3.1 grams. Originally toned in light gray-brown, both sides do reveal flickers of original faded rose luster in the protected areas around and among the devices as the surfaces dip into a light. Sharply struck with few outwardly noticeable blemishes, this pleasing Mint State example is sure to excite the advanced Lincoln Cent and/or U.S. Mint error specialist. There are only a handful of these known, and had to have been created by leftover copper planchets that were stuck in the planchet bin at the Mint but in mid 1982, and somehow remained stuck until the year 1983 came around and were fed into the coining press as normal planchets. Recall that the planchet composition was changed in mid 1982 from the long standing standard of 95% copper and 5% zinc used since 1864, and weighing 3.1 grams to a much lighter weight and cheaper alloy of copper-plated zinc (core 99.2% zinc and .8% copper) with a pure copper plating bringing the overall metallic content to 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper and weighing a much lighter 2.5 grams.
Why was this change brought about back in 1982? As the value of copper rose and fell, it became apparent that at some point the Mint would need to find a substitute for the base metal coin. After all, if the copper needed for each planchet cost 2 cents, plus the cost of production, then clearly the copper cent would be a big money loser for the mints to continue producing. With annual overall production of cents amounting to some 10 billion pieces, this put further annual pressure on the available copper supplies and helped keep demand high. 1983 was not the first time copper planchet substitutes had been sought out. Recall the 1974 experiment when 1,579,324 aluminum Lincoln cents were struck but these did not enter circulation. Most were melted and at least one ended up in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian. Other 1974 cents were struck in bronze clad steel. These experiments did not lead to a change in the planchets going forward at this time.
And of course the grandfather of all 20th century mint errors are the 1943 copper cents, which of course were supposed to only be struck in a white blend of steel-coated zinc used only for that year. These off planchet errors are extremely rare and extremely popular, and have been bring six figure sums and higher, for over a decade when offered. The copper metal during 1943 was in desperate need for the war effort, and an emergency substitute had to be found. This 1983 Copper cent is even rarer than the 1943 copper cents, as there only a few known, and there is only a remote possibility of any of these existing given the number of months between the cut off of copper planchets in August 1982, when all new planchets were of the copper plated zinc design. Thus several months had to have transpired between the adoption of the new planchets until the calendar year 1983 even began so coinage could commence on these Lincoln cents.
An historic and important mint error that will become the centerpiece of any advanced error or Lincoln cent collection, for this coin bridges the first permanent change in the copper planchet style in 119 years, and one can only wonder what the next sweep of time will bring for the cent as a denomination as well as the copper plated zinc planchets now being used as the future unfolds.