Collectors are checking their cents since January when I wrote about the discovery of the first known 1982-D Small Date Lincoln cent minted on homogeneous copper-alloy planchet. Now after several months, a second specimen may have been found – or has it? The new piece discovered by Denny Crocker of Florida seems to fit the bill at first glance but it carries with it an air of suspicion.
While the coin does appear to be a 1982-D Small Date copper that weighs 3.1 grams rather than the normal 2.5 grams of the normal 1982-D Small Date cents, the owner and I have found the mintmark to be problematic.
Crocker pointed out that he had removed a green substance from around “the date area.” This revealed what to me looks like it might be a clear glue-like substance in the area of the mintmark. Was the mintmark added to a common Philadelphia Small Date copper (very sloppily I might add) and then spent later only to be found by Crocker during his cent searches?
Of course this substance might just turn out to be a random example of post Mint environmental damage from it being in the wrong place at the wrong time and picking up this unusual substance, (in addition to other defects such as numerous bag marks and verdigris).
I have advised Crocker to soak the coin in acetone or fingernail polish remover to see if the substance can be removed through this nondestructive means and then if the mintmark still remains in place. If it does, he can then have it checked further by his authentication service of choice.
He has agreed to do the acetone soak, a service which I could provide but prefer to not administer to somebody else’s coin. If all goes well with this step and the mintmark remains firm he plans to send the coin to Numismatic Conservation Services in Sarasota, Fla., for a closer look and possible conservation and grading. When I hear back on the results I tell readers.
After 34 years of many suspecting but not finding a 1982-D Small Date struck on a copper-alloy planchet, one was finally found by a Minnesota collector (who wishes to remain anonymous) while sorting through 1982 cents by weight to save the copper-alloy pieces for their melt value. The copper-alloy cents weigh 3.1 grams and the copper-plated zinc cents weigh in at 2.6 grams. (While the Mint has struck bronze, zinc-plated steel and brass over the years prior to 1982, the alloy of choice from 1962 to sometime in mid-1982 was brass though many simply refer to both the solid bronze and brass alloys collectively as bronze.)
Since the time of my January article on the first coin’s discovery, NGC has certified it as the “Discovery Coin” and graded it AU-58. If Crocker’s coin turns out to be genuine, it will be the second example known to exist.
The Mint switched over from striking copper-alloy to copper-plated zinc planchets sometime in mid-1982 as a cost saving measure – the copper-alloy planchets were too expensive to strike.
But it didn’t end there. The Mint had trouble striking the new planchets with dies bearing the old die design, (used for a number of years with only the date changing), so they modified the dies to make them more suitable to strike the copper- plated zinc cents.
This modification resulted in what collectors called the “Small Date” and they naturally dubbed the old style design “Large Date.” When all was said and done, it appeared there were seven distinct varieties though some of us continued to believe that the eighth possible variety surely had to exist even if struck in error and rare. There were Small and Large Date varieties struck on both types of planchets with only the Denver minted Small Date seemingly never having been minted. Evidence suggests that the Denver Mint shut down cent production for a period of time and made a concerted effort to remove all of the solid copper-alloy plachets from the facility before striking any Small Date cents with the new copper-plated zinc core planchets.
The reason the Mint changed from what collectors call a Large Date to the Small Date is because zinc does not strike up like copper or a predominantly copper alloy. The Mint struck the copper hard and fast, but quickly learned in 1982 that the strike was not satisfactory on the coins minted on the copper-plated zinc. They had to slow down the strike by lengthening the squeeze, which satisfactorily filled the dies. This meant production numbers were down and the only way to rectify the problem was to modify the dies. The “Small Date” moniker is actually something of a misnomer as not only is the date smaller and more delicate but so is LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST. This change meant there was less relief on the date, motto and legend to fill during the strike and they could crank up the numbers again by hitting the planchets faster and reducing the length of squeeze. There have been other theories thrown around for the design modifications, but none have been verified by the Mint while those noted here are the reasons the Mint cited.
So despite the currently unknown status of our second find highlighted here, it is suggested that collectors continue to search for this error. Some veteran collectors are so good at differentiating the solid copper alloy from the copper-plated cents by sight alone that they can very often tell the difference just by color 99 percent of the time. But to be practical it is best to weigh the 1982-D Small Date cents to see if you have one of the rare 3.1 gram copper-alloy specimens. You can use a fulcrum style scale offered by dealers such as Virg Marshall III or you can buy a digital scale – an option that has gotten much cheaper in recent years. I paid over $125 for my first digital scale and I paid about $14 for my last one (that I keep as a spare) at a local hardware supply. Nonetheless a fulcrum scale seems like it might be faster and easier (not to mention far cheaper) for this specific task. The fulcrum type scale simply acts like a teeter-totter and tips when anything weighing 3.1 grams or over is placed on one side.
How to tell the Large Date from the Small Date? Most writers point to the size of the “8” as being quite a bit larger and taller or the curvature of the “2” being different on the Large Date, but in reality it is much easier just to look for the bold larger characters of the entire date and legend and how close they are to the rim for the Large Date and how delicate the characters on the Small Date and the significantly further distance they are from the rim. The “2” of date might be the most obvious; study how close it is to the rim on the Large Date versus. how far it is from the rim on the Small Date. It’s that simple!
Readers finding any more of these planchet error-varieties for this date are encouraged to report them to NN editor Dave Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Potter is co-author of “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and has been a frequent contribute to “Numismatic News” and “World Coin News” for many years. More information about the error club, CONECA, that he represents can be obtained by emailing email@example.com. An educational image gallery can be found on his website at http://koinpro.tripod.com.
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