This 1982 Copper Penny Is Worth $10,000! (You Could Find This Rare Penny In Your Pocket Change)

Photo of author

By Joshua

Did you hear?… A rare 1982 copper penny is worth an astounding $10,000!

The good news is there may be more rare pennies out there just like it — and you could be the next person to find a rare copper penny in your pocket change.

The reason this particular 1982 copper penny value is so high is because it’s a rare 1982 small date penny.

What’s The 1982 Small Date Copper Penny Worth?

The first known 1982-D Small Date copper penny sold for $18,800 at a Stack’s Bowers auction on August 3, 2017 — no joke. A second one was discovered a short while later and sold for $10,800 in an April 25, 2019, Heritage Auctions sale.

Both coins have light wear and were found in circulation. In other words, this rare and valuable 1982 penny looks just like any other ordinary 1982-D Small Date penny you might find in your spare change.

Can you imagine… a penny worth $10,000 just floating around in circulation?

Of course, you’ve got to know what you’re looking for — because to the unaided eye, this rare penny might not look or feel any different than the highly common zinc 1982-D Small Date pennies.

How To Find The Rare 1982-D Small Date Copper Penny

You’re probably wondering if it’s easy to find a rare 1982 copper penny like this Small Date variety.

Only two have been discovered so far, but relatively few people take time to really search their 1982 pennies, too. The average circulated 1982 penny is worth 2 to 3 cents or less — so most people don’t think of these old pennies as having much value.

If you’re diligent, you might find a 1982-D Small Date copper penny or another valuable error coin like it. So, if you find a 1982 D penny, keep it!

And remember — the “D” mintmark from Denver MUST be under the date! If there’s no D mintmark on your 1982 penny, there’s no chance that it’s the rare one (sorry!).

You’ll also need weigh all of your 1982-D pennies. The most efficient, foolproof method is to check them each on a coin scale — which you can buy at a local big-box retail store or online for less than $20.

Checking the coin’s weight is the easiest way to determine whether a penny is made from a copper-based (brass, in this case) alloy or the copper-plated zinc composition that virtually all other 1982-D Small Date pennies are made from.

1982 Copper Penny vs. 1982 Zinc Penny Weights

Here’s how to tell the difference between a 1982 copper penny and a zinc penny:

  • 1982 copper pennies weigh approximately 3.11 grams
  • 1982 zinc pennies weigh about 2.5 grams

That said, copper and zinc pennies don’t always weigh those exact amounts. Here’s why:

A 1982 copper penny has a tolerance of 0.13 grams — meaning that it could weigh between 2.98 grams and 3.24 grams. A 1982 zinc penny has a tolerance of 0.10 grams — so an authentic one could weigh as little as 2.40 grams or as much as 2.60 grams.

1982 Small Date Penny vs. 1982 Large Date Penny Numerals

And what about the small date? How can you tell a 1982-D Small Date penny from a 1982-D Large Date penny?

You’ve got to check the alignment of the tops of each numeral in the date to see if you’ve got a small date or large date penny:

  • On a 1982-D Large Date penny, the tops of the “9” and “8” in the “1982” date will appear higher than the “1” and the “2”
  • On a 1982-D Small Date penny, the tops of all the numerals appear to be aligned, and the bottoms of the “1,” “8,” and “2” will also appeared in alignment.

Once you get used to looking at 1982 large date vs. small date pennies, you’ll be able to tell them apart from a mile away!

The Story Behind The Rare 1982 Copper Penny

Where did the valuable 1982 copper penny come from — and why is it so rare?

The 1982-D Small Date copper penny is known as a transitional error coin since it was minted from copper during a year when the United States Mint was beginning to make zinc pennies.

The US Mint switched from copper (more specifically, brass) to copper-plated zinc pennies — due to rising copper prices.

This wasn’t the first time the Mint had traded copper pennies in for a less-expensive type of penny. Less than a decade earlier, in 1973, the U.S. Treasury and Mint developed a less-expensive type of penny, and aluminum became the metal of choice.

The Mint struck more than 1.5 million 1974 aluminum pennies. While many were given to congresspersons and others for inspection, they were soon recalled when government officials decided the coins weren’t going to become official.

There were worries that the aluminum pennies wouldn’t show up on X-rays if they were swallowed by children, and the vending machine industry took aim at the new penny — which they claimed wouldn’t work without expensive overhauls to equipment across the country.

Copper prices also temporarily dropped, and the 1974 aluminum penny didn’t stick around. Yet, only a few short years later the debate rose again as copper prices soared. By 1981, the U.S. Treasury was back to work on creating a cheaper metal for the penny — and the copper-plated zinc composition was born.

The first zinc Lincoln cents, or Zincolns, were minted at the West Point Mint on January 7, 1982, and the last official business-strike copper pennies were made late in the year. The 1982 West Point zinc pennies have no mintmarks — so they look like Philadelphia pennies and can’t be distinguished from them.

Not including the 1982-D Small Date copper penny, the changes in composition and modifications to the appearance of the date means there are 8 other types of 1982 pennies:

  • 1982 Large Date copper penny
  • 1982 Small Date copper penny
  • 1982-D copper penny
  • 1982 Large Date zinc penny
  • 1982 Small Date zinc penny
  • 1982-D Large Date zinc penny
  • 1982-D Small Date zinc penny
  • 1982-S copper proof penny

With the addition of the 1982-D Small Date copper penny — which was made at the Denver Mint and has a “D” mintmark — there are now 9 known 1982 penny varieties.

It’s theorized that the 1982-D Small Date copper penny was created when a brass planchet, or prepared coin blank, was left in the Mint’s coin hopper by accident and was inadvertently fed into the coining presses.

At least two (and perhaps many more) were unknown — until the first one was discovered by Paul Malone on November 23, 2016. He found it while sorting his 1982 pennies. It was the first-ever reported discovery of a 1982-D Small Date penny.

What’s amazing about this coin is that it took nearly 35 years for it to be found. And what’s even more incredible still is that there are likely more out there just like it waiting to be discovered.

Maybe you will be the next person to find a 1982-D Small Date copper penny!

Why Is The Rare 1982 Copper Penny Worth So Much?

You’re probably wondering who would spend $10,000 to buy a 1982-D Small Date copper penny.

Actually, there are tons of people who want rare error coins like this penny. The US Mint isn’t supposed to make mistakes. So when it does (and creates neat coin errors like this 1982 penny error), everybody wants one!

However, since only one of these 1982 copper pennies has been found so far, there certainly aren’t many to go around. In fact, off-metal error pennies are very popular rare coins, and several have sold for well more than $10,000.

Here are a few other rare copper penny errors that you may find in pocket change:

The key is to search your spare change, rolls of coins, and other sources — and then weigh your pennies using a gram scale. Remember:

  • A brass penny should weigh about 3.11 grams.
  • A zinc penny is 2.5 grams.

Good luck, fearless penny collectors!

More Info About Rare Pennies