So what are the values of the unique 1982-D Small Date and 1983-D Lincoln cents struck on solid copper-alloy planchets?
Collectors will finally get a chance to find out this August when both coins are put on the auction block by Stack’s Bowers at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair Of Money in Denver, where they will be part of the firm’s Rarities Night Session on Thursday, Aug. 3.
I first broke the news of the existence of both coins in Numismatic News when they were discovered, but all I could do was speculate as to what their values might be based on sales of the more common 1983 copper cents where the record price is $23,500.
Both the 1982-D SD and 1983-D offerings were struck on 95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc planchets that weighed within tolerance of the 3.1 gram planchets phased out by the Mint in the earlier part of 1982. Both cents should have been stuck on copper-plated zinc planchets that weigh 2.5 grams.
The most recent of the two discoveries is the 1982-D Small Date found by Paul Malone of Minnesota and reported by me in January of this year. He found it on Nov. 23, 2016, while searching for pure copper alloy cents to squirrel away for their melt value.
Malone knew that he had to weigh all the 1982-dated cents to segregate the copper keepers from the copper-plated zincs of that transitional year when both types of planchets were struck. He also knew that no 1982-D Small Date cents were known on the copper alloy planchets.
Nonetheless, he decided to weigh his examples of the 1982-D Small Dates anyway to see if he might find an error. The Denver Mint had made a concerted effort 35 years ago to make sure none of the Small Date variety was struck in the copper alloy. Obviously, at least one got struck. Malone found it! His coin is described by Numismatic Guaranty Corportion as: 1982-D Lincoln Cent. Small Date – Struck on a Bronze Planchet – AU-58 BN. 3.08 grams.
The 1983-D was found by Jeff Young after he read a copy of my book Strike It Rich With Pocket Change where I had added in a footnote under the then unique 1983 copper cent noting that this error could just as well exist on a Denver issue of the same year and I encouraged readers to look.
Young started weighing both Philadelphia and Denver issues and in short order found the 1983-D in the latter part of December 2012. I broke the news on his discovery in a January 2013 issue of Numismatic News. Young decided to put his coin up for auction after he heard that the 1982-D Small Date was being put up for auction, feeling the pair would attract more attention than either coin offered alone. Besides, he thinks its a good time to sell anyway. The auction firm offers it described by the Professional Coin Grading Service as: 1983-D Lincoln Cent – Struck on a Bronze Planchet – AU-55. 3.10 grams.
In their description of the 1982-D Small Date copper Stack’s Bowers Galleries notes 1982 as being an important transitional year in the modern Lincoln cent series saying:
“Sometime around the middle of that year the Mint stopped using bronze planchets in cent production due to rising costs. As a cost-saving expedient, copper-plated zinc planchets were adopted as a substitute, and they remain in use today. The new planchets proved more difficult to strike than their bronze predecessors, however, and the Mint was forced to modify the Lincoln cent design to avoid delays in production. Whereas planchets comprised solely or predominantly of copper could be struck hard and fast to maximize the number of coins produced in any given time period, copper-plated zinc planchets required a slower rate of striking to adequately fill the dies and bring up full detail on each piece. The slower striking rate resulted in an unacceptable reduction in output, and to overcome this problem the Mint was forced to modify the Lincoln cent design. The alterations were minor and consisted of making the digits and letters in the date, LIBERTY, and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the obverse smaller and more delicate. This resulted in smaller recessed areas of the die to fill during striking, allowing the Mint to return to a faster press speed.”
As Numismatic News readers know, the modified design that the Mint prepared for use with the new copper-plated zinc planchets has become known as the Small Date variety. This is technically a misnomer since, as related above, the letters in the word LIBERTY and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST were also modified. The easiest way to identify the Small Date variety, nonetheless, is by looking at the digits in the date. On the Small Date variety, the numeral “2” in the date is much farther from the rim than it is on the Large Date variety.
The combination of changed planchets and modified design at first yielded seven different varieties of circulation strike Lincoln cents for 1982:
1 - 1982 copper, Large Date
2 - 1982 copper, Small Date
3 - 1982-D copper, Large Date
4 - 1982 copper-plated zinc, Large Date
5 - 1982 copper-plated zinc, Small Date
6 - 1982-D copper-plated zinc, Large Date
7 - 1982-D copper-plated zinc, Small Date
The reader will notice that, whereas the Philadelphia Mint used both the outgoing Large Date and the incoming Small Date varieties to strike copper cents, the Denver Mint employed only the Large Date with this planchet stock. This was the intention, as confirmed by the Denver Mint. Even so, many numismatists suspected that the eighth variety of this date – 1982-D copper, Small Date – actually did exist and was awaiting discovery. That discovery came on Nov. 23, 2016, in Minnesota.”
On the 1983-D cent Stack’s Bowers Galleries notes, “This planchet error is similar in nature to the 1943 copper cents and occurred in precisely the same manner. The 1983-D copper planchet cents are destined to remain quite rare as the change from the old tenor copper (also known as bronze or brass) planchets to the new 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper planchets occurred in October of 1982 at the Denver Mint, at least two months before 1983-D cents were struck; quality control was also very high at the Denver Mint in this time period, undoubtedly leaving few such errors to be discovered.
“How these two transitional planchet errors came to exist has been well researched by following the planchets from the time they were stamped out of the copper sheets through the coining process. Large steel tote bins are used to transport the blank planchets to the coining presses where they can be dumped into hoppers that feed into the coining presses.
“These tote bins carry a lot of weight, and the bins’ steel welds and seams sometimes crack, allowing a few planchets to become trapped or lodged in the cracks and seams. Once the coins are struck, they might be returned to the same or another tote bin and moved to the counting, bagging and shipping area. Thus a handful of these older copper planchets must have remained stuck in some broken seam of one of the tote bins, staying there for at least four months (October 1982 until January 1983 or later). They somehow became dislodged from the seam and fell into the hopper for striking with a new batch of lighter weight planchets.”
The only comparable sales records for this later coin are those for the 1983 Philadelphia issues where a small number are known and a few have hit the auction block.
Despite several being known, the record price for one is $23,500 for an MS-62 PCGS Red and Brown sold by Heritage Auctions in their December, 2013 Houston Signature Sale.
Others auctioned off by the firm include a PCGS AU-55, which sold for $16,450 in August 2014 at the ANA Word’s Fair Of Money, while another graded PCGS MS-63 RB sold for $18,800 earlier that year in April at the Central States Numismatic Society Convention.
Will the fact that the pair now being offered are unique push the ultimate hammer prices higher than what was achieved by the copper Philadelphia 1983 cent, of which a small handful are known?
I for one am anxious to find out.
Readers discovering any more of these copper planchet cent varieties for these dates or more recent ones (1984-2017) should report them to Numismatic News editor David Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Potter is co-author of “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and has been a frequent contributor to “Numismatic News” and “World Coin News” for many years. More information about the error club, CONECA, that he represents may be obtained from him at email@example.com. An educational image gallery can be found on his website at http://koinpro.tripod.com.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
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