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Latest Copper 1983-D Cent a Mystery

If the 1983-D turns out to be struck on a U.S. brass planchet, the value could be $15,000 or more.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of Sarasota, Fla., authenticated and graded a 1983-D Lincoln cent as being struck on a brass planchet of a composition of 98 percent copper and 2 percent zinc that weighs 3.0 grams.


Regular production 1983-D cents should be copper-plated zinc.

A first thought is that this copper 1983-D could be a coin struck on a planchet left over from early 1982 production (or earlier) when U.S. cents were struck on solid brass planchets – a coin with a potential value of $15,000-$20,000 or more based on past sales.

The subject coin can be seen on NGC’s website here:

But is this really a standard U.S. copper cent planchet? The weight as described is within the 0.13 gram tolerance level allowed by Public Law 31 U.S. Code § 5113, but the composition is wrong for any U.S. cent struck at any time in our history.

Starting in 1962 and part way into 1982, our cents were struck on brass planchets comprised of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc weighing 3.11 grams.

So just what does this cent find represent? First, the composition stated could just be a typo on the holder (which I am still trying to ascertain), or it could be struck on an unidentified foreign planchet. If it does turn out to be struck on a U.S. brass planchet, the value could be $15,000 or higher. But if it does prove to be struck on an unknown planchet of an alloy we never used for U.S. coinage, then the value could drop dramatically.

According to Off-Metal/Wrong Planchet error specialist Mark Lighterman of Florida, U.S. coins struck on unidentified planchets can vary in price from about $200 to $400 and go as high as about $1,000 if the country of origin is known. These are typical numbers that do not always apply, as we shall see.

What we do know for sure is starting in 1982, copper-plated zinc cent planchet production was shifted from in-house to private manufacturers who also make planchets for other countries. Since then there have been a number of U.S. cents found struck on unidentified planchets that undoubtedly slipped into supplies of U.S. planchets shipped to the U.S. Mint. That is the strongest possibility for this planchet’s origin if this is indeed the 98 percent copper alloy noted.

This revelation is unlikely to affect the value of the few 1983 solid brass cents known as similar revelations that most if not all 1944 steel cents were probably struck on the zinc-plated steel planchets intended for the 1944 Belgium two-franc coins struck in Philadelphia have not affected the value of these highly sought-after errors.

The bottom line is, no matter the exact value, it wise to keep an eye out for Lincoln cents of any date that may appear to be struck on solid brass planchets and weigh them.

Beyond 1982, they are known on 1983, 1983-D, 1989-D and 1990-D cents.

A 1983 cent described by the Professional Coin Grading Service as struck on a “3.1gm Cu Plan” and graded MS62 RB sold on Dec. 5, 2013, in Heritage’s U.S. Coins Signature Auction – Houston for $23,500.

View the Heritage coin here:

A 1989-D Lincoln cent struck on what PCGS described as a pre-1983 copper cent planchet and graded MS-65RD sold for $3,525 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Aug. 11 Rarities Night sale this year. Is that enough to get you going on the hunt for them?

Readers who have found any of these copper cents of any date after 1982 are encouraged to contact Numismatic News editor David Harper.

Ken Potter is co-author of “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and has written many feature articles for “Numismatic News” and for “World Coin News.” He can be emailed at An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at

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