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Do you have the valuable copper small-date?

The rare coins are the 1982-D small date cent and the 1983-D cent, both made of copper.

Large Date 1982-D copper cent


Small Date 1982-D copper cent shows the “2” quite a bit further from the rim than the large date version.

The rare coins are the 1982-D small date cent made of 95-percent copper and the 1983-D cent also made of copper. The other cents of those two years are common.

The first thing to do is check the 1982-D cent to see whether it is a large date or a small date. Check the photos at right.

The large date can be seen at the top and the small date at the bottom. Note that the small date "2" is much farther from the rim. That is the easiest way to distinguish it from a large date.

The second step is to determine the metallic composition of the small date. There are numerous 1982-D small dates made of copper-coated zinc. There is only one known made of 95 percent copper. That is why it is rare and valuable.

The copper-coated zinc coins weigh 2.5 grams. The 95-percent copper weighs 3.11 grams.

All Lincoln cents minted before 1982 weigh 3.11 grams. Find one of those and two popsicle sticks.

Set up the sticks like a see-saw. Put one on its edge pointing at you. Put the other on top of it crossways to it.

Put the pre-1982 cent on one end.

Put your 1982-D small date on the other. If it balances, it is also 3.11 grams and is the rare one. If the pre-1982 cent drops down while the small-date cent rises, then the small date cent is the common copper-coated zinc version that weighs 2.5 grams. There are millions of the common version.

For the rare 1983-D in copper, only the weight matters. The date stays the same. If the 1983-D cent balances the pre-1982 on the other end of the stick, then it would be the rare copper piece and not the lighter copper-coated zinc.

You can also dispense with the popsicle stick if you have an electronic scale.

This article was originally published as a blog post by former Numismatic News editor David C. Harper. >> Subscribe today.