Is it possible? I would have said, "no," had you asked me this question a couple of months ago. Could there be two more 1943 bronze cents out there? If you asked me if two of them could have been found together; I would have said, "Hell No!" Well, I guess I was proven wrong since two extremely rare 1943 bronze cents were brought to me on January 21st while I was set up at a small coin show in Spring Hill, located in the west central part of Florida. It was just another day at the West Hernando Coin Club coin show where I was buying, selling, talking to dealers and collectors about coins. All of a sudden, my world changed. A gentleman named Mike Pratt and another club member walked up to my booth and asked if I could take a look at a coin. Of course I agreed and he dug it out of his pocket and handed it to me. When looking at it, I noticed the coin was what looked like a 1943 bronze(copper) cent; besides that, it had a rather large CUD on the obverse. Smiling, I thought, "yeah right, another 1943 copper". I looked at Mike and said, "interesting coin". Taking a closer look, I thought it could possibly be genuine. Turning back to Mike, I asked him where he got it and he replied that he inherited them from his father. I then asked where his father may have received it and Mike said that his father was an employee of the Philadelphia Mint. Every thought I had up to that moment had now changed. This could be real. I again looked at the coin, weighed it and said to myself everything looked right, felt right, and gave me reason to believe it's authentic. At that point, I was thinking that if it were counterfeited, why would someone go through the extra trouble of adding a CUD? This would have made a difficult counterfeit job impossible. So I told Mike that I liked the coin and that it was either the best counterfeit I ever seen or its real and worth a lot of money. Mike then dropped an even bigger bomb shell; he said he had another one. I was smiling and asked, "Are you serious?" He said, "yes." I then said this coin needs to be looked at by someone that knows more than I do. Naturally, the first person that came to mind was my daughter Alexandrea Zieman, a grader at NGC. I told Mike that if he gave me the coin, I could show it to Alexandrea in a couple days and get her input. He took the coin back and said he'd have to think on it. So, I gave him my card and said, "give me a call." The next day, Sunday, I was at my regular spot at Howard's Flea Market when Mike walked up with the coin and said he was interested in having Alexandrea look at it. I told him she would love to and that she would be very happy to take it in to NGC for evaluation. So I got out my receipt book and gave him a receipt for the coin. Asking him about the other 1943 bronze cent, he said, "let 's do one at a time." That Tuesday I met my daughter for lunch. She was full of excitement and said, "Dad, let me see the coin". I pulled it out of my pocket as quickly as she grabbed it for a closer look. She had a huge smile on her face and said "Dad, I think this is real! It is for sure struck and not cast". She also went on to say that there seemed to be no tool marks or any sign of tampering with the coin or the dies that made it. She did mention that the rim was a little off but she still believed it was authentic. She said it would have to be tested for medal content, weighed, and then have other experts at NGC look at it. I was excited and could not wait for it to be examined. Once at NGC, I was informed that it was not counterfeit, but at that time, they could not prove it was authentic. The rim was the contention and that more research was needed.
Single cigar box the 4 coins were in for over 30 years
John(left) and Mike(right) picking up the coins at NGC
That Wednesday Mike came to my booth at Stoke's Flea Market with another coin. It was a Brass cent. I could see it was thicker, so I weighed it and it was 4.0 grams. He asked me to take it to my daughter and have it submitted to NGC, so I did. A week later, I was told it was real and that it was on a 20 Centavo planchet. Once I got the coin back, I took it with me to the flea market that weekend and gave it to Mike. He asked me if I would be interested in owning it. "Of course," I said. "I am a collector and this would be a great addition." So we talked price, both agreed, and I bought it.
After a week or so at NGC, I spoke with my daughter about the coin and I told her that I wished to have it looked at by someone else; for Mike's piece of mind. So, I got the coin back and in March went to the ANA Money Show in Orlando, Florida. My daughter said that if I really needed to bring the coin to someone else, that I should bring it to a cent or error expert for a second opinion. The first name that came to mind was Fred Weinberg. I have done some business with him in the past and knew he probably could help me. So I told Mike I would be going to the show on Thursday and having it looked over. When I got to the show I spoke briefly with Angel Dee who also said Fred would be the guy to speak with about this coin. I then went to Fred's booth and asked if I could show him something. I pulled out the 1943 CUD cent and handed it to him. Fred started smiling with interest, but he had his reservations about it. He liked it, however, he was short to say it was authentic. I then pulled out the 1942 Brass cent struck on a 20 Centavo Ecuador Planchet in a NGC holder which I bought from Mike earlier, then handed it to Fred. He had an even bigger smile on his face. We talked about my coin and the 1943 Bronze and Mike's story of his father working at the Mint. I did tell Fred that Mike had another couple coins including another 1943 Bronze. He said that the whole group needed to go in for grading together so the group and the story would help any service with authentication. We had our opinions and Fred thanked me for showing him the coins. I called Mike at the end of the day and told him of my discussion with Fred and explained to him that the coins needed to be evaluated as a group; Mike understood. The next day, he went to the ANA Show to show Fred the other two coins including the second 1943 Bronze. Later, Mike told me that the conversation with Fred went very well and that Fred loved the other coins. The following day, Alexandrea and I went to the ANA Show and went to see Fred who was very happy to see us and spoke on his thoughts. Fred even told us, "It made my show, maybe even my month."
The week after the show, I called Dave Camire to set an appointment to meet. Dave looked at the group of coins, we talked about them, and then submitted them. In a weeks time, we got news that the two 1943 Bronze Cents were authentic and that the other was struck on a foreign Planchet; a Netherlands 25 cent. After some thinking and to honor Mike's father, Albert Michael Pratt, that pedigree was added to all four coins labels. A couple weeks later, Mike and I went to NGC to pick up the coins. It was so much fun to see all four coins in NGC holders and all together like they had laid for over 25 years in that small cigar box.
Almost lost forever. Mike told me his story on how he got the coins and how they were almost thrown away. When his father and mother past away back in 1992, Mike and his sisters divided up the estate. After all was divided, Mike's older sister told him to take whatever was left and throw away anything not wanted. Mike looked through many boxes in a particular closet before discovering a small cigar box. He opened it and saw the four cents. He then closed it and threw the small cigar box in the keep pile. After going through all that he wished to keep, Mike brought home everything in the keep pile where it stayed until 2014 when he moved to Florida. He told me while up in New Jersey he sent photos and showed the coins to many dealers who said that they were fakes. So he forgot about them. Once in Florida, he got an interest in coins and started looking through his fathers old stuff where he once again found the small cigar box. Realizing they were 1943 and looked like copper, he took a magnet to them and none stuck. He again had people look at them and got the same answer, they were counterfeit/fakes. Luckily, Mike joined our coin club, went to the club's coin show, and the rest is history.
I would like to thank many people who helped make all this happen and to preserve these coins. Thank you to Mike Pratt for trusting me and my abilities. Thank you to Fred Weinberg for all his help and expertise in this area of coins. Thank you to Dave Camire at NGC for all his hard work to authenticate these four extremely rare coins. Thank you to NGC for taking these coins in and pouring all your efforts into these coins, but most of all, thank you to my daughter Alexandrea for her knowledge in coins, helping me with getting the right people to look at them, and submitting them. These rare cent pieces would not be in NGC holders if not for her. Thank you Alexandrea!
Alexandrea holding all 4 coins
ST. AUGUSTINE 106 ST. GEORGE STREET SUITE F ST. AUGUSTINE, FL 32084 AT ST. GEORGE'S ROW Howard's Flea Market Sat. & Sun. Main Aisle Booth 44
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