A Tuesday, March 18, 2014 Courthouse News article covers the case of the 1974-D aluminum cent; the U.S. government is claiming ownership.
A man trying to auction off a rare 1974 aluminum penny claims in court that the government has no right to interfere by demanding return of the coin, which it has done.
Randall Lawrence and Michael McConnell used the Department of Treasury and Bureau of the Mint, seeking declaratory judgment that the government's claim to the penny, which was struck at the Denver Mint, is invalid.
Lawrence says that the coin he owns - the one the government is - was stamped at the Denver Mint, where his father, Harry Lawrence, worked for 20 years. Randall Lawrence says he found the coin among other possessions after his father's death in 1980.
Although Mint officials have stated that there is no evidence that any aluminum cents were struck at the Denver Mint in 1974, a former Denver Mint employee, Benito Martinez, told "Coin World" that he personally struck fewer than a dozen of the pennies as a die setter on aluminum planchets that had been provided by the Philadelphia Mint, the complaint states.
The Denver Mint struck a dozen pennies at most and then sent them to U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C., the lawsuit states.
"The small number and deliberate manner in which each was individually struck and sent directly to Washington further indicates that these were likely created to be presented to members of Congress and government officials, as were the Philadelphia-mint aluminum cents," Lawrence says in the complaint.
Of the dozen or so aluminum cents rumored to have been minted at Denver, only Lawrence's coin is known to exist. He wants to sell the penny at auction in April.
The U.S. Mint sent Lawrence a letter in February, "demanding the return of their aluminum cent. The letter stated that the government takes the position that, because Congress never issued an aluminum cent as legal tender, any aluminum cent remains property of the federal government, regardless of how long it has been in private hands," according to the complaint.
Lawrence denies it. "Thousands of coins minted by or for the U.S. Mint that were never 'issued' as legal tender have been widely and publicly collected and purchased and sold by coin collectors and dealers for over a century without any claims whatsoever from the government," he says in the lawsuit. "These include coins that were actually sold or 'gifted' by the Mint itself such as the aluminum cents, as well as coins that left the Mint under unknown circumstances."
Lawrence cites "pattern" coins - experimental pieces illustrating a proposed coin design or embodying a proposed change in coin composition, size or shape - which were never issued as legal tender, but have been widely collected and sold without interference from the government.
Other rare coins - including the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, the 1894-S dime, and the 1943 copper penny - were never officially issued as tender, but the government has made no attempt to reclaim them, the complaint states.
Lawrence and McConnell seek a declaratory judgment that the government has no legal claim to their 1974-D aluminum penny.
They are represented by Armen R. Vartian, of Manhattan Beach.
To read the complete article, see:
Collector Says Uncle Sam Has no Right to His Rare 1974 Aluminum Penny
Numismatic News covered the story in a March 21, 2014 article by Dave Harper. Here's an excerpt.
Perhaps the aluminum 1974-D Lincoln cent will not be sold at the Central States auction at the end of April.
The Mint wants it back.
A letter was sent Feb. 26 to owners Randall Lawrence and Michael McConnell demanding its return.
Sending this demand was Chief Counsel of the U.S. Mint Daniel Shaver.
The recipients of the letter filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on March 14 seeking a declaratory judgment and jury trial on the issue.
Considering the great lengths the Mint has gone to in its recovery of 1933 $20 gold pieces, it perhaps is not surprising that it would take action regarding the 1974-D aluminum cent.
Will the two owners be able to keep the coin?
Even if they are, such a court judgment might not come in time for the April auction.
That would delay its ultimate sale.
If the Mint wins, the coin will disappear from collector view and perhaps be destroyed.
Whatever the outcome, the 1974-D aluminum cent has gotten the attention of collectors everywhere and its ultimate fate is a matter of keen interest.
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
MAN CAPTURES UNICORN: 1974-D ALUMINUM CENT
ON THE LEGALITY OF OWNING ALUMINUM CENTS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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