Finders Make $35,624.98 on Cents

Stack's Bowers Galleries' “Rarities Night” auction at the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money sold the 1982-D Small Date cent and 1983-D Lincoln cent Aug. 3. Collectors found both copper alloy coins, which should not exist. Consigning them for auction made them money.

The two coins sold for $35,625. The 1982-D sold for $18,800 and the 1983-D $17,625. The finders made a good profit on two Lincolns taken from circulation at face value! When these transitional errors were identified, I reported on them in Numismatic News, but I could only conjecture on their valuations based on 1983 copper cent sales.

The 1982-D Small Date and 1983-D offers were struck on solid bronze planchets (technically brass but more commonly called bronze) that weighed within tolerance of the 3.11 bronze planchets the Mint phased out in early 1982. They should have been struck on 2.5-gram copper-plated zinc planchets.

The 1982-D Small Date found by Paul Malone of Minnesota and reported by me in January was the most recent. While looking for pure copper alloy coins to save for melt value, he found it on Nov. 23, 2016. He understood he had to weigh all 1982 cents to separate the solid bronze keepers from the copper-plated zincs of that transitional year when both planchets were struck.

He discovered the first 1982-D Small Date cents on solid copper alloy planchets. Malone opted to weigh his 1982-D Small Dates regardless to detect a mistake. For 35 years, the Denver Mint tried to prevent the Small Date from being struck in solid copper alloy. Malone discovered that at least one was struck in error! At Lot 2031, his 1982-D Lincoln Cent. Small Date--Struck on a Bronze Planchet – AU-58 BN (NGC) was listed. 3.08 g.”

Jeff Young of Ohio found the 1983-D copper cent after reading my book, Strike It Rich With Pocket Change (co-authored by Dr. Brian Allen), where I had noted in a footnote under the then-unique 1983 solid copper cent that this error could also occur on a Denver issue of the same year and encouraged readers to look.

Young considered Philadelphia and Denver difficulties and identified the 1983-D quickly. I reported his discovery in Numismatic News in January 2013. After hearing about the 1982-D Small Date copper cent auction, Young placed his coin up for auction. He believed the pair would garner more attention than a single coin and that now was the time to sell. As Lot 2032, the business provided his 1983-D Lincoln Cent, struck on a bronze planchet, AU-55 (PCGS). 3.10 g.”

As an error-variety specialist since 1979, I've found that one error usually leads to several. I recommend checking 1982-D Small Date and 1983 Philadelphia and Denver Mint issues for 3.11-gram issues. (See visual guide here.) It wouldn't hurt to weigh all San Francisco proof cents for both years. A rare transitional may be there!

All known 1982-S coins are 3.11 grams struck in solid copper alloy with a Large Date. Look for one that weighs 2.5 grams. All 1983-S should have been struck on 2.5 gram copper-plated zinc planchets and weigh 3.11 grams in the marketed copper alloy.

Further, depending on when the Mint stopped making 1982-S proof cents, a Small Date die may have been mistaken for a proof die and used to strike proof cents. Some business-strike type reverse dies with “Close AM” of AMERICA were inadvertently processed as proof dies in 1998 and 1999. The 1982-S cent obverse dies proof could have been mixed up, but I doubt it. Still, you must check the date, so focus on its size and placement.

On 1982 Small Dates, the date, motto IN GOD WE TRUST, and LIBERTY are more delicate and farther from the rim than on Large Dates. The best indicator is the distance of the date "2" from the rim. Small Dates will be significantly farther from the rim than Large Dates.

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