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More valuable than gold

Will a modern rarity soon take its place among 1804 silver dollars, 1913 Liberty Head nickels and 1885 Trade dollars as coin auction royalty?

We will see when Heritage Auctions puts a 1974-D aluminum cent on the block during its Central States Numismatic Society Signature sale April 23-27 in Schaumburg, Ill.

“This is an amazing discovery and we estimate the 1974-D aluminum cent will bring a quarter million dollars or more,” said Todd Imhof, Heritage Auctions executive vice president.

Long rumored to exist in private hands, the example going on sale traces back to Harry Edmond Lawrence, deputy superintendent of the Denver Mint.

It passed to his son after he died in 1980 and Heritage relates that he did not know what he had.

Last September Randy Lawrence arranged to sell the coin and others he had inherited to Michael McConnell of La Jolla Coin Shop in California.

Heritage quotes McConnell as saying, “I first thought the 1974-D cent was struck on a planchet intended for a foreign country, and I purchased it as such.”

He called Armen Vartian, the legal counsel of the Professional Numismatists Guild, who has his office in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Vartian called error specialist Fred Weinberg of Encino.

The coin was submitted to the Professional Coin Grading Service by McConnell as arranged by Vartian.

When it was certified as genuine, and the only one of its kind known, McConnell contacted Lawrence to tell him the news.

Both men will now share in the proceeds and “a significant portion of the proceeds” will be donated to a San Diego charity for the homeless, McConnell said.

PCGS certified one other aluminum cent in 2005, a specimen from Philadelphia that was believed to have been owned at one time by Albert Toven, a U.S. Capitol security guard.

I had that particular coin in my hands briefly to take a look at it before it was submitted to PCGS.

The April auction will mark the first time such a coin will be offered for sale in public. It is an historic event. Heritage notes that there may be 5-14 examples of aluminum cents that were not returned to the Mint in 1974 as then Director Mary Brooks wanted. They and others had been distributed in Congress, which was considering switching the composition of the cent to aluminum.

Individuals who would like to see the 1974-D coin for themselves will have an opportunity Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 at the Long Beach, Calif., Coin, Currency, Stamp and Sports Collectible Expo.

If you have the opportunity to examine this piece of recent numismatic history, do it. You won’t forget it.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."