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Zincoln cents… er… Lincoln cents.
Well, ever since the United States Mint began striking Lincoln pennies with a primarily zinc composition back in 1982, some coin collectors have jokingly been referring to modern zinc Lincoln cents as Zincolns.
Check out the story behind zinc Lincoln cents, what are these pennies worth, and how many zinc Lincoln cents have been made in recent years…
The Story Behind The Lincoln Zinc Penny
When the plans came to change the metallic composition of the Lincoln cent, it wasn’t the first time the penny would have undergone a significant overhaul.
In 1943, steel pennies were made to save copper for ration efforts during World War II.
In 1974, aluminum pennies were proposed to combat rising copper prices.
- 97.5% zinc
- 2.5% copper
- A lighter weight of 2.5 grams (versus 3.11 grams for the copper cent)
That combination results in a zinc core for the cent with a pure copper coating. This copper coating is what makes the zinc-based coin still look similar in color to earlier, copper pennies.
Interestingly, zinc is what coats the 1943 steel pennies.
By the way, due to the rising cost of copper, many people now hoard copper pennies!
How Many Zinc Lincoln Cents Have Been Made?
You might be surprised to learn just how many zinc Lincoln cents are floating around out there. In fact, there are more than plenty to go around for every United States citizen.
Over 200 billion zinc Lincoln cents have been made since 1982. With 310 million people living in the U.S., that means there are easily more than 645 zinc Lincoln cents for every man, woman, and child living in the United States!
So yes, you could realistically expect to find a zinc penny in your pocket change.
Zinc Penny Minting Issues & Errors
The United States Mint does a pretty good job minting billions of coins every year — but the U.S. Mint isn’t perfect.
You’ll likely notice that many zinc Lincoln cents, especially from the early- and mid-1980s, seem to have tiny bubbles. These bubbles are due to an issue where the copper didn’t adhere to the zinc core as well as it should.
Unless drastic, zinc pennies with bubbles aren’t worth anything more than their regular value and, often, are viewed as imperfections that actually diminish the value of uncirculated zinc Lincoln cents.
There are also several notable error Lincoln cents made since the transition to zinc in 1982.
Here’s a list of some of the most important zinc Lincoln cent errors and varieties and their approximate values:
- 1983 Doubled Die $300
- 1984 Doubled Ear $250
- 1990 No-S Proof $3,000
- 1992-D Close AM $500
- 1995 Doubled Die $45
- 1998 Wide AM $25
- 1999 Wide AM $500
- 2000 Wide AM $5
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!