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Mint gets 1974-D aluminum cent back

The only known 1974-D Lincoln cent struck in aluminum has been recovered by the Mint, it was announced late yesterday.

It is a mystery coin in that Denver was never authorized to strike cents in aluminum although Philadelphia test struck over 1.4 million pieces.

Congress never approved their release. The Mint claimed title.

Until January 2014, the numismatic community did not even know the 1974-D piece existed.

Then on Jan. 28, 2014, it was announced that the Professional Coin Grading Service had authenticated the piece and graded it MS-63. It was slated to be sold at a Heritage auction at the Central States Numismatic Society convention in April.

It was not to be.

Two individuals who possessed the coin, Michael McConnell, owner of La Jolla Coin Shop in California and Randy Lawrence, a real estate developer who said he had inherited the coin, filed suit in federal court in an attempt to be declared the owners.

Naturally, the Mint had other ideas.

Lawrence’s father had worked at the Denver Mint for approximately two decades.

A Jan. 28, 2014, PCGS press release quoted Randy Lawrence as saying, “My father, Harry Edmond Lawrence was Deputy Superintendent of the Denver Mint when the aluminum cent was struck. When he died in 1980, the coin and others he received over the years were in a plastic sandwich bag. I kept them in that bag in my desk for 33 years and then they were in the trunk of my car for a month when I moved with my two children and my elderly mother from Denver to Southern California last August.”

McConnell purchased it from Lawrence in September 2013. After satisfying himself that it was genuine, he decided to share auction proceeds with Lawrence.

The 1974-D never went to auction.

And now two years later the legal dust has settled and the Mint has claimed victory.

“The Mint’s recovery follows an agreement to resolve a lawsuit over the ownership of the piece.”

Further, the Mint statement said the Mint considers the piece to be a valuable historic asset.

“Accordingly, it intends to display the specimen publicly.”

Where that display will occur has not yet been decided. However, since the Mint will have a booth at the 2016 Central States Numismatic Society convention April 28-30 in Schaumburg, Ill., why not put the 1974-D aluminum cent on display there?

It is only two years late.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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