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sort 1982 centsSorting 1982 cents has always been considered a pain, however they are actually very simple. The date sizes are easy to tell apart, and a scale is unnecessary in determining the metal types apart. All of the directions below, both for date size sorting and for metal type sorting apply to both the Philadelphia "plain" cents and the D mint cents of Denver. First, the date sizes...
by date sizeSide by side, the difference is obvious and needs no explanation. All of the letters of LIBERTY and the motto are thick and distorted on the large date, and are thinner and crisper on the small date. The date itself is larger and thicker on the large date, and thinner on the small date. Some points to pay attention to when you do not have them side by side:
images1982 Large Date (mint does not matter):
1982 Small Date (mint does not matter):
sorting the metalsFrom 1962 until 1982 cents were made of a 95% copper, 5% zinc alloy - commonly called 'brass'. Their normal weight is 3.11 grams. During the latter half of the year in 1982 the mint changed the composition of the cent to a solid core of zinc plated in 100% copper. The normal weight for these coins is 2.5 grams.
They are easy to differentiate without a scale--all it takes is a good ear. Using a hard surface made of wood or glass, drop a known copper cent (up to 1981) and listen for a distinct high-pitch ring sound. Then drop a known zinc cent (1983 to date) on the same surface and listen...no ring. It sounds more like you would expect lead to sound when dropped. Sort of like a 'thud'. Do this a few times and you should get the hang of it.
A better method, the one I used when I was a kid, is to let the coin hit a glass surface then drop a couple of feet to a pillow or the carpet (to cushion the fall). This will give your ears a couple of seconds to adjust and listen for the sound. Sometimes just dropping them against a table isn't enough for some people.
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