It’s 1947, and 16-year-old Don Lutes Jr. has just eaten in his school canteen in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. After leaving the dining hall, he takes a closer look at the change that the cashier has given him and notices something different about a particular penny. And since he’s a coin collector, he puts it aside. More than 70 years will pass, though, before the full story about this one-cent coin emerges.
But before we get back to Lutes, let’s look at a little history. The first one-cent coin in America appeared in 1787. Said to have been designed by Benjamin Franklin, it was known as a “Fugio” cent because that word – the Latin for “I flee” – was inscribed on the coin.
And as well as the word “Fugio,” there was an image of the Sun casting its rays over a sundial to represent the passage of time – which was “fleeing.” At the bottom of the coin, meanwhile, were the words “mind your business.” So the message on the coin was, roughly, “Time is passing; get on with your work!”