US Coins

Unique 1982-D Lincoln cent heading to auction

The discovery specimen of a coin the U.S. Mint did not intend to strike — a 1982-D Lincoln, Small Date cent produced on a 95 percent copper planchet — will be a featured lot in Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ American Numismatic Association convention auction in August.

Until the recent verification of the coin, no examples of that combination — a Denver Mint strike in the traditional composition produced from an obverse die from the new hub introduced in 1982 — had been known. It joins seven other variants of circulation strikes that have been collected for decades.

Legitimate gold coin resistance from the U.S. MintGold coin resistance at U.S. Mint and a deceptive but detectable counterfeit Indian Head cent: Another column in the June 12 Coin World details a discovery of what, at first, seemed to be a rare 1917 French Indo-China 10-cent piece.

Early in 2017, Numismatic Guaranty Corp. certified the first known example of a 1982-D Lincoln, Small Date brass cent (the composition is sometimes called “bronze,” which is typically an alloy of copper, zinc and tin). 

In a press release dated Feb. 13, 2017, NGC officials stated, ”The unique coin was discovered in November by an anonymous collector in Minnesota after he decided to examine a hoard of bronze cents that he had accumulated from circulation,” adding, “No 1982-D Small Date Bronze cents were issued or known to exist until the discovery of the specimen recently certified by NGC.”

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The firm added: “The owner of this very special coin contacted variety and error specialist Ken Potter, who revealed the existence of the sole 1982-D Small Date Bronze cent in an article published by Numismatic News. The unique coin was then submitted to NGC for certification. NGC confirmed the bronze composition and the coin’s weight — 3.08 grams — was well within the Mint’s tolerance for bronze cents. The coin was graded NGC AU 58 and attributed as the ‘discovery coin.’ ”

However, the grading service does not consider the coin to be a true eighth variant. The press release states, “While one could argue that this piece is the eighth variety of circulation issue 1982 cents, NGC has attributed it as a mint error since it was undoubtedly struck in error from a leftover planchet and unintentionally released into circulation. The piece weighs 3.08 grams, which is well within the Mint’s tolerance for bronze cents.”

By classifying the coin as a Mint error, the 1982-D brass cent falls into the same category as the famous 1943 Lincoln copper cent. However, that World War II era cent, which can sell for six-figure prices, has a long history that enhances its vaunted collector status. Whether the new cent will approach the same lofty levels as the 1943 Lincoln cent will depend on collector interest and any subsequent discoveries.

Potter told Coin World on May 31 that while subsequent reports of other examples have been made, none has been verified.

Seven official variants

In 1982, the U.S. Mint famously struck cents in two compositions: the traditional 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc, and the new and more economical copper-plated zinc. In addition, the Mint surprisingly made an obverse hub change in mid-1982 that resulted in two distinctive variants of different relief and sharpness of letters that collectors simplify as the Large Date version (standard since the hub change of 1974) and the Small Date version (the new hub).

When 1982 had ended, the four production facilities of the U.S. Mint had struck these seven circulation variants: 1982 Large Date, Brass (or Bronze); 1982 Small Date, Brass; 1982-D Large Date, Brass; 1982 Large Date, Copper-Plated Zinc; 1982 Small Date, Copper-Plated Zinc; 1982-D Large Date, Copper-Plated Zinc; and 1982-D Small Date , Copper-Plated Zinc.

It should be noted that the Philadelphia Mint, San Francisco Mint and West Point facility all struck identical 1982 cents lacking a Mint mark; the individual strikes cannot be identified by facility of origin. 

Mint officials had decided prior to 1982 that it would strike cents of both compositions concurrently rather than halt production of the 95 percent copper cents before switching to copper-plated zinc. That decision, coupled with the hub changes, gave collectors multiple pieces to seek in circulation. However, according to U.S. Mint officials, no cents were struck at the Denver Mint in the new content with the new design. That did not stop collectors from seeking an example of that eighth variant, and now, more than three decades later, one has been found.

Auction offering

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. graded the unique coin About Uncirculated 58 and identified the piece as the “Discovery Coin” on the slab label. The coin weighs 3.08 grams, slightly below the standard of 3.11 grams but generally within tolerance levels.

The coin will be offered during the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction at the ANA World’s Fair of Money this August in Denver.

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