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Was euro minting error a mistake?

Italian Finance Police officers Fabio Mercuri, left, and Franco Ceccarelli inspect badly minted 1-cent euro coins  

By CNN Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- If you have any of the newly minted euro coins in your pocket, check them carefully -- some could be worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

The Italian Financial Police are investigating why dozens of 1-cent euro coins were minted in the size of a 2-cent coin.

Such coins are known as "anomalous" or irregular, minted by mistake with some imperfections -- thus increasing their value to collectors.

Investigators believe the anomalous euros may have been badly produced on purpose to stimulate speculation among collectors.

So far, six of the faulty coins have been found in northern Italy. And police are looking for more.

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"Citizens who come across these coins must immediately inform the Financial Police, which will send its patrols to further investigate the matter," says Lt. Col. Giuseppe Montanaro of the Financial Police special unit.

There is an investigation under way to establish whether the mistake was really a mistake -- or attempted fraud.

Police officials say people who do not hand over the faulty coins could incur legal troubles.

That is why for the time being, coin shops are holding off buying oversized cents -- even though before magistrates launched the investigation they were paying the equivalent of more than $2,000 for the faulty 1-cent coin.

Experts say regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the value of the badly minted 1-cent coin may increase in years to come.

"It is always something a collector would want," says Marco de Angelis of Bolaffi Numismatics.

"I believe several years from now, when owning such a coin will no longer be against the law, the coin could make its return on the collector's market. As a matter of fact I think it will happen."

So should a lucky owner keep the coin for future generations?

"Probably, probably ... It's better to keep it," says de Angelis.

There is a precedent for the minting error: In the early 1960s Italy began minting 500 lira silver coins. The first samples were minted with a small mistake and were never intended for circulation.

Today those coins are is worth more than $6,000.




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