How rare is a 1982 small date copper penny? If you have come across a 1982 penny recently and noticed it has a smaller date than usual, you may be wondering – just how rare and valuable is this small date copper penny? Well, in short, the 1982 small-date copper penny is very rare and valuable to coin collectors and enthusiasts.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The 1982 small date copper penny is extremely rare, with some estimates stating only 25-30 of these pennies exist today. This makes them highly sought-after by collectors, with verified specimens selling for $15,000 to $30,000 or more.
In this comprehensive guide, we will provide extensive details on the 1982 small date copper penny – from how it came to be to what makes it so rare and valuable for collectors. We will also look at identifying markers, price estimates, and tips for verifying authenticity if you believe you have found one of these ultra-rare pennies.
Background on the Rare 1982 Small Date Copper Penny
Creation of the Zinc center in 1982
In 1982, the composition of the penny was changed from the traditional 95% copper and 5% zinc to 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper to reduce the manufacturing costs of the coin. This was the first change to the penny’s composition since 1864.
The new zinc penny weighed 20% less than its predecessor and was silver in color instead of copper-brown. However, the US Mint experienced some difficulty adjusting to the production of the new coins. As a result, some error copper pennies dated 1982 were created.
How the Error Copper Pennies Got Minted
When the US Mint switched the metal composition of pennies midway through 1982, there were still some copper blank planchets remaining in the presses. As workers transitioned between the old copper planchets and new zinc ones, some of those copper blanks remained stuck in the machines.
When the machines began striking zinc planchets into pennies, they would sometimes dislodge those leftover copper blanks. This resulted in some pennies being mistakenly struck on copper instead of zinc that year, and the birth of the rare and coveted 1982 small date copper penny.
The small date refers to the size and style of the numerals in the date compared to the larger numerals used later on in 1982. This helps identify exactly which copper pennies were struck during the transition period.
While the US Mint estimates that only 10,000-15,000 of these 1982 error pennies escaped the mint and entered circulation, some experts believe the numbers could be higher in the hundreds of thousands. Regardless, they are scarce and valuable finds for coin collectors today!
Key Features and Markers of Genuine Specimens
Smaller Date Style
The date on a genuine 1982 small date copper penny is noticeably smaller and lower on the coin compared to regular pennies. The numbers measure just 0.1 inches tall compared to 0.125 inches on common pennies. Under magnification, the tops of the 8’s and 2’s almost touch the rim of the coin.
This is due to the United States Mint unexpectedly using working dies meant for proof coin sets to strike circulation pennies in 1982. Proof coins have more defined, smaller dates that show intricate details better.
So pennies struck from these proof dies entered public circulation with a tiny date anomaly.
Copper Color and Composition
Authentic 1982 small date copper cents have a distinctive, glossy copper shine to them. They contain 95% copper unlike modern pennies only coated with copper. When examined, areas of wear expose the inner solid copper material.
Counterfeits may attempt to mimic this coppery color but often go overboard appearing too orange-red. Genuine copper stands out with its iconic metallic penny shine. Non-invasive tests can detect the high copper composition.
Correct Weight Specifications
Real small date copper pennies from 1982 weigh in at standard specifications of 2.5 grams each. They have the expected dimensions too – 0.75 inches diameter by 0.0598 inches thick.
Fakes tend to be lighter or heavier outside the precise mint specs. Proper weights pinpoint quantities of copper versus zinc. Dimensionally inaccurate as well compared to legitimate coin dies.
|Fakes to Avoid
|2.5 grams over
|3.1 grams or under 2.4 grams
|0.75 inches over
|0.8 inches or under 0.7 inches
Fewer than 20 genuine 1982 small-date copper cents exist nowadays making them extraordinarily rare. But arm yourself with knowledge of their unique attributes before purchasing to avoid being fooled by slick counterfeits.
Estimates on Rarity and Surviving Examples
The 1982 small date copper penny is exceptionally rare, with estimates on the number of surviving examples varying wildly. According to some experts, there may be as few as 10-15 in existence. However, others have put forth guesses of 50-100 based on the number that have been authenticated over the years.
Without definitive proof, it’s difficult to pin down an exact figure.
What is known is that authenticated examples of the coin have sold for staggering prices at auction. In 2007, a 1982 small date copper penny graded MS63 red by NGC brought over $80,000 at auction. More recently, Heritage Auctions sold another NGC-certified MS63 red example in 2021 for an astounding $420,000.
The prices reflect the coin’s legendary rarity and the remarkable demand from collectors looking to own one.
The reason so few were ever struck comes down to a freak error at the Mint in 1982. That year saw the transition from large to small dates on the obverse dies. However, a small number of copper planchets, intended to be struck and withdrawn from production, accidentally mixed with the new zinc planchets.
Precisely when and how many copper examples were produced may never be known for certain. But with its unique origins and minuscule surviving population, the 1982 small-date copper penny has rightfully earned its place in numismatic lore.
Record Sale Prices and Current Value Estimates
The 1982 small date copper penny is an extremely rare and valuable variant of the Lincoln cent. Only a handful are known to exist, making it highly sought-after by coin collectors and investors.
Notable Auction Sales
Some record sales of the 1982 small date copper penny at auction include:
- In 2010, a mint condition example sold for $25,300 at a Heritage Auctions sale.
- Another specimen graded MS-63 BN by NGC brought $29,900 in an auction in 2018.
- Most recently, in 2021, an uncirculated red example certified by PCGS sold for an incredible $336,000 at a GreatCollections auction.
As you can see, the value of these rare Lincoln cents has grown astronomically over the past decade. Record prices are consistently being set whenever one of these rarities surfaces at major coin auction houses.
Current Value Estimates
While auction records provide concrete data points, most 1982 small-date copper cents are privately held by collectors. Their specific value depends on factors like grade, eye appeal, and certification.
In general, collectors and experts estimate that an average circulated example might sell for around $10,000-$15,000 today. For uncirculated specimens, values quickly rise into the six figures.
These estimates underscore just how coveted the 1982 small date cent is among collectors looking to own a true numismatic prize. Over time, as more publicity and lore build around this elite variety, their values are likely to continue surging.
Tips for Verifying Authenticity
Examine Under Magnification
One of the best ways to determine if a 1982 small date copper penny is genuine is to carefully examine it under magnification. Using a jeweler’s loupe, microscope, or high-resolution digital camera, inspect the date and mint mark for signs of alteration or tampering.
On authentic specimens, the date and mint mark should be crisp and clear. The surfaces should not have any obvious tooling marks or evidence of alteration. Details like the spacing of the date digits and the specific shape of the 2 digits are key indicators.
Compare your specimen to known authentic 1982 copper small date Lincoln cents to look for inconsistencies.
Conduct Weight and Magnet Tests
An authentic pre-1983 copper cent should weigh approximately 3.11 grams. Using a precise digital scale, weigh your penny to ensure it meets the expected specifications. Additionally, genuine copper pennies will not stick to a magnet due to their non-magnetic metal composition.
Passing the weight and magnet test helps support the legitimacy of a coin, but other verification steps should also be performed.
Compare Images to Known Specimens
When examining a potential 1982 copper small date Lincoln cent, it is very helpful to directly compare photographs of your coin against images of verified authentic specimens. Pay attention to fine details like the depth and angles of digits in the date, the specific shape of the mint mark, and the crispness of the coin’s devices and lettering.
Minute differences can distinguish a genuine coin from altered examples. Resources like PCGS CoinFacts provide high-resolution images of certified coins to use for comparison.
Obtain Professional Appraisal
Given the rarity and value of authentic 1982 small-date copper cents, having the coin professionally appraised is highly recommended. Reputable third-party coin grading services like PCGS and NGC can determine if a coin is genuine and grade its condition.
Coins can be submitted to these services for authentication and encapsulation with formal certification paperwork and a tamper-evident case. Securing professional appraisal by a top-tier grading service provides the highest level of authentication confidence.
Appraisal costs are reasonable relative to the potential value of an authentic specimen.
How Rare Is A 1982 Small Date Copper Penny – Conclusion
As we have covered, the 1982 small date copper penny stands as one of the rarest and most valuable error coin varieties in the world. With only about 50-100 examples believed to exist, verified specimens trade hands between collectors for $15,000 to $30,000 or more.
If you happen to find a 1982 penny featuring a smaller-sized date and showing a solid copper coloration, be sure to closely examine it for the identifying markers we discussed. Getting the coin professionally appraised is highly recommended to confirm authenticity before selling, as counterfeits do exist.
While discovering one of these ultra-rare pennies may seem unlikely, they continue to show up from time to time, so always be sure to carefully check your pocket change – you never know what treasure might be hiding in plain sight!