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Search goes on for errors in copper


The mystery deepens as a cent that should be too heavy to be copper-coated zinc shows planchet blisters on the photo at right, which is indicative of a plated coin.

Numismatic News reader Howard Sawicki has reported finding a 1983 cent that weighs 3.0 grams.

The presumption in a case like this is that it must be copper, something it shouldn’t be because all cents were supposed to have been made of copper-coated zinc in that year.


The weight of 3.0 grams is shy of the 3.1 grams that a genuine 95-percent copper cent should weigh, but mich more than the 2.5 grams a genuine copper-plated zinc cent should weigh.

However, the weight is too light. There the mystery deepens.

In the last few weeks I’ve shown the first known 1982-D Small Date cent struck on a Pre-82 US cent planchet that weighs the correct 3.1 grams and I’ve shown a 1983-D cent that weighs a light 3.0 grams. Both were authenticated by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation as struck on solid copper alloy planchets. However the 1983-D weighed 3.0 grams and was identified as being of a 92 percent copper alloy rather than the 95 percent copper 5 percent zinc alloy – out of specifications on both counts for a pre-1982 planchet.

The latest cent dated 1983 is as mysterious as the 1983-D of which nobody knows exactly what it represents. However, in this case there does appear to be planchet blisters, which are diagnostic of a copper-plated zinc cent, but I have no explanation for the weight being so much over the normal 2.5 grams.

It could be struck on an unidentified foreign planchet or it could it be a wayward pre-1982 planchet that was inadvertently plated if such a thing exists. Of course it could simply be struck on a thick planchet – I just don’t know at this point, but I can say I’ve never seen a copper-plated zinc planchet weighing this far out of specifications.

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. On the other hand, if this coin is struck on a thick planchet, the value would be less in my opinion.

The bottom line is no matter the exact value, it can be financially worthwhile to keep an eye out for Lincoln cents of any post-1983 date that may appear to be struck on solid brass planchets and weigh them.

Readers who have found any of these of any date are encouraged to contact Numismatic News editor David Harper at

One conclusion that is definite: Circulation finds seems to be gaining interest once again.

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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