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A 1983 cent struck on a copper-alloy planchet was found by me on one of my routine coin-searching forays to local banks.
At minimum, its value is in the four figures and it could be even higher.
This discovery re-emphasizes the point often made by readers in letters to the editor that it pays to continue to check your change.
A couple of times a week I make a trip to local banks to obtain $25 boxes of cents to search for die varieties. During this particular transaction, in addition to obtaining a couple of $25 boxes, the bank teller told me she had another $10 worth of hand-wrapped rolls and I took them as well.
Upon searching the hand-wrapped rolls, I quickly noticed that a majority of the dates were ranging in the 1970s and 1980s with none of the coins dated 1990 to present. Though not all, most of the coins appeared to be nice brilliant uncirculated specimens. This did not surprise me since I see this happening during the summer months. It is during this time of the year many customers hand-roll accumulating change and return them to banks or counting machines so as to have extra spending money for vacations and trips.
In addition to searching for die varieties, I key on dates that immediately follow transitional years of design change or metal composition. One of the years I key on is 1983, which has the well-known major doubled die reverse along with many very nice obverse varieties.
In addition to searching varieties for that date, I also set aside every 1983 Philadelphia and Denver branch cent for weighing. I always suspected the possibility existed that a 1983 cent could have been struck on a 95-percent copper, five-percent zinc planchet instead of the normal copper-plated zinc because it was during the preceding year the U.S. Mint transitioned from the copper-alloy (3.1 grams) to the copper-plated zinc (2.5 grams) composition.
After completing my search of the hand-wrapped rolls, I proceeded to weigh all the 1983-P? and -D cents accumulated. About halfway through, one of the coins indicated 3.1 on my digital scale. I did a double take and reweighed the coin, which again indicated 3.1 grams. I decided to weigh the previous 1983 cent and the scale indicated 2.51 grams. Just to make sure I wasn't imagining, I decided to recalibrate the scale. After doing so, the calibration weight showed 50 grams on the indicator. I then reweighed the 1983 cent and again the scale indicated 3.1 grams.
My suspicion was now reality.
According to Mike Diamond, CONECA board member and error specialist, "Transitional errors (otherwise known as 'wrong series' errors) occur when:
(1) There is a change in planchet composition from one year to the next.
(2) There is a change in weight or diameter from one year to the next.
(3) When there is a change in both planchet and design from one year to the next, but the planchet from one design is used for the other. Examples include an Anthony dollar struck on Sacagawea planchets and Sac dollars struck on SBA planchets.
(4) When there is a change in planchet and design in the same year, but there is a mix-up so that the wrong planchet ends up in the wrong press."
Diamond goes on to say that, "The most familiar type of transitional error occurs when an obsolete planchet from the previous year finds its way into a coinage press for the following year." A famous example is the 1943 cent struck on a copper-alloy planchet left over from 1942. He concludes, "A 1983 cent struck on a copper-alloy planchet (presumably from 1982) is an unusual find since the switch to copper-plated zinc composition occurred midway through 1982. That means a leftover planchet would have to have been hiding for months (perhaps lodged in a tote bin or hopper) before joining the production stream in 1983."
This brings up an interesting question. Could a leftover planchet remain hiding for years instead of months? Mike Byers, an error specialist who publishes Mint Error News magazine, provided me with photos of a 1989-D Lincoln cent that is also struck on a bronze planchet and is encapsulated and graded by ANACS as MS-64/Red. Additionally, Byers also has another 1989-D cent which is "double struck with rotation" on a bronze planchet, plus a 1990-D cent that is also struck on a bronze planchet.
Fred Weinberg, error specialist and dealer based in Encinitas, Calif., informed me that he recently acquired a 1983 Jefferson nickel struck on a bronze planchet. Weinberg's coin is encapsulated and graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as MS-65 Red with the notation of struck on CU 1C Planchet 3.1 grams. He noted that, I know of only three of these Transitional Off-Metal Pieces, and the one I have in stock at this time is the finest known for not only the grade, but for showing the full and sharp date."
As far as pricing this 1983 cent struck on bronze planchet, it is difficult to say. I have been offered substantial four-figures for the coin but respectfully declined.
With these revelations, could there be others? Byers believes there are treasures to be found in circulation, and I couldn't agree more. Are you checking your coins? I enjoy hearing from collectors, let us know what your finding.
Billy G. Crawford is author of A Detailed Analysis of Lincoln Cent Varieties ? Volume I and is co-author of The Authoritative Reference on Eisenhower Dollars with John A. Wexler and Kevin Flynn and publishes the online Die Variety News newsletter.
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