Posted on 2/1/2007
The 1970-S cent is not a rare coin by any stretch of the imagination. However, some small design differences make this coin interesting and sought after by collectors.
In 1970, two different hubs were used to make dies for the coins obverse. These two design differences became known as Small Date and Large Date varieties. Of the two, the small date is much rarer than the large date.
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The terminology used to describe these varieties does not tell the whole story of how they are different. The small date variety does indeed have a smaller date than that of the large date, but there are other more dramatic differences between them. The numbers that make up the date on the small date are level, while on the large date, the 7 is noticeably lower than the 9 and 0. The zero on the small date is more round compared to the oval zero on the large date. Also, the most notable difference is not the date, but the representation of the word LIBERTY. On the small date, LIBERTY is mushy and blurred and the LIBERTY on the large date is clear and sharp. These differences are true for both mint state and proof coinage.
Condition is also a key factor for the small date cents. To date, NGC has only graded four 1970-S small date cents MS67, one of which is red-brown. 181 coins have been graded MS66, also a hard coin to make due to spotting, cuts, hits, friction, and other issues. In MS64, the coins can sell for over $50. In MS66, the price jumps to almost $300. Proof versions of the coin also are scarce with only a mere seven graded PF69, and only three of those Ultra Cameo. A Proof 69 Ultra Cameo can exceed $3,300. A generic PF69 can bring upwards of $900.
While many of these coins have been found, condition will continue to be a factor. These coins are considered a must for any Lincoln cent collection and will remain in demand for years to come.