Legal battle looms over rare penny

LA JOLLA, Calif. - A lawsuit was filed to prevent the U.S. government from claiming possession of a rare aluminum penny that has been in a man's family for 40 years.

"I've had the coin in a collection since my father died in 1980," said Randy Lawrence.

Lawrence's father worked at the Denver Mint as a supervisor for more than 20 years.

The coins were nothing special in 1974, when the mint made scores of them until Congress decided not to put them into circulation.

"They were given away; in fact, Joe Biden has two of them, which to my knowledge he hasn't given back," said Armen Vartian, a Los Angeles attorney hired by Lawrence to fight the government.

Lawrence recently moved to San Diego from Denver, and he decided to see what his father's coin collection would be worth. He took them to the La Jolla Coin Shop, which bought them.

When owner Michael McConnel called Lawrence back to say what he had found, both decided to sell it at auction, where it was expected to fetch $250,000. They agreed to use most of the proceeds for charity.

However, they received a letter from the government that asked them to return the coin.

The auction in Chicago has been postponed while the lawsuit is pending. A hearing date has not been set, and the rare coin is under lock and key in Chicago.

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