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Press Release - January 3, 2017
Historic experimental copper-cent alternative, the only intact glass U.S. penny known, surfaces In Florida AuctionUltra-rare WWII Glass Coin will be offered by Heritage Auctions.
The glass penny is one of the highlights of a multi-million-dollar public auction of rare coins and paper money that will be conducted by Heritage in conjunction with one of the country's largest coin collector's events, the Florida United Numismatists convention.
"The present 1942 glass experimental piece is the only intact example discovered in nearly 75 years since the experiments," said Mark Borckardt, Senior Numismatist and Cataloger at Heritage Auctions. "Although glass was never used for emergency U.S. coinage, this piece represents a unique artifact of the ingenuity and determination of Mint officials and private industry."
The coin was discovered and purchased at a small auction in August 2016 by Roger W. Burdette, author of the book United States Pattern and Experimental Pieces of World War II. Made of tempered, yellow-amber transparent glass obtained from Corning Glass Company, there are only two known surviving examples from this historic experiment; the intact example offered in the auction and another one that is broken in half, Burdette's research shows.
"Wartime scarcity of copper required the U.S. mint replace copper for the one cent coin," Burdette said. "Plastics fabricators, particularly those who made buttons, began to experiment with pieces the size of a cent but the Blue Ridge Glass Company of Kingsport, Tennessee, requested an opportunity to experiment with glass in late 1942."
Blue Ridge Glass officials described their manufacturing process and results in a seven-page report that is among United States Mint documents in the National Archives. After considering various alternatives, such as glass, plastic and even rubber, the Mint eventually struck cents made of zinc-coated steel in 1943.
Despite his best efforts, Burdette does not know where the glass penny spent the last 75 years before he discovered it in August. "We know that before doing any of the work, Blue Ridge Glass had some of the employees carry some of the blanks in their pockets for a few days as a test, but the blanks chipped and created sharp edges," Burdette said. "I think it would have been tough for the public to accept them as money."
By the time the glass cent tests were completed in December 1942, it was too late for the U.S. Mint to consider them as a viable replacement for the penny.
Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world's third largest, with annual sales of more than $800 million, and over one million online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.
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Eric Bradley, Public Relations Director
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