Yet another 1983 solid copper-alloy bronze Lincoln cent has been discovered. It was found by Ernie Gesner of Oregon, who hoards pre-1982 (and 1982) copper cents for their melt value. While he did not start out as a collector per se, last year he consulted a copy of my book Strike It Rich With Pocket Change, co-authored with me by Dr. Brian Allen. Gesner took note of our listing for the 1983 Bronze cent discovered by the late Billy Crawford and started searching for one, being of the feeling that the value justified the search.
The last one I reported on goes back to 2012 and was found by a Pennsylvania collector who had also obtained a copy of Strike It Rich With Pocket Change, which prompted the anonymous finder to start weighing 1983 cents in the hopes of finding one. It was the second one known to exist. That collector made her discovery just several weeks after buying the book.
Lincoln cents struck from 1963 through about mid-1982 are of a solid brass composition made up of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. They are typically referred to as “bronze” by collectors, which was the traditional alloy of 95 percent copper and the balance zinc and tin used from 1909 through 1962. Both the bronze and brass planchets weigh 3.11 grams. I will refer to this specimen as bronze in this article to conform with popular nomenclature despite it being technically incorrect.
Business strike cents minted from about mid-1982 to date are struck on planchets made up of a solid zinc core (with a trace of copper) that are barrel-plated with pure copper and weigh 2.5 grams. This is what Gesner’s coin should have been struck on, but somehow it got struck on a bronze planchet left over from 1982 or earlier. The hobby refers to these as a Transitional Errors.
According to Gesner, he purchased 50,000 bronze cents a couple years ago for $800. He found this rarity while he was about halfway through them, looking for 1983-(P) and 1983-D bronze cents and of course any other collectible coins that may have been present.
Gesner is a retired printer who lives on a small farm in Oregon and has been “hunting pennies for 12 years.”
“Some people count sheep to fall asleep; I count pennies,” Gesner said.
He said he called me first because “you’re the man” – a phrase that I find a little embarrassing whenever I hear it, but I guess it goes with the territory.
Gesner purchased his 50,000 cents from Coinweb, a division of N.F. String & Son, Inc, of Harrisburg, Pa., which has been in business since 1929 (and best known for their coin wrappers). They own 400 machines (that Gretchen String likes to describe as the Mid-Atlantic’s version of Coinstar), both of which collect coins from banks, grocery stores, check-cashing outlets and the like. Aside from the wrappers they sell, they also sell coin wrapping machines. String said that Coinweb conservatively collects around 20 million cents a year from their machines located from New York to Virginia. They sell all the copper cents, foreign coins and various purities of silver (35 percent war nickels, 90 percent U.S. silver coins and 80 percent Canadian silver coins) on eBay.
Gesner has decided to consign his coin to the Stack’s Bowers Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money this August.
Other related finds in recent times have been the only known 1982-D small date and 1983-D cents stuck on copper alloy planchets. Both were reported in my Numismatic News stories and both were auctioned off two years ago by Stack’s Bowers. The 1982-D sold for $18,800, and the 1983-D sold for $17,625. That’s not a bad profit for two Lincolns pulled from circulation at face value by the finders!
Both coins, with more detailed information, can be found in my Numismatic News story here.
Additionally, a 1989-D Lincoln cent struck on a pre-1983 bronze cent planchet graded PCGS MS-65 RD sold for $3,525 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Aug. 11 Rarities Night sale in 2016. A 1990-D cent struck on a pre-1983, 3.1-gram copper-alloy planchet graded PCGS MS-64 Brown was sold by Heritage Auctions for $5,540 in January 2018.
At the time of this writing, only six examples dated 1983 have been handled by Heritage Auctions, while Stack’s Bowers has handled three examples. I could find no other recorded sales. In effect, at least so far, the 1983-P and -D bronze cents are rarer than the widely celebrated 1943-P-D-S bronze cents, of which the finest known for the 1943-S sold for $1 million and the unique 1943-D for $1,750,000!
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that several rare 1983-P and -D Jefferson nickels have also been found struck on the pre-’83 bronze planchets. Later-date nickels on cent planchets should also be checked for weight. Let us know what you find!