$2.92M coin returned to US Mint

  • 18/03/2016
$2.92M coin returned to US Mint


By Marty Graham

A San Diego man who inherited a 1974 aluminium penny valued at US$2 million (NZ$2.92 million) from his father has surrendered it to the US Mint to settle a lawsuit over ownership of the rare coin.

Randall Lawrence, the son of a former Mint official, and Michael McConnell, the owner of a San Diego-area coin shop, sued the federal government in 2014 after it demanded the return of the penny.

Lawrence and McConnell had planned to display the coin at shows across the country and then sell it through an auction house, which estimated it would bring up to US$2 million.

The pair turned it over to the Mint and relinquished all claims to ownership as part of a settlement, Laura Duffy, US attorney for the Southern District of California, said in a statement.

The settlement "vindicates the government's position that items made at US Mint facilities but not lawfully issued ... remain government property and are not souvenirs that government employees can merely remove and pass down to their heirs," Duffy said.

She did not disclose further terms of the settlement.

The aluminium cent was proposed to the US Congress in 1973, at a time when copper prices had increased dramatically, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

The Mint made about 1.6 million of the aluminium coins and distributed them to Congress in anticipation of approval.

When lawmakers rejected it, the Mint reclaimed the aluminium cents and destroyed almost all of them, leaving one to the Smithsonian in Washington, where it remains.

Lawrence inherited one of the coins and a third aluminium penny turned up in the possession of a US Capitol police officer, who said it was given to him by a member of Congress, according to the Professional Coin Grading Service website.