In 1982, changes were made to the design and composition of the Lincoln Cent. The small date Lincoln Memorial cent is special because few of these were minted in copper. This Lincoln cent is considered transitional and is rare.
If you remember the 1943 copper cent, it might help to think of the 1982 small date copper Lincoln cent, specifically the 1982-D copper Lincoln cent, as its cousin.
Changes to the Cent in 1982
Lincoln cents were last issued in bronze in 1981. In 1982, the composition of the penny changed from 95% copper with 5% tin and zinc to copper-plated zinc because of the rising price of copper. The 97.5% zinc alloy has been issued since 1982.
Type of 1982 Lincoln Cent
You may have noticed the mention of a small date above. Amidst the transition of penny composition, there were modifications made to the Lincoln cent obverse to allow for faster production of pennies.
The small date variety was introduced at the Denver mint after the supply of zinc-coated copper planchets was used. This differentiates from the large date 1982 Lincoln Cent.
As a result of trouble striking the new copper-coated zinc planchets, the new obverse featured design changes like the small date variety.
On the small date variety, the date, as well as the words LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST, were made smaller. In addition to reducing the size, the letters and numbers were made slightly more delicate, and the numbers in the date were moved further away from the rim of the penny.
But a small number of 1982 small date cents were struck from copper planchets. Telling the two apart will require examining the top of the number 8 and the diagonal part of the number 2.
How to Identify a 1982 Large Date Cent
The top loop of the number 8 on the 1982 large date variety Lincoln Cent is almost as large as the lower loop. The number 2 has a diagonal line that is nearly straight.
How to Identify a 1982 Small Date Cent
The date on the 1982 small date Lincoln Cent is slightly rounded and has a more compact appearance compared to the large date. The top loop of the number 8 on the 1982 small date cent is smaller than the lower loop, and the diagonal line on the number 2 makes a curve.
Identifying a 1982 Zinc Coated Cent
The zinc-coated 1982 Lincoln Cent weighs 2.5 grams.
Identifying a 1982 Copper Cent
The 1982 copper Lincoln Cent weighs 3.11 grams due to its higher copper content.
How Rare is the 1982-D Copper Lincoln Cent?
While the 1982-P copper small date Lincoln Cent is highly valuable, the 1982-D copper small date Lincoln Cent is extremely rare and commands a royal premium. This is due to the scarcity of the coin, as only two have been identified.
The first was found in Minnesota in 2016 in an AU-58 grade and sold for more than $18,000. The second was identified in 2019 in a circulated condition and was sold for more than $10,000.
There has not yet been a third 1982-D small date Lincoln Cent discovered yet. So, the seven-coin sets of 1982 Lincoln Cent varieties will not change to eight anytime soon, as this is technically an error coin.
If you have a Lincoln Cent collection and any that are dated 1982, it may be worth checking the size of the numbers on the date and weighing the coin.