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Coins and the Law – United States Mint Retakes Possession of 1974-D Aluminum Cent

The United States Mint announced today that it has taken possession of the 1974-D aluminum experimental one-cent specimen that has been the subject of a lawsuit. The coin was first certified by PCGS and then consigned for auction. Heritage Auctions displayed the coin at the Long Beach Coin, Currency, Stamp & Sports Collectible Expo, January 30 – February 1, 2014. It then was be offered as one of the highlights of the Heritage Signature Auction during the Central States Numismatic Society convention near Chicago, April 23 – 27, 2014. However the coin was removed from the sale in February 2014.

1974-D_lincoln_centOnce the United States Mint became aware of plans to offer this particular piece for auction, they immediately reached out to Heritage and the consignors, notifying all parties that the United States Mint never issued, nor otherwise transferred title to any aluminum one-cent piece, and that indeed, lawful authority to issue them was never granted.

The Mint’s position was that Congress never divested the government’s interest in the subject aluminum one-cent piece, and accordingly, it remained the rightful property of the Federal government. The Mint claimed that authority was never granted for production of the experimental test pieces and that the coin in fact belonged to the US Government

Harry-LawrenceThe aluminum one-cent specimen had been in the apparent possession of Harry Lawrence a former assistant superintendent at the United States Mint in Denver, Colorado. The heir of the former assistant superintendent, Real estate agent Randy Lawrence and his friend California coin dealer Michael McConnell filed suit in federal District Court in San Diego, Ca., seeking a declaratory judgment that the piece was legal to own.

Over 1.4 million of the experimental pieces were struck at the Mint in Philadelphia in 1974 as part of a test program to possibly replace copper one-cent coins. However, Congress never enacted legislation authorizing the Mint to issue one-cent coins composed of aluminum, and the test pieces were to all be melted. The specimen piece in question bears a “D” mark, signifying production in Denver, along with the date “1974”, and appears to have been struck with a die intended for the Mint’s Denver facility. However, authority was never granted for production of the experimental test pieces at Denver.

Randy Lawrence contended that his father was given the aluminum one-cent specimen as a gift upon his retirement

The agreement reached ends the lawsuit and directs that title to the 1974-D aluminum cent rests with the United States Mint and that it be transferred to its custody and control. Mint Police have secured the piece. The Mint considers the specimen to be a valuable historic heritage asset. Accordingly, it intends to display the specimen publicly so that this heritage asset can be properly showcased and enjoyed by numismatists, coin collectors and the general public. The display forum has not yet been decided, but the Mint will make an announcement when a decision has been made.

“The Mint is very pleased with the agreement, and we are very grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego for its work and efforts in reaching this resolution. We look forward to displaying the coin appropriately as an important Mint heritage asset,” said Rhett Jeppson, United States Mint Principal Deputy Director. “This agreement is not only good for the integrity of the coin collecting hobby but for the integrity of the government property and rule of law.”

Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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