US Coins

1970-S Lincoln Small Date cent a keeper

The 1970-S Lincoln, Small Date cent has the inside loop of the 9 sharply pointed and it curls toward the 7. LIBERTY has a weak appearance.

Images courtesy of Bill O'Rourke.

Found in Rolls column from July 13, 2015, issue of Coin World:

I sometimes wish that the image appearing with one of my columns could be on a different page so that I didn’t have to give up the identity of my featured coin so quickly.

Searching through $53 worth of cent rolls produced this little beauty, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with its discovery.

For this collector, the coin shown here is the “Holy Grail” of Lincoln Memorial cents. This has been, by far the toughest Memorial cent for me to find in a roll. This is only the second time that I’ve come across a 1970-S Lincoln, Small Date cent.

The first one that I found was in such bad shape that I didn’t even keep it. It was crusty, greenish in color and horribly corroded.

That coin simply had no place in a respectable coin collection, so I placed it back into a roll and let it re-enter the world of circulation, while I hoped for a better example to turn up some day.

That was perhaps 10 years ago.

I didn’t realize then that it would take so long for me to find a nicer one, but look at what I found!

This coin has to be graded Mint State 64 or better. It’s simply gorgeous!

For some, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a Small Date cent subtype and the much more common Large Date variant of the 1970-S Lincoln cent, so let me point out some of the identifiable characteristics of this scarce collectible modern coin.

On the 1970-S Lincoln, Small Date cent, the inside loop of the 9 is sharply pointed and it curls toward the middle of the numeral 7. On the Large Date version, the inside loop of the 9 is not as sharp and its end aims toward the bottom of the 7. 

Sometimes called the “High 7” design, the top of the 7 on the Small Date cent appears to be in line with the tops of the 1, 9 and 0 of the date.

The Large Date or “Low 7” variety features a 7 that appears lower than the 1, 9 and 0 of the date.

Using the date of the coin to identify it is often the most confusing part of the process, so I find it much easier to use the word LIBERTY as a way to discern the Small Date cent from the Large Date coin.

The LIBERTY is always much weaker in appearance on the Small Date cent. The weakness is especially visible on the tops of the E and Y. The word LIBERTY is stronger and more consistent in appearance on the Large Date cent.

Good luck in your searching! Email me with your finds at

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