Finding Rare 1982-D Small Date Copper (Part-2)

The Mint switched from a Large Date to a Small Date because zinc does not strike up like copper or a copper alloy. The Mint struck copper hard and fast, but in 1982 it discovered that the strike was unsatisfactory on copper-plated zinc planchet coins. Lengthening the squeeze slowed the striking and filled the dies. Production numbers dropped, therefore die modifications were the only solution

The “Small Date” title is misleading because the date, LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST, and likely other less visible portrait design modifications are smaller and more delicate. Since there was less date, motto, and legend to fill during the strike, they could increase the numbers by hammering the planchets faster and reducing squeezing length. Other design alteration possibilities have been proposed, but the Mint has not verified them. These are the explanations it gave.

Start looking now! Many veteran collectors can distinguish the difference between solid copper alloy and copper-plated pennies by sight alone, even by color, as I can 99 percent of the time. For practical purposes, weigh the 1982-D Small Date cents to find a rare 3.1 gram copper-alloy specimen.

In recent years, digital scales have become cheaper than fulcrum scales. My first one cost over $125 and my final one (which I have as a spare) cost roughly $14. However, a fulcrum scale may be faster, easier, and cheaper for this work.

How to distinguish Large and Small Dates? Most writers point to the size of the “8” as being much larger and taller or the curvature of the “2” as being different on the Large Date, but it is much easier to look for the bold larger characters of the entire date and legend and how close they are to the rim for the Large Date and how delicate the characters on the Small Date are and how far they are from the rim.

The “2” of date may be the most visible; compare its distance from the rim on the Large Date and the Small Date. As simple as that.

I found out that Professional Coin Grading Service erroneous coin attribution specialist Fred Weinberg of Encino, Calif., has never heard of one of these. He mentioned copper planchets for a few 1983 cents, which I had covered in Denver and Philadelphia Numismatic News.

My book “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” discovered the 1983-D and many 1983 cents. Three confirmed 1989-D cents and one 1990-D cent have been found on 3.1 gram copper-alloy planchets. After 25 years in a stamping plant, I am confident that stray planchets can get lost for years before being found and returned to production.

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