The Coin Analyst: 1982 Lincoln Cent Provides Collectors with Challenges, Rewards


The Coin Analyst - .....

1982 was the year E.T. The Extra Terrestrial hit the silver screen. The average price of a new home was $80,000, and the Equal Rights Amendment failed ratification. It was also the year the United States Mint began making Lincoln cents from a 97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper alloy instead of the traditional brass composition that had been in use for decades.

The change in the penny’s metallic composition actually unfolded in stages over the course of nine years, starting when the price of copper skyrocketed in 1973. As the intrinsic value of the copper in each Lincoln cent approached the coin’s face value, the public thought it could turn a profit by hoarding brass one-cent coins. This led to a nationwide coin shortage not unlike the situation that occurred in the early 1960s, when the increasing value of silver inspired bullion bugs to hoard silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars by the tens of millions.


A recently unearthed 1974-D experimental aluminum cent pattern

The United States Mint experimented with an aluminum one-cent coin beginning in late 1973, but the vending machine industry raised concerns that the new one-cent coins would not be compatible with the millions of vending machines still accepting pennies. Meanwhile, copper prices began falling as 1974 moved forward, causing the U.S. Mint to forego changing the composition of the Lincoln cent. Virtually all of the 1.5 million 1974-dated experimental pennies were destroyed, and the legal status of the few that remain is dubious.

The 1970s would continue on. Runaway inflation as well as the spiking cost of copper forced government officials to revive the talk concerning the penny’s metallic composition. Testing throughout 1980 and 1981 led to the composition in use today, which consists of a nearly 99.2% zinc core and pure copper plating.

The first zinc-based Lincoln cents were struck at the West Point Mint on January 7, 1982. These coins, along with 1,587,245 business-strike zinc cents made at the San Francisco Mint that year, do not contain mintmarks; the Philadelphia Mint would take up production of the new zinc cents early in the year as well.

However, the Denver Mint did not strike the new zinc pennies until October 21 – a little more than one month after the U.S. Mint decided it was time to create a new obverse master hub that resulted in a smaller-sized date.

The metallic composition and obverse master hub changes ultimately led to the creation of seven different types of 1982 business-strike Lincoln cents, including:

  • 1982 brass large date
  • 1982 brass small date
  • 1982 zinc large date
  • 1982 zinc small date
  • 1982-D brass large date
  • 1982-D zinc large date
  • 1982-D zinc small date

Add in the 1982-S proof Lincoln cent, which was struck in brass and boasts a large date motif, and the coin collector has eight basic 1982 Lincoln cents to chase after. But how do you tell these 1982 pennies apart?

How to Easily Decipher The Different 1982 Lincoln Cent Varieties



On small-date 1982 cents, the “8” in the date is roughly the same height as the “1” and “2,” meaning a straight line can run across the tops and bottoms of those digits in the date. On the other hand, the “8” on the large-date coin looks relatively fat and is longer than the “2.”

As for telling brass and zinc 1982 cents apart, Charles Daughtrey (, the renowned Lincoln cent expert who wrote the foreword to Q. David Bowers’ A Guide Book of Lincoln Cents (2008), says he can tell the two types of coins apart with his eyes closed.

“I listen to the ring,” he says. “The copper cent has a light ring to it that resonates after being dropped. Zinc cents don’t ring – there’s just a ‘thud’.”

There are many other ways to tell the two metallic varieties apart though, including weighing 1982 pennies.

“The best scale to use for weighing your 1982 cents is one that measures down to at least the tenth of a gram,” he says; brass 1982 cents weigh 3.11 grams whereas the zinc cents come in at just 2.5 grams. He says tipping balance scales also make it easy to tell brass cents apart from zinc.

Daughtrey also goes by the look of the coins, which are especially distinct in the case of circulated 1982 cents.

“Worn copper 1982 cents usually have a nice, brown patina. Zinc cents are usually splotched or mottled in color and sometimes have little bumps or other surface defects that are attributed to inherent problems with the zinc-copper metal combination,” he explains. “Uncirculated 1982 zinc cents often do look much like the copper type, and that’s where weighing the coins is useful in telling them apart.”

Which 1982 Cents Are The Most Valuable?

Numismatists who think there is little to get excited about collecting 1982 Lincoln cents should think twice, because according to Daughtrey there are plenty of interesting die varieties (some quite valuable) among 1982 pennies. The most valuable known 1982 die variety, the reverse doubled die zinc small-date cent, was discovered in 2007.


1982 Small Date on Zinc

“To date, only three have been found,” he reports. “I facilitated the sale of a brown AU specimen that sold for thousands of dollars. If a choice Red BU exists, it could sell for $15,000.” He adds, “they’re extremely rare.”

The 1982 brass large date obverse doubled die cent is also a significant die variety for the year, though with a value of about $25 in MS-60, it is worth substantially less than its small-date zinc doubled die counterpart.

“There’s strong doubling in “In God We Trust,” Daughtrey says.

He also suggests that coin collectors should examine all of their 1982 cents closely, because while he says there are perhaps 19 or 20 known die varieties for the year, many more likely exist.

“When it comes to die varieties, a lot of collectors just follow what they know exists according to cherrypicking guides.”

He comments that astute coin collectors will pick out the coins that may not have yet been attributed, and that they need to be on the lookout for minor variations in all parts of the design. The Lincoln cent aficionado also says that while it can be a lot of fun looking for the different die varieties, collectors should remember that not all are worth a bundle.

“Normally, only the mainstream die varieties really have a lot of value to them.”

In addition to die varieties, Daughtrey says some ordinary specimens of the seven main 1982 pennies are worth much more than face value alone.

“The Philly small-date zinc cents bring the most money – they’re the toughest, and I’d pay $30 per (50-coin) roll for those in uncirculated. The copper small-date cents are also tough, but they’re not worth as much.”

He says rolls of all the other 1982 cent varieties are worth $2-4 in uncirculated grades.

While the dearth of uncirculated sets and bag collectors have largely made 1982- and 1983-dated Jefferson nickels, Roosevelt dimes, and Washington quarters quite scarce in the uncirculated grades, he says the situation has always been different for the 1982 pennies. “I was in the eighth grade when the 1982 cents came out, and the guys back then collecting these coins were already looking for the small-date Philly cents because they were known to be scarce, and by ’83 or ’84 these coins were tough. So, there was a small bag hoarding craze for the 1982 cents.”

Daughtrey thinks one reason there were so many people collecting bags of 1982 cents back in the day has a lot to do with the 1960 large- and small-date varieties that were released two decades earlier. “In 1982, many of the people who were looking for those 1960 cent varieties, when bag collecting was growing, were still collecting coins in the early 1980s.”

He does say though that most high-grade business-strike coins come from uncirculated sets, which is why finding premium-quality 1982 cents is so difficult. It is among the high-grade Lincoln cents where he has seen a lot of activity these days, especially for the MS-66, MS-67, and MS-68 pieces – the kinds that registry set builders get excited about.

“[Registry set builders] will spend big bucks for these,” he says. “Values for a lot of the 1982-86 Lincoln cents in the MS-67+ grades are going through the roof pricewise.”

Check Your Change

“When we [picked] up a coin like the 1931-S Buffalo nickel, which isn’t rare, people back in the day, when the coin was still new, understood these pieces were kind of scarce. Imagine what happened for the people who in, say 1935 or 1940, picked out every 31-S Buffalo nickel they came across in circulation,” Daughtrey poses. “The 31-S may not have been worth a lot in 1935, but if collectors had the insight to save them, their heirs would have some money from a handful of those coins.”

For the record, the 1931-S Buffalo nickel has a mintage of 1,200,000 and is worth about $15 in Good-4, $25 in Very Fine-20, and $35 in Extremely Fine-40.

So, what does Daughtrey look for in his pocket change? When it comes to Lincoln cents, he keeps his eyes peeled for any 1982 cents that appear to grade AU or higher. “Generally, the lowest grade you’ll find for ’82 cents is XF. I also avoid pulling out damaged coins or those that look like they’re rotting.” As an aside, he says he keeps all the better-looking 1986 cents, too.

You never know. Maybe your heirs will thank you for saving all those 1982 small-date cents.

PCGS-Certified 1982 Lincoln Cents Currently Available on eBay

 Pic Title Details
1982 Lincoln Cent **BRONZE LARGE DATE** PCGS MS67RD NR!!! Current Price: $102.5
# of Bids: 11
Ending: 8 hrs 6 mins
# of Bids: 0
Ending: 17 days 7 hrs 27 mins
1982 PCGS MS66RD Zinc Small Date Lincoln Cent "Free s/h" Current Price: $24.77
# of Bids: 0
Ending: 8 days 7 hrs 36 mins
1982 Lincoln cent PCGS MS65RED *FS 101 DDO bronze* BR Current Price: $250.0
# of Bids: 0
Ending: 20 days 5 hrs 51 mins
1982 LINCOLN CENT, ZINC, LARGE DATE PCGS MS-67 RD Current Price: $27.5
# of Bids: 0
Ending: 20 days 3 hrs 6 mins
1982-P Bronze Large Date Lincoln Cent - PCGS MS 66 RD - RARE grade Current Price: $135.0
# of Bids: 0
Ending: 23 days 20 hrs 54 mins
 View all items...(Powered by: WP eBay Ads)  

38 Comments on "The Coin Analyst: 1982 Lincoln Cent Provides Collectors with Challenges, Rewards"

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  1. JARROD GODSEY says:

    I have a 1982 D large 8 i think that is has a double cud i am not sure because i cant find anything like it can u plz help

  2. Gregory T. Ebulue says:

    I have 1982 small date zinc lincoln cent.

  3. christian says:

    I hava at lot pennys from that one and others ones but i dont know nothing about it and a would like cant sale them. Like 1968 1969s 1964 1960 1966 and others please some person bring me some help and sorry by my inglish i am from mexico border to usa

  4. Rich says:

    I have a bag of 1982 p sm date and 2 bags of 1982 p large date all three copper can anyone tell me how to find value of them I’ve tried n tried can’t find anything I can find roll values also have 850 rolls of 1997 p pennies

    • Tom says:

      We might be interested in buying them. Send us a message through our website:

      • Phillip lloyd says:

        I have an 1982 that doesn’t have a d and has all the right marking that would make its value at 15,000 dollar if interested in making a deal let me no I have other coins to that you can look at thank you if you have any questions please call xxx xxx xxxx or xxx xxx xxxx or xxxxxxxxxx or tx xxxxxxxxxx

  5. Marcos oyuela says:

    I have a penny from 1982 it doesn’t have the letter D can you tell me the value”?

  6. Warren k Diggs says:

    I have a 1990 penny and in the word trust the letter u has an opposite slash mark in it.

  7. Chris Garza says:

    I have a 1982 small date double die red penny,1982 small date red and brown double die penny,1982 small date double die off centered red penny,1982 d big date off centered red penny,1982 d small date double die off centered more brown than red,1982 d small date double die off centered and it’s a red penny feels light. So are these worth anything.

  8. eric kellogg says:

    I have a 1982 D large date copper that’s missing the lincoln statue . The cent isn’t worn out. All other facits of coin are nicely struck and raised. Including columns on memorial. Just wondering if this is a known die variety? Or has anybody else seen or heard of one like it?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Charles Morgan says:

      A missing Lincoln? How strange. There’s probably a good explanation for the appearance of your coin. If you are convinced that it’s an error, we recommend that you reach out to the good folks at CONECA. Their URL:

  9. jc says:

    I have a large date 1960 D penny in pretty good shape. What’s its worth?

  10. Juan Nunez says:

    I have a 1982 large print zinc coin and would like to have it appraised. Not really sure what it’s worth or if it’s worth anything. Can send picture. It’s in excellent condition.

  11. Shilo neff says:

    I have a small 1982 penny , not sure of the vaule

  12. carole McGee says:

    Are the no mint mark on 1981 1982 of any value

  13. Linda K says:

    We found a 1982 Lincoln Penny and next to Lincoln’s head is an engraving a football player, punting a football over the goal. He has the number 27 on him.

    Is this coin rare?

  14. Rick Eisenhauer says:

    I have a lincoln cent with no date or mint mark. This coin was not tampered with . There are no markings at all . Can anyone tell me anything about this kind of coin and the value coins like this go for.

    • Johnny Torrez says:

      I also have penny’s that have no mint marks between the years of1960’s to 2015. I have a 1974D penny that is very odd the 9 has a cud like thing filling the top of the nine and the reverse side it looks like a floating S or a 8 on the top edge of the O In the word ONE. I also have a quarter that I will be posting soon that has a mirole in the hair, I’m not sure where I should post it. Any ideas?

  15. Fredrick malone says:

    I have 3 1982 pennies,I have more 1982 pennies but these 3 are totally different from the rest and they’re weight is 3.1 not like others at 2.5 they are different colors.ive been trying to find pictures of pennies like them and I find none,can anyone help me find the true value of these coins.

  16. joseph lising says:

    I have 1950 penny error coin

  17. Anthony says:

    I have a 1982 no mint mark on the back where it says united states of america the sta on states isn’t printed and its all in bold just curious on something like that

  18. Kevin says:

    I have a 82 Lincoln small date the liberty looks stamped slightly over coin in good shape plated zinc. More info on what to do from here would like to compair and part with if infect have good coin

  19. Norm balajonda says:

    I have 1982 penny 2.5 grams double dies words in God we trust ,

  20. Rich Irvin says:

    I have a 1980 penny, not sure if it has value,but it seems that the site thinks so. Any comments?

  21. joey nunez says:

    i have a 1982 zinc penny small 8 where would i be able to verify if its acutely worth 15,000 dollars

  22. Robert Dunbar says:

    I have the 2.5g sm date d with all the DBL strikes front & reverse all letters & numbers ( date & mint mark also DBL struck memorial pillars also DBL and the statue DBL struck and multiple places …This coin was obviously flipped during its reverse side, striking , while the pillars and chair were stamped into ea other ,then with the extra pressure the two imprints both chair and Lincoln figure ,as well as the tool for pillars carried over to the other side striking 3 dift images of the chair and Lincoln and indented into the last two numbers of the date (8 being drove into the divet &the two relocated to the edge of the rim as did the mint mark the pillars imprinted along side the 8 and the Lincoln figure also in the dent shaped from the chair and can see the figure in 4 or four locations .. truly making this 2.5 g sm d D mint the most ultra rare if this discription is accurate and verified I do believe this is a one of one also $15,000 won’t even come close …… Hit high or stay at home , but also have two lg date Philly, 1982’s zinc both at 2.5 gs and sport all the DBL strikes as well as three overstrikes both sides 7 hits price on these two and one sm date dd 82 with all the bling is up now ..,. Way up ? So let the number crunching begin ! I have both two ,lg ( no mm ) w errors and 2 sm date w D mark and 100% DBL strikes on all letters &numbers both sides( ALL) and the pillars are DD stuck as I’d the statues ( and one of the 1982 D’s has all the extra multi strikes on the other side of the coin . An amazing find this one was ‘!!! Whoo hoo ! I can msg via text or email also on Facebook 618-334-3148 …” The one coin where Lincoln has left the building and gone to the other side ” ultra,ultra rare !

  23. Caroline says:

    I have a 1987 penny, that has a bit of wear although the date is clearly written 19B7. No mint mark. Is this perhaps a fake? Or possibly a flaw. I’ve looked around but have not found nothing like it. Please let me know if you know anything, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Caroline B.

  24. Anita says:

    Hi I have a 1982 no mint weighs 3.1 g small date

  25. George says:

    I’m not sure but I think I have the red Bu 1982

  26. Eric says:

    This is Eric my email is I have a 1982 small print in god we trust penny I am willing to sell. It is lightly scratched on back and is basically mint condition . I put the wrong email my first post.

  27. Delia Perez says:

    I have about 40 steel pennies some you can see the white on them , but some look different like brown and no scratches. 1943 pennies

  28. Liz says:

    We have mini pennies gold in color with the dates 1901-1982. Can you tell me anything about these. Thanks

  29. Charity hubbard says:

    I have been searching and looking at coins for a few months now I understand to some that’s not long, however I feel like it may have been what I’m supposed to be doing. I recently within the past week found out that I come from a family of shiny collectors so I am going to say may be for sanity reasons it’s called on me!!
    Ok so I have error coins it’s easier to show them than to talk on them but I have uncirculated double dies and 4/ 6 eyes and bies and I’m scared to even tell anyone anything at this point I feel strange I suppose… a collector

  30. Eniel says:

    I have one but i dont know its the right one

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