Featured A Guide to 1982 Lincoln Cent Identification

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by CamaroDMD, Jun 4, 2009.

  1. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title] Supporter

    There are many aspects of numismatics that can be challenging. The Lincoln Cent series is full of such challenges and is probably the most collected series of US coins. The common 1982 cent is one of those many challenges that seems to trouble collectors both new and old. So, I thought I would put together a simple guide to help identify the 1982 Lincoln cent.

    Before 1982, the Lincoln Cent was made on a 95% copper planchet. Due to the cost of materials, a planchet change was needed in the 1980s. It was decided that a change to a 99.2% zinc planchet plated with copper was the economical alternative. So, that change was made in 1982. Unfortunately for collectors, the change was made in the middle of 1982 resulting in some cents comprised of 95% copper and others 99% zinc with no obvious way to tell them apart. To make matters worse, during the same year the font size of the date was changed from large to small…also midyear. The typical annual release of two different circulation cents (Philadelphia and Denver) suddenly become seven for 1982.

    The 1982 Lincoln Cent circulation release was as follows:

    1982 Copper, Large Date
    1982 Copper, Small Date
    1982 Zinc, Large Date
    1982 Zinc, Small Date
    1982-D Copper, Large Date
    1982-D Zinc, Large Date
    1982-D Zinc, Small Date

    Planchet Identification
    The most difficult part of identifying these is by planchet. The only way to do so is by weight. If you have a scale, this is very easy. The copper planchet weighs 3.11g and the zinc planchet weighs 2.5g. But, if you are like me…you probably don’t have a scale. So, I have created a guide to make a simple popsicle scale.

    Popsicle Stick
    Scotch Tape
    Drinking Straw
    3 Lincoln Cents of known weight (2 zinc, 1 copper) – 1983 or newer for zinc and 1981 or older for copper (not 1943)

    Take the popsicle stick (I have used a tongue depressor…but it’s all the same) and measure it. Find the middle and draw a straight line with the pencil. It is important that you get the line centered on the popsicle stick as best as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect but the closer the better.

    Now, cut a piece of the drinking straw and tape it to the over the line. The straw will serve as the fulcrum for the scale.

    Next, flip the scale over. On one end, tape a zinc cent right up against the end. Use the roundness of the cent and the edge of the stick to make sure you get it right on the end.


    You have now completed your scale. Next, test it. You should have one known zinc cent and a copper cent remaining. Place one on the opposite end of the scale right up against the edge and see how it reacts. It should be pretty close to balancing with the zinc and the copper should go to the ground like a rock. Here is a picture of my test. Although the zinc isn’t perfectly balanced…it is obvious which is the zinc and which is the copper (zinc is top, copper is bottom).

    You can now sort your 1982 Lincoln’s by weight to determine which is copper and which is zinc. Keep the scale and reuse it.

    Date Size Identification
    The hard part is now over. But, you still have to sort the cents by date size. Simply compare them. The large dates have a much fatter looking “8” in the date then the small date cents. The base of the “2” is also a fairly easy difference to see. Here is a comparison picture which illustrates the differences. Compare your cents to the pictures and to each other and you should be able to tell them apart.


    You now have all the tools needed to identify all 7 types of circulation 1982 Lincoln Cents. I hope this guide has been helpful to you. Thanks for reading. :)
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  3. ejedi

    ejedi use the eforce

    I struggled with the 82s alot when I started (not too long ago). I still struggle a bit reading the 2.

    I love the balance scale though, I built one similar - but also picked-up a trick online that makes it a tiny bit easier for me.

    Instead of making it "Balance" with a Zinc, I made mine "Not Tip" with a zinc by moving the fixed zinc cent out from center a tiny bit. I actually built mine with a business card instead of the stick (hey use what is at hand). With a slightly off-center set-up, zincs should not move the scale at all and coppers will tip it.

    Once it is dialed-in, it is quick, easy, and free.
    *coins, Inspector43 and Diplodocus like this.
  4. mark_h

    mark_h Somewhere over the rainbow

    Good post.
    Inspector43 likes this.
  5. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title] Supporter

    Thanks. :)
    Inspector43 likes this.
  6. hawksquat

    hawksquat New Member

    Great post. Thanks!
    Inspector43 likes this.
  7. bobbeth87

    bobbeth87 Coin Collector

    Great post.

    Another way is to bounce the coin (as long as they're not BU, lol) and the copper ones sound completely different. Do it with an 81 or earlier and compare it with a 83 or newer and you will hear the difference.

    The Bob and Gilbert like this.
  8. flyers10

    flyers10 Collector of US Coinage

    I just got 3 BU rolls of 1982-D Lincoln Cents and googled how to tell the difference between the large date and small date. This link popped up in the search. What a great thread. All ended up being the large date by the way. Thanks!
    Morris A Acuff and Inspector43 like this.
  9. rlm's cents

    rlm's cents Numismatist

    Don't know how I missed this post. Nice one.
  10. flyers10

    flyers10 Collector of US Coinage

    I missed it the first time also. Had all the information I needed.
  11. T-Bone0804

    T-Bone0804 Junior Member

    Just a quick addition, for those of us who are inept at scale building, like myself, another way to tell a copper from a zinc is by flipping the coins like you are playing heads or tails. The copper cents will make a metallic


    whereas the zinc cents will just


    do this with gloves and remeber to catch the coin to avoid handprints and dings. I use this trick when I sort boxes of cents at work and don't have time to make a scale. Once you know what to listen for, you'll never confuse. Copper with a zinc again!

    Also, great thorough post, thank you!
  12. zach24

    zach24 DNSO 7070 71 pct complete

    Just stumbled upon this, a truly great post, Camaro, very informative!! Thanks!
  13. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title] Supporter

    Thanks Zach...I had forgotten all about this.
  14. andyluw12

    andyluw12 New Member

    I had a hard time with that for awhile and was always flipping back and forth to the pics of the styles until I realized that the small date 2 is more delicate looking and looks like a swan. The large date 2 is rather unattractive in comparison, so keep an eye out for the "swan's neck" and you can pick out the small date rather easily. Hope this helps!

    Thanks CamaroDMD for the great post! '82 is one of my favorite years (after the 72 of course lol!) not only for the seven date types but because there are some beauties that year. I don't think I will ever find the zinc to be as pretty IMO.
  15. rev1774

    rev1774 Well-Known Member

    Very informative post, thank you and the see-saw for checking the weight is a good one...~
  16. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title] Supporter

    Once you are familiar with the coins...you can actually tell the weight difference by just holding them. But, this method works too.
  17. newcoinboy

    newcoinboy Member

    wow, very nice post, great info, will use this when my battieres die in my scale. Thanks for posting
  18. loopytoad74

    loopytoad74 Active Member

    I am sorting out my 82's now and have only been a member for a short while,after googling 1982 lincoln cent,it was this link that was up the top of the page.
    CamaroDMD,I couldnt ask for any better.Thankyou and hats off to you.[emoji108]
  19. dwhiz

    dwhiz Collector Supporter

    Great post thanks and keep an eye out for this and WOW the 2 does look like a swan 1982 Bronze LD FS-101 DDO-001 ANACS MS60 Details 1a-horz.jpg
    capthank likes this.
  20. bdunnse

    bdunnse Who dat?

    The OP's pictures of the large vs small date aren't labeled as to which is which (unless I can't see something). Large date is on the left and small date is on the right.

    Also, as a point of interest...the S-mint proof coins from 1982 are all copper large dates. At least I have not heard of any zinc and/or small date proofs - have any been found?
    capthank likes this.
  21. TJ1952

    TJ1952 Well-Known Member


    @dwhiz Does the Bronze indicator represent the color?
    capthank likes this.
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