Early in 2017 it was reported that Us Coin error specialist Ken Potter had confirmed the discovery of a unique 1982 Denver minted small date Lincoln penny coin. It caused quite the stir in the numismatic community at the time as the existence of such a coin had been rumoured, but denied by the US Mint, for over 35 years.
The coin was certified by NGC as a “Discovery Coin” and given a grade of AU58 BN. What makes this story even more fantastical is that the coin was discovered by a coin roll hunter who was separating out older copper cents from the post 1982 copper coated-zinc coins.
To add some historic perspective to this story, in 1982 the price of copper had outstripped the face value of the US 1 cent coin and it was costing the US Mint more to make the Lincoln penny coin than it was worth in circulation. So a decision was taken to change the alloy from the older 95% copper(or bronze) to a 95% zinc coin merely coated with 5% copper.
To compensate for the properties of the new metal content used, slight changes had to be made to the design of the coin. The obverse lettering became slightly more delicate and was moved further from the rim of the coin.
The most noticeable change however, was to the date. The gap between the number two of “1982” and the rim of the coin is much wider, and the numbers are also more distinct in the newer variety. This led to what is today known as the “large date” and “small date” varieties.
The issue of note for this story arises in the fact that, while the Philadelphia mint minted both small and large date coins with copper and zinc planchettes, the Denver Mint took great care to only mint the newer small date coins using the new copper clad zinc planchettes.
Since it's discovery there has been much speculation over how much this coin may be worth and what it's owner might do with it. Well, almost a year after the coin's initial discovery those questions now have been answered.
The only verified example of the 1982 D small date Lincoln cent struck on a bronze(95% copper) planchet was consigned to Stacks & Bowers, who put the item up for auction on their 2017 ANA Rarities Night auction, held during the 2017 ANA World's Fair of Money in Denver on August 3, 2017.
The coin was joined by another bronze Lincoln 1 cent coin from the Denver mint struck on a copper(bronze) planchet, but this time dated from 1983. This 1983 example was graded by PCGS as AU55, as a mint error. The two coins were consigned as lots numbers 2031 and 2032 respectively.
When the gavel fell at the end of the evening the 1982 D small date bronze penny sold for $18 800, while the 1983 D bronze cent coin was sold for a similarly impressive $17 625. Netting their former owners quite respectable profit considering the fact that both coins were pulled from circulation at face value.