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 the cashier has given him and notices something different about a particular penny. As he’s a coin collector, he puts it aside. More than 70 years will pass before the full story about this one-cent emerges.
Let’s look at a little history before we get back to Lutes. 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 were the words, “Mind your business.” So the message on the coin was roughly, “Time is passing, get on with your work!”