Finding Rare 1982-D Small Date Copper

I recovered and confirmed a 1982-D Small Date cent struck on a 95% copper-alloy planchet after 34 years. An unknown Minnesota collector found it while sorting 1982 cents by weight to save copper-alloy pieces for melt value.

Copper-plated zinc pennies weigh 2.5 grams and copper-alloy cents 3.1 grams. Thus, the 1982 cents now have eight variations instead of seven. There are generally more, so I predict more reports, but the coin will remain unusual.

The 1982 variants use solid copper-alloy and copper-plated zinc planchets and the Large Date and Small Date die modification. The Philadelphia and Denver mints could produce eight business strike combinations using two planchet kinds and two die styles.

The Mint shifted from striking copper-alloy to copper-plated zinc planchets in mid-1982 to save money since copper-alloy was too expensive to strike. But there was more. The Mint had problems striking the new planchets with the existing die design (used for years with only the date altering), so they updated the dies to strike copper-plated zinc cents.

Collectors termed the new design “Small Date” and the old one “Large Date.” It appeared there were seven variations, but some of us believed the eighth must exist even if rare. Both types of planchets included Small and Large Date variations, although only the Denver-coined Small Date copper cent was never minted. When copper hit $4.50 per pound, the discoverer concluded pennies were “not good enough to keep, but too good to spend” and hoarded pre-1982 cents.

In the beginning, I didn't keep 1982 cents since I couldn't separate zinc from copper. Virg Marshall III, The Penny Merchant, had offered a balance scale long ago. I didn't understand how the simple see-saw operated. I made my own with Dollar Store craft sticks and spherical toothpicks. Using a pyramid of toothpicks as the fulcrum, a copper penny will tip the scale but a zinc one would not. Works well. It was quick and accurate. I weighed every 1982 I found.

He found the 1982-D Small Date copper-alloy cent in a $50 bag on Nov. 23. He said he had taken a vacation from coin sorting in recent weeks and would never have bought that bag if not for a snowstorm and nothing else to do. He buys cents from banks before counting, rolling, and boxing. “I believe there are more 1982-D Small Dates in bronze [actually brass Editor], dozens, perhaps hundreds, but probably not thousands. If there were thousands, the first one shouldn't have taken 34 years to appear.

Hard-core copper hoarders utilize sorting devices to separate copper from zinc, so any of this rare material is lost and may be melted.

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