The humble penny has been minted for over 200 years. But some of these coins are rarer – and more valuable – than others.
We’re going to focus in on just one year: 1983. We’ll look at the 1983 penny value, its history, design and interesting errors.
Ready to learn more? Step this way!
1983 Penny Value Chart
|Mintmark / Variety||MS63||MS65||MS66||MS68|
|1983 (P) Penny Red Value||$5||$14||$22||$575|
|1983 (P) Penny Double Die Reverse Red Value||$290||$425||$625||$8,500|
|1983 D Penny Red Value||$5||$20||$25||$275|
|1983 S DCAM (Proof) Penny Value||PR63 DCAM: $2||PR65 DCAM: $4||PR66 DCAM: $5||PR68 DCAM: $7|
History of the 1983 Penny
The word “penny” is used for the cent, and it’s a carry-over from British currency, which uses pounds and pennies. The first US penny was minted way back in 1787. And for the vast majority of that time, pennies have been made of, or at least clad in, copper.
Since 1857, when the half-cent was removed from circulation, the penny has been the lowest denomination in US coinage. And since 1909, the centenary of Lincoln’s birth, it has borne the image of the former president.
The design on the reverse has changed over time. The first of the Lincoln pennies had a simple image of two wheat sheaves. But for the 150th anniversary of his birth, in 1959, a new image was commissioned. This showed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
This reverse is the one that appears on the 1983 penny. And it continued to be used up until the Lincoln bicentenary in 2009.
In 1973, the rising price of copper led to copper coins being hoarded. There were proposals to switch to aluminum coins, but this was very unpopular. Legislation was passed to allow the Secretary of the Treasury to change the proportions of copper and zinc in Lincoln pennies.
This finally happened in 1982. The Lincoln penny had previously been made of 95 per cent copper and 5 per cent zinc. But from then on, it was to be a zinc coin clad in copper. That reduced the weight of the coin from 3.1 to 2.5 grams.
Some leftover copper planchets, however, were used to strike a few coins in 1983. And if you find one of these, they’re very valuable indeed.
The 1983 Lincoln penny was minted in large numbers. The Philadelphia mint facility struck 7.75 billion of them and Denver 6.47 billion. Over 3.2 million proof coins were also struck in San Francisco.
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Features of the 1983 Penny
The Obverse of the 1983 Penny
The very first Lincoln pennies had marked a dramatic break with tradition. Until then, it had been considered improper for a coin to bear the image of a real person. But with the centenary of Lincoln’s birth in 1909, public sentiment swung behind honoring the former president on the nation’s coins.
The portrait of Lincoln was the work of Victor David Brenner, one of the USA’s foremost medalists. Brenner based his image on a photograph of Lincoln taken by Malcolm Brady, one of the country’s first photographers.
Look closely at the lower edge of Lincoln’s arm, and you’ll see Brenner’s initials, VDB. These had appeared on the reverse of the coin issued in 1909, but attracted criticism for being too large. Some felt they constituted “advertising”, and they were removed after just a few weeks.
It was not until 1918 that Brenner’s initials were reinstated, this time in their new position on the obverse.
The portrait shows the head and shoulders of Lincoln facing right. At the top , arching over his head, are the words, “In God we trust”. To the left of Lincoln is the word “Liberty”, and to the right, and a little lower, appears the date.
Coins minted in Philadelphia have no mint mark. But those struck in Denver and San Francisco will have a small “D” or “S” just below the date.
The Reverse of the 1983 Penny
The reverse, or “heads” side, of the 1983 penny carries the image of Washington DC’s Lincoln Memorial.
Look closely, and you can make out the outline of Lincoln’s statue in the center of the memorial. That made the 1959 penny the first to carry the image of the same person on both the front and reverse.
(It was an approach that was to be repeated for the 2009 bicentenary pennies. These were made with four different reverse designs, two of which also featured images of Lincoln.)
The words “United States of America” appear above the memorial, curving to follow the edge of the coin. Below them is the motto “E pluribus unum”, Latin for “From the many, one”. The words refer to the creation of the USA from the many individual states.
At the bottom of the coin, in larger letters, is the denomination. Like the country name, this curves to follow the coin edge.
There are many double die reverse errors among Lincoln pennies. These can usually be seen on the steps or columns of the memorial, and often require a loupe or microscope to spot them.
But the 1983 penny includes a particularly marked double die error on the reverse. We’ll take a closer look at that later.
Other Features of the 1983 Penny
As a copper clad coin, the 1983 penny varies in color. When brand new, copper is red in tone. But as it’s handled and exposed to the air, the color changes to brown.
Coin graders will designate a copper coin red (RD), red and brown (RB), or brown (BN). Red coins must have the red color over at least 95 per cent of their surface area. And because coins stay red only in certain conditions, a red tone adds a premium to the value of a coin.
This YouTube video from Coin Opp takes you through how to grade circulated Lincoln pennies.
1983 Penny Value Guides
1983 (P) Penny Value
Huge volumes of Lincoln pennies were struck in 1983 in Philadelphia. So circulated coins are generally not worth more than their face value.
The exception to that is error coins. Even brown circulated, double die reverse coins graded VF20 (very fine) fetch $20.
In mint state, red non-error coins are rarer and hence more valuable. But the large numbers available keep prices modest. Many gem quality coins can be bought for well under $100. Even an MS67 coin is valued at just $70.
At MS67+, a red 1983 (P) Lincoln penny is valued at $150. That rises to $575 at MS68. The finest known examples are two coins graded MS68+. Each of those is valued at $5,000.
1983 D Penny Value
Like Philadelphia, the Denver mint produced huge numbers of 1983 pennies. They’re available in all colors. But aside from error coins, red toned coins are the only ones to have real value. The finest brown 1983 D penny graded by the PCGS is at MS66. And it’s valued at just $5.
In mint state, the 1983 D penny is also common in grades up to MS67. At MS67, a red coin is valued at $35. At MS68, the value is $275.
Any coins finer than that are real rarities. The PCGS lists only one certified example at MS68+. That’s valued at $1,100. That’s a huge 110,000 times its face value.
1983 S Penny Value
The mint facility at San Francisco only struck proof coins, all of which are deep cameos. These were intended for collectors, so were generally carefully stored and remained in excellent condition. And as more than 3 million of them were minted, there are still plenty to go around.
That availability keeps prices low. At most grades, San Francisco proof coins are worth less than equivalent mint state coins from the other facilities.
That makes it possible to get beautiful coins for a very modest price. Even a PR69 DCAM is valued at just $20.
In order to spend three figures, you’ll have to find a perfectly graded PR70 DCAM example. There is, however, quite a jump from the PR69 DCAM value. A perfect 70 coin is worth about $600.
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1983 Penny Errors
1983 (P) Double Die Reverse
A double die error occurs as a die is being made, during the part of the process known as “hubbing”. The die has to be struck several times to create all the design elements. And if it is misaligned at any point, the result will be double lines.
Sometimes the doubling can only be seen by examining the coin with a loupe or microscope. But sometimes it’s strong and clear, and can be seen with the naked eye. That’s the case with the 1983 double die error struck at the Philadelphia mint facility.
In fact, some believe this to be the strongest double die reverse error in the entire Lincoln penny series. The doubling is visible at several points in the design. Look for it in the letters of “United”, as well as the whole of the denomination, and the motto “E pluribus unum”.
Examples of this error have been graded by the PCGS in mint state coins from MS60 to MS68. An MS60 example is valued at $100. The value breaks four figures at MS67 ($1,250). At MS67+, it’s $2,700. And the five coins graded MS68 are valued at $8,500 apiece.
1983 (P) Double Die Obverse
There are also 1983 pennies with a double die error on the obverse. The doubling here is visible on the word “Liberty”, the phrase “In God we trust”, and the date.
One of these coins graded MS65 RD sold at auction for $300.
1983 (P) Counter Die Clash Type 2
In other 1983 pennies, a piece of metal trapped in the coining chamber created what’s known as a type 2 counter die clash.
The metal was struck by the die, leaving part of the design on the metal. And when the die came down again, this part of the design was in turn imprinted on the die. Then the clashed die struck a new planchet.
The result can be seen in the “In God” part of “In God we trust”. The clash gives the appearance of a faint extra “N”, “G” and “O”. The extra letters appear below and through the original letters. You’ll have to look closely to spot them, or use a loupe or microscope.
In grade MS65, one of these coins is worth around $150.
1983 Copper Penny, Transition Error
In 1982, the composition of the Lincoln penny changed. It had previously been made of 95 per cent copper and 5 per cent zinc. But with the rising price of copper, production costs were getting out of hand. From 1982 onwards, the coins were made from zinc clad in copper instead.
When coin composition changes, there’s always the chance of what’s known as a “transition error”. These occur when planchets made from the old alloy are left in machines and are struck with the new date.
And that’s exactly what happened with some 1983 copper Lincoln pennies, from both the Philadelphia and Denver mints. It’s easy to spot one if you weigh them. They’ll be 3.1 grams. That’s much heavier than the 2.5 grams weighed by a coin made from 95 per cent zinc.
These coins are very rare, but a couple of examples have found their way to auction. In 2013, one such coin graded MS62 in a red-brown tone sold for $23,500. And two years later, a brown example at the same grade sold for $22,325. Both these were struck in Philadelphia.
Only one example is known from Denver. Graded AU55, it sold at auction for $17,625, an astonishing price for a circulated coin.
This YouTube video from JBCOINSINC takes you through a range of 1983 penny errors.
What makes a 1983 penny rare?
Most 1983 pennies aren’t rare. Even mint state examples are fairly easy to find, except at the very highest grades.
Error coins, however, are rare and more valuable. That includes coins with doubled lines on the reverse or obverse. And rarest of all are transition errors, coins made in 1983 from planchets used before the metal composition of the coin was changed.
How do I know if my 1983 penny is copper?
It’s easy to tell the difference between a 1983 penny made of 95 per cent copper and one made of 95 per cent zinc. All you’ll need is a weighing scales that can measure low weights and is accurate to at least 0.1 grams.
A zinc coin with copper cladding will weigh 2.5 grams. But if your coin is 95 per cent copper, it will be heavier – 3.1 grams. And you’ll be looking at a very valuable coin!
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