Tips For Collecting Zincolns: The Lincoln Zinc Penny Which First Appeared In 1982

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100_4365.JPG 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.

In 1982, with the 95% copper and 5% tin & zinc composition costing too much to produce, the United States Mint was approved to use a new metal composition for the penny:

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

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50 thoughts on “Tips For Collecting Zincolns: The Lincoln Zinc Penny Which First Appeared In 1982”

    • Hi, Grace —

      On most Lincoln cents, the “A” and “M” in “AMERICA” are nearly touching each other. However, on “wide AM” pennies, there is a good relative bit of space between the two letters.

  1. I have an error penny that has a large clump of metal on it. (face-side) I don’t remember the year, but it was in the 70’s. We were offered $ 60,  20 years ago. Who should I take it to to get it evaluated? Sydney

      • Hi, Jerry –

        Would you mind posting a photo of your 2008 Lincoln cents with the clumps of metal here so we can see what’s going on with them? Thank you!

  2. I found a 2004 Wide AM… has anyone found such a Variety?
    I also found a 1995 Wide AM,the Letter AM have a clear space between them,has anyone found one?

  3. I have a 1981 D penny that is not copper. I can’t find it on-line and I also called the US Mint and did not get any help on how much this was worth and all… If you know what I would like to know Please get back to me…

    • Hi, Adam –

      Is your 1981 cent silver in color? Gold? Without seeing the coin in hand, weighing it (copper one-cent coins should weigh around 3.11 grams), or knowing what color it is, it most likely was plated by somebody outside of the U.S. Mint.

    • Hi, Gordon –

      Ordinarily, a zinc-based Lincoln cent without its copper plating would have a value of $50 to $100. It seems unlikely that U.S. Mint inspectors would have let a proof Lincoln cent escape without its copper plating, so if this is to be the case with your coin, I’d suspect it to be relatively scarce and thus more valuable. You may want to consider having your coin authenticated by a third-party coin grading company. Here’s some more info:

      Good luck!

  4. I was given a penny that was the end of a run it is heavily pitted and has no copper at all it is only zinc. Rough estimated on value?

    • Hi Terry,

      It sounds like the coin may have been subjected to a chemical wash given the description of the coin, but I’m not sure without a pic. If you could, would you mind submitting one, please? Thanks!

    • Hi, Jo Ann —

      While 3.11 grams is the standard weight for a brass cent, that’s only the case for unworn copper cents. There are some minor variances in that weight to begin with, and coins that are well worn will weigh less than their uncirculated weights.

      I hope this helps!

  5. Hi joshua i find 2005 lincoln penny but look like 9 is over the 5 is any error on thad year? And how much is the value ?

  6. Hi, Saul —

    Thank you for sending me the improved photo! Based on what I can tell, it appears to be some type of surface damage that caused the tail under the “5.” If that is indeed the case, the coin is worth face value.

    Thank you for checking!

    • Hi, Kiara —

      If you found the coin in pocket change, it is likely a 1990 Philadelphia (no mintmark) penny, which, if worn, is worth face value.

      However, I would be glad to check out a photo of your coin to confirm if it’s a proof 1990 no-S cent.


    • Hi, George —

      It looks like this 1943 cent, which has no mintmark in this case because it was made at the Philadelphia Mint, may have some rust pitting. Still, this classic coin is worth about 10 cents.

      Nice find!

  7. I have a 1989 D penny that is vibrant and slightly gold in color. It weighs 2.8 and also sticks to a magnet. Any thought?

    • Hi, Chelle —

      May I please see a photo of this coin? A photo can be posted here in the comments section.

      Thank you,

        • Hi, Charlie —

          It is possible this coin may have been gold plated, but that wouldn’t add any numismatic value to it; it may sell for a 25 to 50 cents as a novelty piece.

          You say this coin is magnetic? Very curious… I don’t know of any planchet off-metal errors that year that could have lent to this being a magnetic penny.


          • Hi Josh,
            Thanks for the information! The strongly magnectic aspect of this coin, in addition to the odd weight and color, has made me quite curious.. Is this something I should investigate further or get checked out? I have not been able to discover much on my own. Any recommendations would be very appreciated!

            Thanks again,

          • Hi, Chelle –

            If you would like to get this coin verified in-hand by a specialist, the best route for you may be to have it evaluated by a third-party coin grading company. There are a few out there I would recommend, including the ones mentioned in this article:

            Bear in mind, it will cost anywhere from $15 to $30 to have the coin checked out, but you’ll at least get an answer. I hope the coin checks out to be something special and worth your effort in having evaluated!

            Good luck,

  8. Hi josh i csme accross a 1888 Indian head penny8/7 its s faint 7 and i doubt a picture would show it where could I authenticate it to be shur I live in the chico area northern California thanks
    Ronald Covert.

  9. Hello Joshua. On this here 84 it looks like it has a couple swatches of the copper coating datron already crossed it let me know what you think about this it’s not significant but is this an error or just something just from the mint are they making it or what let me know back please thank you

    • Wow, Tim — a chemical reaction of some sort ate away at the coin’s outer coating exposed its zinc core. This is worth face value from the monetary standpoint but might be worth holding aside due to its novel appearance.

      Cool find!

    • Hi, Allan —

      I’m afraid I don’t see any doubling at the scale photo you sent me; could you please provide a clearer closeup of the areas of suspected doubling (“LIBERTY”?).

      Thank you,


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