A popular rumor among collectors at the time claimed Henry Ford was offering to trade a new car for one of the rare "copper" pennies struck in 1943, but Lutes decided to just keep the coin after contacting the Ford Motor Company and discovering the offer was nothing but an urban legend.
Lutes, who had the coin authenticated in 1958 by expert Walter Breen during a New England Numismatic Association convention in Worcester, died in September of last year and the coin was given to Heritage to auction off.
"While a number of other examples have surfaced over the years, no other specimen has been celebrated and written about as much as this remarkable coin," Heritage Auctions said. "This piece inspires a special pride of ownership not equaled by any other example. This lot represents a true 'once in a lifetime' opportunity."
The auction, which ends Thursday, began with an opening bid of $100,000. A similar 1943 bronze penny sold for $1.7 million in 2010.