Lincoln Cent Roll Searching: What I Found in a $25 Box of Pennies

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for … ..
Searching through $ 25 worth of penny rolls is like going on a care for hunt correct from the comfort of your own home. For $ 25, you can pick up a box of 2,500 pennies from your bank and dive in on the pursuit of finding Lincoln wheat cents, Indian Head cents, strange ( sometimes rare ) die varieties, and much more. And that ’ s precisely what I did recently, curious to see what I would find .
Though I was aspirant that I ’ five hundred stumble across some valuable pennies, I didn ’ t have many expectations going in because I ’ d listen from early collectors that roll search is a haphazard sort of matter. I ’ five hundred tied experienced this for myself while going through rolls of coins. You might find an indian Head penny, a couple twelve Lincoln wheat cents, or possibly a few interest die varieties ( such as a double die or repunched mintmark ), all in a one corner of pennies. Or you might get skunked and find virtually nothing of numismatic value.

While I didn ’ t have any thousand-dollar discoveries this time around, I did make some worthwhile finds while going through my box. so, what did I find ? here goes…

What I Found… and What I Didn’t

I eagerly anticipated diving into this box of pennies, particularly since my previous undertake was a complete and dead failure ( I wound up getting a box of nothing but glistening newfangled 2016 Lincoln cents ). So I was quite happy when I opened up this box and found older Lincoln Memorial cents at the ends of about all of the 50 crimped composition rolls .
I tore through the first gear three or four rolls pretty promptly, stumbling upon a well-circulated 1946 (Philadelphia) Lincoln wheat cent by the time I finished searching through only the second roll. I found 12 pale yellow cents among all 2,500 pennies, which averages out to about one pale yellow cent for every 208 coins .
But hey, that was actually a better average than my last major round of penny roll search, when out of 20 rolls ( 1,000 one-cent coins ) I found four wheat cents, or merely one out of every 250 pennies. Both averages are slightly worse than I encountered while roll out searching in the mid-1990s. According to my personal notes, I was finding one wheat penny out of every 125 pennies ( or about two for every five rolls ) back then .
The oldest of the wheat cents from this latest box of one-cent coins was from 1926. Among the other wheat penny finds were a 1936 cent, a 1941 cent, a 1944-D, a corroded 1945-D penny, the previously mentioned 1946, a 1951-D cent, one from 1953, a 1954-D, and three 1958-D pennies. The porous, red-colored 1945-D cent obviously had seen a harder life than the early specimens, which exhibited worn but differently pleasing surfaces hued in assorted shades of medium to dark brown .
seven-spot canadian cents besides found their way into this box of pennies. Among these coins from the Great White North was a 1955 penny with Mary Gillick’s portrait depicting an effigy of Her Majesty the Queen when Elizabeth was just 26 years honest-to-god. I carefully inspected the 1955 Canadian cent for any signs of the scarce and popular No Shoulder Fold diverseness .
The “ shoulder fold ” refers to a gown fold over Her Majesty ’ s right shoulder on the original dies but did not strike up properly on early Queen Elizabeth II cents. The fail assortment stems from late 1953, the first year the Canadian penny bore an obverse portrait of the Queen following her 1952 coronation. The gown congregation, represented by two lines on the gown, was strengthened on the Queen ’ s previously barer-looking obverse portrait .
This plan enhancement became standard by 1954, though it is found on some proof-like cents from 1954 and a little issue of commercial enterprise strikes from 1955. While my 1955 cent was of the more common With Shoulder Fold kind, it was worth taking a second base look anyhow. The 1955 mistake assortment is worth about $ 120 USD in a grade of Fine-12, according to A Guide Book of canadian Coins and Tokens, 1st edition by James A. Haxby ( Whitman, 2012 ) .
The other canadian cents I found in this box of pennies included specimens from 1966, 1977, 1982, 1997, and 1998. I besides found an 1867-1967 Canadian Confederation commemorative cent featuring a rock dove on the revoke – my beginning such circulation find .
Among the other coins that turned up were a preferably negligible phone number of 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial cents. I found only nine, with an inexplicably disproportionate seven of these representing the Formative Years motif ( Lincoln sitting on a log while reading a book ). This is one of four designs from the circulation-issued commemorative series honoring the two-hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s parturition in 1809. I besides found one Birthplace ( log cabin ) penny and one Presidency ( Capitol construct ) penny .
I presume the relatively minor number of 2009 cents – the least-represented go steady in the box for any penny from 1982 or late – owe to the millions of folks, intrigued by the special Bicentennial designs, who pulled 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial cents from circulation. contrary to what many non-collectors may think, none of the regular-issue 2009 cents is deserving any more in go around condition than ordinary Lincoln Memorial cents or Lincoln Shield cents .
early highlights from this box of pennies were the humongous 336 copper-based Lincoln Memorial cents dated from 1959 to 1981. This period begins with the inaugural year of the Lincoln Memorial turn back subtype in 1959 and concludes with 1981 as the final full year a traditional, copper-based composition was used for circulation-strike Lincoln cents. There were two variations on the copper-based writing, including the 95 percentage copper, five percentage tin and zinc bronze composition used from 1959 through 1962 and the 95 percentage copper, five percentage zinc brass motif employed from 1962 through mid-1982 .
Upon initial inspection, none of the copper-based cents exhibited any of the major varieties collectors normally look for among earlier Lincoln Memorial cents, including the 1969-S doubled die and 1972 doubled die. however, I did happen to find six no-question Full Red Uncirculated specimens, including a 1963-D, 1970, 1970-D, 1972, 1978-D, and 1981 .
The basal function for saving these pre-1982 Lincoln Memorial cents is to capitalize on their copper bullion prize, which at stage is worth roughly two cents per coin. The important caveat is it is soon illegal to melt Lincoln cents, so for now collectors can alone trade these coins for their copper rate merely on a inquisitive footing, with buyers stocking up nowadays in lawsuit the cent-melting laws someday change in the United States.

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While I don ’ t want to focus excessively much on what I didn ’ thymine find, it ’ mho important to note that I didn ’ thyroxine find any indian Head cents in this box. It ’ s a coin I have even to pull from circulation, even after a entire quarter century of actively searching through rolls and air pocket variety .
The research continues…

Dividing Brass from Zinc

What did I do with the 47 transitional pennies I found from 1982, representing the year the United States began minting one-cent coins from a zinc-based composition ? I saved them and tested each one to determine its composition .
A scale that measures objects to the nearest one-tenth of a gram would have made that job western fence lizard and easy, specially given the weight differences between boldness and zinc 1982 cents. copper 1982 pennies weigh 3.11 grams ; zinc 1982 cents come in at just 2.5 grams .
unfortunately, I didn ’ t have a scale to screen those 1982 pennies. So I did the following best thing – I subjected each 1982 penny to the “ sink ” test that Lincoln penny adept Chuck Daughtrey taught me in 2015 when I wrote a CoinWeek article profiling 1982 Lincoln cents .
What ’ s the “ sink test ”, you ask ?
It ’ s a about goofproof method acting for checking whether your 1982 Lincoln cents are made from chiefly copper or zinc. Simply drop curtain each of your 1982 pennies on a hard surface, such as a tabletop or kitchen counter. But don ’ thymine drop the coins from besides high… you don ’ t want to damage the coin or the arduous airfoil !
If, upon impact, the 1982 penny lets loose a belittled resound ( like a bantam bell would ), then it ’ second 95 percentage copper. If it merely clicks or thuds ( hits the surface with no ringing sound ), it ’ s a zinc penny. Of all the 1982 pennies I found while searching through this box, only eight checked out as zinc. The rest – 39 of 47 – verified as copper. While about two-thirds of the original 1982 cent mintage was copper-based cents, this inactive seemed like an unusually high number of copper cents from any given year – decidedly more than any other copper-era date I found in this box .
I rationality the situation this way : many people know pre-1982 cents contain bull and hoard them for this reason, but most of these folks may not know how to check 1982 pennies for their metallic composing and consequently probably wear ’ thymine bother saving them. meanwhile, zinc cents, which are ill-famed for corrosion issues and other problems relating to their metallic composition, may not be surviving as long in circulation as their copper-based counterparts. frankincense, collectors theoretically arrive at a position where there are probably importantly greater numbers of brass 1982 cents in circulation than copper-based cents from earlier years .
Whether this is true or not is something I can ’ t truly conclude from searching through just one box of pennies. Nevertheless, I suggest keeping an eye out for 1982 cents and testing them for the presence of copper. Don ’ thyroxine forget, there are seven mainstream varieties of 1982 business-strike cents and some two twelve in sum when counting doubled dies and other anomalies. Some of these varieties are quite valuable, such as the 1982 reverse doubled die zinc small-date cent, which is worth potentially $ 15,000 in Red Brilliant Uncirculated. Talk about a “ reasonably penny ” !

It’s All About the Zinc Cents

The huge majority of the pennies in this box were of the zinc-based composition diverseness. technically, two of the canadian cents were besides zinc, as the Royal Canadian Mint replaced the appellation ’ s once 98 percentage copper, two percentage tin and zinc metallic constitution with a 98.4 percentage zinc, 1.6 percentage copper ( plating ) composing in 1997 ( according to the Guide Book of canadian Coins and Tokens ). All told for this box, 2,120 pennies were zinc-based, and these coins break down by class in the follow way :

  • 1,266 – Circulated/”Brown” Lincoln Memorial cents, 1983-2008
  • 807 – Union Shield reverse Lincoln cents from 2010 to the present
  • 28 – Red Brilliant Uncirculated Lincoln Memorial cents from 1983 to 2000
  • 9 – 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial cents
  • 8 – 1982 zinc Lincoln Memorial cents
  • 2 – Canadian cents from the Royal Canadian Mint’s zinc cent era (1997-2003)

There were no obvious major errors or strange die varieties among these 2,100+ zinc cents, making for a broadly boring box of pennies. possibly the most stimulate finds among the 1983-2008 zinc Lincoln cents were a few twelve specimens that were nice-looking Brilliant Uncirculated pieces. I saved those with dates ranging from 1983 through 2000, foregoing the belated specimens chiefly for space and storage reasons .
Going through this box of pennies and observing a pair thousand zinc Lincoln cents all in one fell swoop helped me to realize that they are, for the most contribution, aging identical ailing. Most, and I very mean most ( no hyperbole ), were discolored, corroded or otherwise aesthetically unsightly .
even many representatives of the Lincoln Shield penny series – a subtype that is presently seven years erstwhile – are already degrading quickly. Many of them were splotchy, holey, discolor, or otherwise appearing detestably older and more timeworn than their relatively young long time would normally suggest.

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Fun surveys and observations aside, I was a short disappoint to go through the fiftieth roll in this box and inactive not find one indian Head cent in circulation. Yet I am satisfied with the 360 or so keepers I found during this round of penny peal research, including the wheat cents, bronze Lincoln Memorial cents and canadian cents. I ’ molarity design on heading back to my bank soon and going through another box .
There ’ south got to be an indian Head penny floating about out there somewhere !

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