US Coins

Searching $50 worth of Lincoln cents for rare variety

Home Hobbyist column from Jan. 30, 2017, weekly issue of Coin World:

About a decade ago at Fort Dodge Coin and Stamp, an Iowa shop, I purchased a U.S. Mint $50 bag of 1982 Lincoln bronze cents, primarily for the copper (95 percent), and stowed it away in a closet until this summer, when I decided to go through the contents, coin by coin.

Lincoln cents in high Mint State are scarce, and the 1982 Lincoln, Small Date bronze cent is the rarest of the date’s seven regular varieties, the other six being:

??1982 Large Date bronze.

??1982 Large Date copper-plated zinc.

??1982 Small Date copper-plated zinc.

??1982-D Large Date bronze.

??1982-D Large Date copper-plated zinc.

??1982-D Small Date copper-plated zinc.

My U.S. Mint bag contained a mixture of Large and Small Date bronze cents, each weighing 3.11 grams. The copper-plated zinc cents weigh 2.50 grams. 

The 1982 Small Date bronze cent is also an elusive condition rarity. 

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In his Professional Coin Grading Service CoinFacts descrip­tion, numismatist Jaime Hernandez pegs the coin scarce even in Mint State 64 and MS-65. “In MS-66 they are extremely difficult to find. I searched many rolls and bags of this date and the nicest examples I found were very low end MS-64. I gave up looking for this date, as it is too difficult to find nice examples.”

My task was to find some. First, I had to tell the difference between Large Date and Small Date cents. I don’t recommend differentiating by the size as both dates may seem small to the naked eye. Look at the “2” in the date. If the 2 has a flat bottom, it is a Small Date; a rounded bottom, it is a Large Date.

I identified about 100 Small Date candidates from the 5,000-cent bag. It took me an entire day. (I also found a high Mint State 1982 Small Date incomplete planchet error).

I sent my best dozen to PCGS for slabbing — Bingo! I got two MS-66 red Small Date Bronze cents, each worth $190, about twice what I paid for the Mint bag at the Fort Dodge shop. I also got three MS-65 Small Date bronze cents, worth a total of about $65. I also sent a few 1982 Large Date bronze cents to PCGS, and their MS-65 designations make them worth about $60.

All in all, my hard day’s work sorting cents was worth the effort. It is one thing to purchase a 1982 Small Date bronze cent at MS-66, but another to find two of them! 

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