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A story has been recently circulating regarding a copper-composition 1943 Lincoln cent a collector allegedly took from his collection by accident and spent.

Collectors may recall the normal 1943 Lincoln cent is composed primarily of zinc and appears to be white or silver in color. The frantic search for the missing coin is driving coin dealers crazy across the country since the general public doesn't understand this. It appears everyone with a zinc cent is now taking it to their local coin dealer with the anticipation of cashing in their rare find for big bucks. Few non-collectors understand the zinc composition coin is the normal piece to be found for that year.

The story about the accidentally spent cent may in fact be just that-a story. There are strong indications it is a tale that has gotten out of control. This makes it an urban legend. Yes, there really are some off-metal cents of 1943 that have been authenticated and sell for significant money. It is the story of the spent coin that is the urban legend, not the coin itself.

Urban legends are popular in the United States. How many people have heard the one about the scratching on the door of the car in the lover's lane, with the terrified couple speeding off and later finding the hook from a one-armed madman's arm hanging on the door handle. Or how about the one about the baby sitter being harassed with threatening telephone calls, only to find later that when the police trace the call that the caller is placing the threats from a second phone within the house!

These and other urban legends were made popular in recent years by a movie of this name. In fact there are an incredible number of urban legends we take for granted and hear all the time. Look up the key words "urban legend" in a word search on the Internet and you will be surprised and the number of sites that will appear.

So, what about numismatic urban legends? Is the tale of the misspent 1943 copper Lincoln cent the only one? In fact, if you stop for a minute, you will realize we have had more than our share of urban legends in numismatics over the years.

As an example, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. The Federal Reserve Bank district for Dallas uses the letter "K" on bank notes issued through that district. For years people have wrongly believed that the K symbol on the FR notes commemorates Kennedy's death. Have you ever met someone who considers a $2 bank note to be bad luck? Many people believe this. Some people to this day will tear a corner off the note to make it tolerable to use as spending money.

What about the penny loafer? Did you put in your loafers when you first got them as a kid?

To this day the English will hide a sixpence in the plum pudding during the holiday season for good luck. Of course, this may not necessarily be good luck if some person finds it the hard way be swallowing the coin with his food!

Restorations of early wooden sailing ships to this day still follow the time honored tradition of placing coins under the main mast at the time the mast is set before launch so if a sailor is lost at sea he will still have money to pay the ferryman to send him over the River Styx into the Underworld after his death.

And what about the childhood rhyme: "There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile, and found a crooked sixpence along a crooked stile." This is a reference to bending a sixpence because of the fear of witchcraft, a custom dating from at least the time of the Massachusetts Pine Tree shilling coins of Colonial America.

How about: "Find a penny, pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck." This, as everyone knows, is only true if the coin is found face up. If you find a coin face down it is bad luck to pick it up.

Numismatic urban legends are many and varied. If you stop and think, you can probably name many more. We take many of numismatic urban legends for granted just as we do the urban legends about many other things.

So next time you find a money spider, don't squash him. He may indicate you will receive a sum of money in the coming year.

Currency Lincoln Cents (1909-to Date)