The 7 Varieties Of 1982 Lincoln Memorial Cents: How To Tell Large Date vs. Small Date, Copper vs. Zinc, And Current Values

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1982-lincoln-cent-zinc-large-date.jpg For Lincoln cents, 1982 was a landmark year.

The U.S. Mint made the most significant switch in the composition of circulating coinage since 17 years earlier — when silver was removed from the U.S. dime and quarter and drastically reduced in the half dollar.

In 1982, the value of copper actually began to exceed the face value of the cent.

For well over a century (except for certain, short composition changes as seen with the 1943 steel cents and “shell-case” cents of 1944-1946), the U.S. Mint had been striking cents which using a composition of 95% copper and 5% zinc and tin.

Everything changed with a nearly complete reversal in copper prominence in cents during 1982, when the U.S. Mint started striking cents with a core comprised of 99.2% zinc and .8% copper — along with a thin outer coating of pure copper.

Starting in 1982, copper now comprised just 2.5% of the total metal content in the new Lincoln cents.

The interesting thing about the cents released in 1982 is that not all of them were struck in the now-current predominately zinc composition:

  • Billions of 1982 cents were struck from the old copper composition from January through September of that year.
  • Zinc cents were first struck late in the year — in October of 1982.

And to top things off… modifications to the die actually led to some 1982 cents bearing so-called “large dates” and others having “small dates.”

Large Date vs. Small Date 1982 Cents

“Large date” 1982 cents can be distinguished from “small date” 1982 cents rather easily — with a good eye and a magnifying glass.

There is a difference in how the numbers appear on a 1982 cent:

  • The tops of the numbers all align on a “small date” 1982 penny,
  • The large date variety shows the “9” and “8” looking both particularly fuller and also rising a little higher than the “1” and the “2.”

Copper vs. Zinc 1982 Lincoln Memorial Cents

It’s fairly easy to tell the difference between a mainly zinc and mainly copper 1982 cent by weight:

  • The copper cent weighs 3.11 grams.
  • The zinc cent weighs 2.5 grams.

If you can find a really sensitive gram scale which measures weight to the hundredths, you should have no problem differentiating between zinc and copper 1982 pennies.

If you cannot get access to a coin scale that will read the weights accurately, there is also something called the “drop test.”

I don’t particularly like this method, because dropping coins subjects them to the chance of damage. However, since 1982 cents are worth only face value in circulated grades and they’re worth very slight premiums in average uncirculated grades, I suppose the only thing you lose when dropping 1982 cents is adherence to the old numismatists’ adage “never drop a coin.”

When dropped from the same height and upon the same surface:

  • Copper cents create a thud sound when dropped.
  • Zinc cents hit the surface with a quieter tone.

7 Varieties of 1982 Lincoln Memorial Cents

All in all, among the different large date and small date changes, as well as the copper and zinc switch-up, there were 7 different regular-issue cents resulting from all the variations:

  1. 1982 Copper Large Date
  2. 1982 Copper Small Date
  3. 1982-D Copper Large Date
  4. 1982 Zinc Large Date
  5. 1982 Zinc Small Date
  6. 1982-D Zinc Large Date
  7. 1982-D Zinc Small Date

1982 Lincoln Memorial Penny Values

As of today, no extra monetary value is placed on any worn 1982 cents.

The only increase over face value you will find among 1982 cents comes that those that are uncirculated:

  • Copper 1982 pennies sell for 30 cents to 50 cents apiece in average-quality uncirculated.
  • Zinc 1982 pennies sell for $1 to $3 apiece in typical uncirculated grades, depending on the mint mark and date-size combination.

To Find Out More…

There are many websites where you can go to discover more information about 1982 Lincoln cents. Among the ones I like the best is an article on 1982 Lincoln cents from the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) website.

I also like this article that talks about science projects which can be done with Lincoln cents — because it discusses in great detail the copper versus zinc properties, and even a bit about dropping pennies to discern which are copper and which are zinc.

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41 thoughts on “The 7 Varieties Of 1982 Lincoln Memorial Cents: How To Tell Large Date vs. Small Date, Copper vs. Zinc, And Current Values”

  1. Please cite a reference for your statement that 1982 zinc pennies were 99.2% zinc while zinc pennies made 1983-present are only 97.5% zinc.

  2. I would like to know if anyone is aware of any 2004 pennies with an additional strike that looks like the outline of a possible state with markings slightly resembling a fingerprint within it.

  3. Hi, Sheri –

    A photo would be of great help in this case, but it sounds like these may be coins that were counterstruck after they left the mint. In that case, they are considered novelty coins and are likely worth 50 cents to $1 each.

    • Woah, a penny from the future!!! It’s like the one that caused Christopher Reeve to be returned to his real time in Somewhere in Time! 🙂

  4. Its gotta be struck between 2010 to 2015…its the new penny with the shield on the obverse side…stamped 2019

    • Hi, Linda —

      This looks post-mint damage that affected that last digit (a “3”)… But, gee whiz — if it really were a 2019 Lincoln cent, I’d be very curious what it would have to say!

      Neat find indeed! Hang onto it for its novelty.


  5. I’ve got a 1951 Lincoln wheat penny with a big “1” stamped on the wheat side, takes up half the coin, any ideas what this is?

    • Hi, Judith —

      It’s a privately produced counterstamp. If the origin could be traced back to a particular source (such as a special promotional piece from some long-defunct store) it might sell for more than the 5 to 10 cents it’s currently worth.

      Neat find!

      • Hi. I was having camera issues so I thought I would just send one more set of pics. I have at least 400 wheatheads and even more old lincolns. I try to only keep the most interesting , old coins. Dimes and nickels all before ’83. Getting a few too many so tryinv to sort them out. Once again thank u for your time.

  6. I’ve got several 1982 pennies. I got one the other day and weighed it, it was 3.1 g. I’m fairly new to coin collecting. I have trouble telling the big and small date. I have a picture of it just the side of the date. It’s a 1982 D .

    • Hi, Rachel —

      Yes, this is a 1982-D small date cent, but now the question remains… is it zinc (common) or copper-based (rare)? The weight of this coin will tell us much. If it weighs around 2.5 grams, it’s zinc. If it’s about 3.1 grams, it’s the rare bronze variety.

      Fingers crossed,

    • Yes, but the 1982 small date without the D mintmark isn’t a rarity. ONLY the 1982-D small date bronze… This piece pictured here is worth 1 cent if it’s zinc and about 2 cents in this condition if it’s copper.

  7. Must be a typo in your article. It state that on a lrg date coin the 2 & 8 are higher than the 1 & 2 . That is a contradiction because there is only a single number 2 in the date. 1982 D. I have one that is definitely brass/bronze but can’t figure out if it’s sm or lrg date. It is so difficult to figure out these coin errors . I’ve had 2 coin shops in my area cheat me. One claimed the rust in peace Kansas quarter was no longer valuable but just to put it in his collection he’d give me $3. The other coin shop took my silver jfk half dollar in back to get a better look at it and then returned with a clad coin saying that I was a liar and I never gave him a silver coin. Such untrustworthy people in the coin bussiness. It sickens me.

    • Hello, Lisa!

      Thank you for the heads up — yes, that was supposed to read “9” and “8” are higher than the “1” and “2” and has been fixed. The nuances between the 1982 large and small dates can appear minor at first and are something you only may see well after you’ve viewed the coins side by side a few times. Then you’ll begin spotting them from a mile away. You might find this video helpful when it comes to the ’82 large and small dates:

      I’m really sorry to hear about the experience you had with those two coins shops. Whenever I help guide people to finding reputable coin dealers, I suggest they search off a list of dealers vetted by a resource like the Professional Numismatists Guild ( or Coin Dealer Newsletter (

      I wish you all the best,


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