Large Date vs. Small Date Penny Facts: What Are The Differences? Why Does It Matter? How Does It Affect The Value?

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Small date pennies and large date pennies are important coins for collectors seeking the different varieties within the Lincoln penny series.

In this picture, you can see the size difference of the date on a 1982 small date penny vs. a 1982 large date penny:

1982 small date penny vs. 1982 large date penny

In some cases, the values of these coins are based entirely on whether or not a particular Lincoln cent has a large date or small date.

So, what’s the difference between a small date vs. large date penny?

Quite a lot! But you’ve got to know what you’re looking for.

While large dates and small dates can occur on any coin, they’re most common with the Lincoln Memorial cent series.

In this article, you’re going to learn how to tell the differences between the:

  • 1960 small date vs. 1960 large date
  • 1960-D small date vs. 1960-D large date
  • 1970-S small date vs. 1970-S large date
  • 1982 small date (bronze) vs. 1982 large date (bronze)
  • 1982-D small date (bronze) vs. 1982-D large date (bronze)
  • 1982 small date (zinc) vs. 1982 large date (zinc)
  • 1982-D small date (zinc) vs. 1982-D large date  (zinc)

Since the date differences are the same for each of the coins within a given year, we are going to break down this post into 3 easily digestible sections:

  • 1960 pennies
  • 1970 pennies
  • 1982 pennies

Once you’re finished reading this, you’ll be able to start looking for and identifying the scarce large date and small date varieties for all of these Lincoln pennies!

1960 Pennies: Small Date vs. Large Date

In 1960, the U.S. Mint made modifications to the size and shape of the numerals in the date for the Lincoln cent.

This is a 1960 small date penny

This was done for Lincoln pennies from both the Philadelphia and Denver Mints. This resulted in the creation of 4 separate varieties for the 1960 pennies, including:

  1. 1960 large date Lincoln cent
  2. 1960 small date Lincoln cent
  3. 1960-D large date Lincoln cent
  4. 1960-D small date Lincoln cent

How To Tell A 1960 Small Date Penny From A Large Date

One of the biggest giveaways with the 1960 small date and large date pennies is the tops of the numerals:

  • If the tops of the “1,” “9,” and “0” are all on the same plane, you’ve got a 1960 small date penny.
  • If the “9” pops up higher than the “1,” then you’ve got a 1960 large date penny.

How Much Are 1960 Pennies Worth?

The value of most 1960 pennies is pretty easy to determine.

Here’s how much most 1960 Lincoln cents are worth:

  • If they’re circulated, then they’re worth about 2 cents for their copper content value.
  • Uncirculated 1960 Lincoln cents start at around 30 to 50 cents.
  • Proof 1960 Lincoln pennies are worth about $1 and up.

The rarest of the 1960 pennies is the small date from the Philadelphia Mint, not showing a mintmark.

Here’s how much a 1960 small date penny is worth:

  • The 1960 small date Lincoln cent is worth at least $3 to $5 in uncirculated condition and  $20 or more in nicer uncirculated grades.

1970 Pennies: Small Date vs. Large Date

The 1970 Lincoln pennies are pretty common. You’ve probably seen them in your pocket change from time to time and perhaps have some in a coin jar.

But at least one type of 1970 penny is scarcer than others.

This is a 1970-S small date penny

The rarest of the regular-issue 1970 pennies is the small date from the San Francisco Mint (“S” mintmark). The 1970-S small date penny is one of the toughest small-date pennies to find. It’s unknown how many were made, but most numismatic experts believe the number is relatively small.

How To Tell A 1970-S Small Date Penny From A Large Date

There are a couple major diagnostics for attributing a 1970-S small date Lincoln cent:

  • If the tops of the “1,” “9,” “7,” and “0” numerals in the date are all aligned on the same invisible plane, then you’ve got a 1970 small date penny.
  • The 1970-S small date penny is notorious for a lightly struck “LIBERTY” on the left side of the obverse. (You probably shouldn’t use this as the sole indicator of whether you have a 1970-S small date penny though — because surely some large dates have been struck with a weaker-than-usual “LIBERTY.” But if you think the numerals on your 1970-S penny show the small date features and you see a weak “LIBERTY” on the coin, then you can be pretty confident you’ve got the 1970 small date Lincoln cent.

How Much Are 1970 Pennies Worth?

If you find a 1970-S small date Lincoln cent in your pocket change, be sure to save it!

Here’s how much 1970-S small date pennies are worth:

  • In worn grades, a 1970-S small date penny is worth about $3 to $5.
  • In uncirculated grades, a 1970-S small date penny is worth $25 or more.
  • Proof versions of the 1970-S small date penny are worth around $20 and up.

As for other 1970 pennies, there are only large date and small varieties among the 1970-S — not the Philadelphia or Denver pieces. So you won’t need to look for any differences among the non-S mintmark 1970 Lincoln cents.

Here’s how much most 1970 Lincoln cents are worth:

  • 1970 Lincoln cents in worn condition are worth 2 cents each.
  • In uncirculated condition, 1970 pennies (including the 1970-S large date) are worth about 10 to 15 cents.
  • 1970-S large date proofs are worth around $1 and up.

1982 Pennies: Small Date vs. Large Date

The coin that so many people want to know about is the 1982-D bronze small date penny.

It’s not only among the rarest of modern coins, but it’s also one of the most valuable. Only 2 have been found — and they sell for about $15,000 each!

This is a 1982-D small date penny

See the 1982-D small date penny below?

Yes, I know… it’s not the super rare bronze penny.

But it’s what a 1982-D small date looks like — whether zinc or bronze.


How To Tell A 1982-D Small Date Penny From A Large Date

  • In that photo above, notice how the tops of the numerals “1,” “9,” “8,” and “2” all align? That’s one major diagnostic for determining a 1982 small date penny.
  • Another diagnostic? The shape of the “2” in the date. The “2” in the 1982 small date penny has a slight curvy shape in the main diagonal stem — whereas on the 1982 large date penny, it is much straighter.

What About Bronze Versus Zinc?

Our main topic of conversation here is the discussion of small dates versus large dates. But the 1982-D bronze small date Lincoln cent is such a rarity that it deserves a bit more background on how to determine if you’ve got one.

There are 3 ways to tell a 1982 bronze penny versus a zinc one:

  1. Weigh it. A bronze Lincoln cent weighs about 3.11 grams. However, due to natural tolerances an example may weigh anywhere from about 2.98 grams to 3.24 grams.
  2. A copper-plated zinc penny should weigh approximately 2.5 grams. Some examples may register at 2.4 to 2.6 grams.
  3. Another way to tell a copper 1982 Lincoln cent versus a zinc is to drop it on a hard table. If you hear a slight, warm ringing noise (like a tiny bell) when you drop it, it’s a bronze cent. Does it click? It’s zinc. It may take a bit of practice to get the bronze versus zinc determination correct this way — but it’s right every time!

I like the Weigh Gram coin scale best.


How Much Are 1982 Pennies Worth?

The 1982-D bronze small-date Lincoln cent is one of the most expensive of all Lincoln Memorial cents.

Here’s how much 1982-D bronze small date pennies are worth:

  • The two 1982-D bronze small-date Lincoln cents that have sold to date are both in About Uncirculated condition. The first example of this transitional error sold for $18,800 in 2017 while the second took $8,400 in 2019. If others turn up in similar condition, they could be worth anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 or more.

There are 8 other major types of 1982 pennies:

  1. 1982 bronze large date
  2. 1982 bronze small date
  3. 1982 zinc large date
  4. 1982 zinc small date
  5. 1982-D bronze large date
  6. 1982-D zinc large date
  7. 1982-D zinc small date
  8. 1982-S proof

These other 1982 pennies are generally worth much less than the Denver-minted bronze small date.

Here’s how much most 1982 Lincoln cents are worth:

  • All regular-issue, non-error circulated 1982 bronze pennies are worth about 2 cents each for their copper value.
  • Uncirculated 1982 bronze pennies are worth about 15 cents and up.
  • Circulated 1982 zinc pennies are worth face value, unless they feature an error or variety.
  • Uncirculated 1982 zinc Lincoln cents are worth about 10 cents and up.
  • The 1982-S proof Lincoln cent is struck in bronze and has no known large or small date variants. These are worth about $2 and up.

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61 thoughts on “Large Date vs. Small Date Penny Facts: What Are The Differences? Why Does It Matter? How Does It Affect The Value?”

    • Hi,

      In this photo the only small date is in the top row, second from the right. Be sure to weigh it; if it weighs about 2.5 grams, it’s a common copper-coated zinc variety, while a weight of approximately 3.11 grams suggests it’s the rare copper strike.

      Good luck,
      Josh

      Reply
      • they all weigh 3.0 to 3.1 grams..i have a dozen more from roll hunting downtown merchant banks in pensacola fla..thank you soo much

        Reply
      • apparently..all my others large date and the one aint in greatest of shape..but i got a rare addition to my 11 year old daughters 25 birthday..lol..all my collecting is for her to decide what to do with..14 years from now..lol..i looove roll hunting only treasure hunt ..25 dollar box..no wheats or indians..still got 25 dollars..lol..you make it soo much better .. thanks again

        Reply
        • That’s wonderful!!! Yes, roll searching is fun and I hope you make some great finds along the way. Many do — why not you, too?

          Good luck,
          Josh

          Reply
      • whale of a thought..evidently the only penny that i got .. i weighed.or missed ..it only was 2.5..ouch..almost sweet is fun for a minute!thanks again for your id..its still real money..lol

        Reply
    • Hi, Richard —

      Yes, the left one is a small date and the right one is a large date…

      Best wishes,
      Josh

      Reply
  1. jush i hope you dont mind calling you Josh, well some my photos the format was wrong , i think i got fix. WHISHING YOU AND YOUR FAMLEY A HAPPY HOLLADAYS. AL

    Reply
    • Hi, Travis —

      While there is a 1970-S large date hubbed over a small date, there is no known Philadelphia issue of this type. I’m not seeing signs of this variety on the piece you posted here. But if you see indications in-person that this may have diagnostics lending it toward being a large date over small date, you might consider submitting it to CONECA for a closer look. You can find more info about them at http://www.varietyvista.com.

      All best wishes,
      Josh

      Reply
    • Hi, Alfred —

      All old pennies are collectible! In this case, the 1960-D Large Date (which appears to be in uncirculated condition) is worth about 15 to 20 cents while the 1979-D Filled D (can’t confirm by photo as it’s too blurry — going by your word!) would sell for about 50 cents to $1.

      Best,
      Josh

      Reply
  2. jush the picture is dark but the last number is messed up looks like a error hope you can see it THANK YOUhttps://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8a3619112cad64b2a3ff4ddb811e4ef418b497a8153e42834e10d68036a2fbde.jpg

    Reply
  3. well almost done separating the 5 gal jug , next do each by year then look up that 50, 60 70 080 and 90, under the scope tey go. i did find 1954 that look like the 1969 double struck it has lines in the numbers. only time will tell. i do like this !! when i get my picture working ok i will like better. THANK AGAIN I MUST HAVE 20 POUNDS OF 70;S AND LOWER.

    Reply
  4. I have a 1982 D Penny. Not sure if it’s a small or large date, but I believe it’s bronze, if that’s correct. I’m new to this study and figured I’d give you a shout. Happy coin hunting!!!

    Reply
  5. Hello Josh I had a friend telling me about the 1982 d small date penny and I started looking through all my change and I think I might have found a few but I’m not sure exactly how to determine if I have one or not I was hoping that you could help me determine if I have any at all please and thank you.

    Reply
    • Hello, Gary —

      The key defining characteristics of the 1982-D small date bronze are its weight of approximately 3.11 grams, the presence of a “D” mintmark under the date, and the tops of the date numerals all aligning along the same invisible plane. I strongly recommend you watch a video that shows you the differences, as this one does: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKsDYNkryGI

      You’ll find photos of the date size differences here, too: https://www.pcgs.com/coinfacts/coin/1982-1c-bronze-small-date-bn/146018

      Keep in mind that since 1982, only two of these coins have been found as of this writing (November 12, 2021), so the chances of finding a third are extremely slim, but if there are two, there could be a third…

      Wishing you the best of luck!
      Josh

      Reply
    • Hi, Kevin —

      All the 1982 pennies in this photo are large dates. Remember, if you’re looking for the rare 1982 small date it must ALSO include a D mintmark AND be composed of bronze, so it would therefore weigh 3 to 3.2 grams.

      Best,
      Josh

      Reply
    • Hi, Anthony —

      This porosity and dark coloration on the reverse are caused by environmental influences, most certainly a form of oxidation likely caused by burial, exposure to water, or proximity to intense heat — or a combination thereof. Unfortunately, it is quite common with both the copper and zinc-based cents, which are made with highly reactive metals.

      Best wishes,
      Josh

      Reply

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