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The Confusion Over Small and Large Dates on Lincoln Cents

I read online almost every day numerous posts asking is this a small date? We are talking here about 1982 and 1960 Lincoln cents. The 1970 is difficult, I agree but the other two are pretty simple with just a bit of experience.

First, the easiest would be the 1982. 7 varieties were minted; 1982 large and small date in zinc from Philadelphia with no mintmark, a large and small date 1982 D in zinc from Denver, a small and large date 1982 in copper from Philadelphia with again with no mintmark and a large date 1982 Denver in copper. The small date 1982 D copper was not meant to be made, but some are found occasionally and bring a high price. The easiest and quickest way to differentiate is the numeral 2. The large date has a straight vertical line and the small date has a curved vertical line. See photo below courtesy of PCGS.

With a bit of experience you can tell the difference with a glance as the small date is actually a bit smaller than the large but to the untrained eye, it is difficult to differentiate the difference.

Now, the 1960 small and large dates are a bit different to discern. They were minted by both mints, Philadelphia and Denver, in small and large dates. It does take practice or experience to see the difference at a glance. I use the upper tail of the 6, the lower tail of the 9 and the size of the 0 to tell the difference and can do it with a glance but it takes some practical experience to do so.

Not the 1970 S small date is a completely different problem, even for the experienced. It is good to know the difference because the difference in value is great. It is defined as a high 7 small date and low 7 large date in both business and proof strikes.

The photo below, again courtesy of PCGS, shows the differences. You can just see the higher 7 of the small date touching the measuring line and the large date below the line. It is very difficult to discern without a microscope with measuring capabilities. Good hunting!

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