversy. In 1909 the San Francisco Mint struck a new penny to celebrate the centenary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. 75 million coins where struck in 1909 alone.
But when the very first coins came off the presses the authorities decided that the designer’s initials, “VDB” (Victor David Brenner), were far too prominent and immediately banned production until they were removed.
However, the first tranche of coins (less than 1% of the total mintage in 1909) made their way into circulation. They created one of America’s most renowned numismatic rarities that you can add to your Portfolio today. We have just 15 available.