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A Massachusetts teenager found a rare penny in his lunch change and kept it for more than seven decades until his recent death — without ever knowing it may be one of the most valuable US coins of all time. The lucky piece could fetch up to $1.7 million when it hits the auction block later this week, according to reports Tuesday.

The 1943 Lincoln penny — one of 20 accidentally pressed in copper that year — was discovered by 16-year-old Don Lutes Jr. in his school cafeteria in March 1947, according to Sarah Miller of Heritage Auctions in Dallas.

“This is the most famous error coin in American numismatics, and that’s what makes this so exciting,” Miller told Fox News.

In the ’40s, copper was a strategically valuable metal needed to make shell casings and other implements for World War II. To preserve it, pennies in 1943 were made of zinc-coated steel — but a small number of blanks made primarily of copper were caught in mint presses and accidentally circulated.

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