There are many people around the world who are fascinated by history and interested in collecting various coins. There is a term for such people, they are called Numismatists. These people are passionate about studying and collecting all kinds of coins. However, stumbling upon a rare coin has nothing to do with passion, its all about luck. And that is exactly what happened with Don Lutes Jr., a 16-year-old boy, who happened to receive some spare change while eating at his high school cafeteria. Usually, people who may accidentally find one of these rare coins are not even aware of its value but that was not the case with Don Lutes Jr. because from the moment he looked at the rare coin in his palm he got a feeling that he has found something special, something precious.

Meet Lutes

Donald Lutes Jr., born in Pittsfield Massachusetts, was a young 16-year-old numismatist. He was intrigued by coins from a very young age and had a tiny collection that was his most prized possession. In his older years, he became one of the earliest members of Berkshire Coin Club. 

The Beginning

This exceptional story began on an ordinary day in the summer of 1947 at Pittsfield High school when a young student named Don Lutes Jr. stumbled upon an unusual item at the high school cafeteria. Little did he know his little discovery will one day become a story that will leave a mark in the history of numismatics.

The Incident

It was lunchtime at Pittsfield High school. Don Lutes Jr. was waiting in line at the school cafeteria. While paying for his food, Lutes received some spare change from the lunch lady. What caught his eye almost immediately was an unusual coin in his palm. It was a copper penny with Lincoln’s face on it.

Coin Collection

Being a coin collector, Lutes knew he was in possession of something special. He immediately recognized that this penny was different. It was made of copper and that is exactly why the coin caught his eye. Lutes knew they don’t make coins like this anymore so he decided to hold onto it.


Don Lutes Jr. knew that he had found something special but the actual value of that penny was something even he was not aware of. He simply placed it in his coin collection at home. The only perception Lutes had of this penny being special was due to the fact that it was not made of steel, which is what the coins in circulation were made of at that time.

War Hero

After graduating from Babson College in 1951 in Business Administration, Lutes joined the US Army and served as a cryptographic specialist with the U.S. Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea for the duration of two years, 1952-1954.