Every so often, you'll hear some politician claiming that we can save money, balance the budget, set aside enough for the future to send every child to college for free, and eradicate disease and suffering in our time if we just stop making pennies.
Yes, it's true, each of the tiny pictures of Abe Lincoln in your pocket cost the government more than a penny to make, but so what? The government has plenty of money, because everyone pays their taxes.
And then there are the plans to round everything up or down, so like if your purchase comes to $14.78 cents, you pay $14.80, but if the cash register total is $59.21, you walk away just paying $59.20. You can bet that if I buy something for 99 cents and hand you a buck, I will stand there politely waiting for my penny change.
I prefer accuracy in money like I prefer it in time or temperature. It's 9:13 AM as I write this, not "about quarter after nine." And outside, the air temperature stands at 39°, not "about 40 degrees."
However, there are pennies worth more than pennies. Just ask Don Lutes, Jr.
Don's a Massachusetts guy who, in 1947, got a certain penny in change when he bought his lunch at school. During World War II, the US started making pennies out of steel with a zinc coating, instead of copper, which was needed for the war effort.
But someone goofed at the mint one day and made some pennies out of bronze. Officials snagged up most of them, but somehow, 20 bronze pennies got into circulation, and now they bring top dollar at auction.
Lutes Jr. held onto his penny all his life, which ended last fall. At the time he found the coin in his change, the rumor was that Henry Ford was willing to trade a car in exchange for one, but that rumor was just a...rumor. Now a descendant of Lutes will cash in.
The coin was authenticated in 1958 by expert Walter Breen of the New England Numismatic Association.
"While a number of other examples have surfaced over the years, no other specimen has been celebrated and written about as much as this remarkable coin," Heritage Auctions said. "This piece inspires a special pride of ownership not equaled by any other example. This lot represents a true 'once in a lifetime' opportunity."
And all Lutes would have gotten for it in 1947 was a Ford, as opposed to what his heir will drive away in very soon. Opening bids in the auction, handled by Heritage Auctions, for Lutes's lucky penny will be in the $100,000 range. In 2010, someone sold one of them for $1.7 million.
That will buy a lot of Fords for just one Lincoln.