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Cents earn turn in the collector spotlight

Lincoln cents might not have much economic value anymore, but they sure do bring collectors together.

Thanks to several stories published in Numismatic News since the beginning of the year, collectors are hot on the trail of 1983 copper cents.

All cents struck in 1983 should have been made of zinc coated with copper.

They weigh 2.5 grams. A cent made of the previous composition of 95-percent copper and 5 percent zinc weighs 3.11 grams.

Find a coin that is supposed to be zinc that weighs 3.11 grams and you suddenly have a rarity.

The funny thing is that interest in this has suddenly become so intense.

What were we doing back in 1983 when we knew that it was theoretically possible for copper 1983 cents to be produced?

Whatever the reason is that caused us to wait so long, the point now is that after 34 years the cent output of 1983 is getting a thorough screening by some current collectors.

They are also checking the 1982 issues that were struck for circulation.

That was a mixed year. Some cents were copper. Others were zinc coated with copper.

This was done intentionally by the Mint.

Dealers for years have assembled seven-piece 1982 sets of the known large and small dates in each composition.

In the Jan. 3 issue, we broke the news that a 1982-D with a small date was found on a copper planchet.

Up until that point, no Denver small date was known to have been struck in copper – only the large date.

All 1982-D small dates known to that point were zinc coated with copper.

Presently, the coin reported in January is the only example known.

However, where one has been found, others could be awaiting discovery.

This simply proves that coins often dismissed as being of no significance truly are worth a look.

Readers of Numismatic News are getting the message.

While they are looking for the rare cents, they find other cents that don’t seem quite right.

Many of these questions that crop up relate to how zinc plated with copper wears over time and reacts to the environment.

You can be sure that with this level of interest in cents, there will be more stories about them.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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