Imagine receiving a large sum of money from a complete stranger for no apparent reason. If you think it can’t happen to you, read on.
The 1943 copper cent is well-known to coin collectors and non-collectors alike as one of the most famous transitional error coins. Because of its fame, this coin commands a very high premium and for most people, a picture of the coin will be the closest they will ever get to owning one!
Our story begins in 1982, when the alloy of the cents was changed from 95% copper to approximately 95% zinc. All cents minted subsequently to the change contained approximately 95% zinc. However, since 1982 was a transitional year, the possibility existed that some leftover copper planchets could have been used inadvertently to strike 1983 coins. The same situation led to the 1943 Copper cent and the 1944 Steel cent.
In 2006, variety expert Billy Crawford reported receiving some hand-wrapped rolls of cents from a bank teller with dates from the 1970’s through the 1980’s. While sorting through these rolls, Mr. Crawford set aside all the 1983 cents to be weighed later. Since the new zinc alloy cents weigh approximately 2.5 grams, imagine Billy’s excitement when one of these 1983 cents weighed in at 3.1 grams (the weight of a 95% copper cent)! Who knows who originally turned these rolls into the bank, but whoever did gave away the find of a lifetime! This is because 1983 copper Lincoln Cents can be worth thousands of dollars each, even in circulated condition.
Update 2017: For example, in 2013 a 1983 copper Lincoln Cent graded PCGS Mint State 62 Red-Brown sold for $23,500 through Heritage Auctions. In 2015, Stack’s Bowers sold a PCGS Mint State 62 Brown example for $22,325.
Interestingly, the transition occurred midway during the production of 1982 cents. Thus, any leftover copper planchets should have been used for 1982-dated coins. Given the discovery of several 1983 copper cents, finding others is definitely a possibility. Especially, since the U.S Mint struck over 14 billion 1983 Lincoln Cent for circulation at the Philadelphia and Denver Mint combined. Few variety or error coins from the Memorial Cent series have caught the attention of non-collectors or even the media’s. However, if any coin in this series should, the 1983-P and D Copper Cents would be a very good candidate. As of today, there have been more 1943 copper cents found than 1983-P or D copper Lincoln cents. Now that you know what to look for, perhaps you can find one, too!