Face Value: 1983 Cents

Posted on 3/12/2024

If you're lucky enough to find a wrong-planchet variety, it could be worth thousands of dollars.

The 1983 Lincoln Cents are remarkable for a Doubled Die variety that can be worth hundreds of dollars and a Transitional Error that can be worth thousands. The fact that 1983 Cents can still be found in circulation makes them a popular and exciting area of numismatics.

1983 Cent - Transitional Error

The Transitional Error occurs when a mint changes the composition of the planchets, and a coin is struck using a planchet from a previous year. For instance, the most well-known error coin, the 1943 Bronze Cent, is a Transitional Error. A few dozen were incorrectly struck on bronze planchets instead of the steel that was supposed to be used for all 1943-dated Cents as an emergency measure during World War II. These 1943 Bronze Cents, found in ordinary pocket change in mundane transactions, now invariably sell for over $100,000 at auction.

In 1982, the US Mint switched cents from planchets that were 95% copper to ones that were 97.5% zinc and only 2.5% copper, the composition still used today. The process that caused the 1983 Transitional Error Cents is believed to be the same as what happened 40 years early: Some of the blank planchets became lodged in totes at the mint facility before coming loose later and continuing their journey, next being fed into the coining presses to be struck by dies.

1983 Lincoln Cent with Transitional Error
Click images to enlarge.

The example graded NGC MS 64 RB shown here is part of a Stack's Bowers auction in March 2024, where bidding had surpassed $3,000 more than two weeks before the sale. Examples graded NGC MS 61 RB and NGC MS 61 BN sold through Heritage Auctions in 2020 for $4,800 and $3,120, respectively.

A 1983 Cent with the Transitional Error will be heavier than other 1983 Cents. The former planchets, made primarily of copper, weigh 3.11 grams, much higher than the 2.5 grams for the newer planchets. (This is because copper has a higher density than zinc.)

1983 Doubled Die Reverse Variety

Lincoln Cents were struck with a Wheat Ears reverse for their first 50 years, and then with the Lincoln Memorial from 1959 to 2008. Only a handful of Doubled Die varieties from the Memorial Reverse Cents are recognized by the collecting community as major varieties, including Doubled Die Obverses from 1969-S, 1970-S, 1970, 1971-S, 1972, 1984 and 1995, as well as a Doubled Die Reverse from 1983.

1983 Doubled Die Reverse Lincoln Cent
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The doubling is evident on the lettering of the reverse. Mint State examples in RB or RD generally sell for hundreds of dollars. Sales through Heritage Auctions in 2023 include ones graded NGC MS 65 RD that realized $264, NGC MS 66 RB that realized $324, NGC MS 67 RD that realized $810 and NGC MS 68 RD that realized $2,640.

Other varieties

Four different Doubled Die Obverse varieties are known for 1983 Cents, and they are attributed in NGC Variety Plus as FS-101, FS-102, FS-103 and VP-005. An FS-101 example graded NGC MS 64 BN realized $70 through Heritage Auctions in 2011.

Another variety known as FS-401 is easily identifiable by a large die break on the reverse that results in a cud obliterating much of the words ONE CENT.

The standard issues

1983 Cents with no mintmark were struck at the US Mint facilities in Philadelphia and West Point, while ones with the 'D' mintmark were struck in Denver. Significant collector value shows up only at the top of the grading scale, with the NGC Price Guide listing a 1983 in NGC MS 68 RD for $375 and a 1983-D in NGC MS 68 RD for $215, as of March 2024.

1983 Lincoln Cent
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1983-D Lincoln Cent
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Proofs were struck only in San Francisco and bear the 'S' mintmark. More than 3 million were struck, and the numismatic value is most keenly experienced at the top level, with the NGC Price Guide listing an example graded NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo RD at $1,800, as of March 2024.

1983-S Proof Lincoln Cent
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