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Out with Old, In with New in 1982
By Ginger Rapsus, Numismatic News
November 11, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The year 1982 is more interesting than most modern years. Cent specialists can find varieties and a change in the metallic content of their favorite coins. A surprise scarcity, famous varieties, and the first commemorative in 28 years made appearances in this year. And yes – there was gold to collect, too.

One cent coins, struck in a 95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc alloy since 1962, saw their composition changed to copper-plated zinc beginning in 1982. Both compositions were used in this year. Philadelphia and Denver struck cents in both old and new materials, with proof San Francisco cents minted in the old copper-zinc alloy. The copper-plated zinc cents are much lighter, weighing 2.5 grams, with the older cents weighing 3.11 grams.

And to make things more interesting, large and small date cents can be found. The difference is apparent to the naked eye, even more obvious than the famed 1960 small and large date cents. 1982-P large and small dates can be found in the old alloy and copper-plated zinc, while 1982-D large dates are in both copper and copper-plated zinc, but the small date 1982-D is only in the copper-plated zinc composition. That makes seven circulation strike varieties. Adding the proof large-date copper makes eight varieties of the 1982 cent. Special holders and frames are made to house these sets. This is a famous modern subset of coins that can be found in circulation, except for the S-mint proof cents.

Another famous 1982 variety that made national news is found on the dime. 1982-P dimes without the mintmark were discovered in the Sandusky, Ohio, area in January 1983. There is even a variety within the variety: this dime came in strong or weak strikes, with the strong strike worth much more. The Ohio coins were more sharply struck, with an estimated mintage of 8,000-10,000. Later in 1983, more of these mintmarkless dimes were found, but with a flatter strike, in Pittsburgh. Approximately 5,000 of these were minted. The dimes with the strong strike sell for much more than the weaker coins. These coins without mintmarks should not be confused with all Philadelphia dimes issued before 1980, which had no mintmark on them.

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A scarce clad quarter? One of the first clad coins recognized as difficult to find is the 1982 quarter. Both “P” and “D” coins are not readily available in high grades and good eye appeal. Look at some of the 1982 quarters you get in change. Most of them look battered after only slight circulation. There were no government-issued mint sets this year, so collectors wishing an example of the current quarter had to look through change. Mintage was in the hundreds of millions for both, but choice specimens are very few and far between.

Half dollars, too, have a famous variety to be collected. The 1982 half dollar with no designer’s initials (FG, on the reverse) is a famous variety known to specialists. The 1982-P without initials was discovered in January 1983; about 50,000 are known – not particularly rare for a collector who wants an example. Some 1982-D half dollars also lack the designer’s initials on the reverse.

Commemorative coins made a comeback in 1982. The half dollar commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of George Washington was the first commemorative issued since 1954, and was also the first 90 percent silver United States coin minted since 1964. An attractive coin, the obverse features Washington on a horse – not the usual bust found on other coins. The reverse shows Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. Both proof and uncirculated versions were sold, with more than twice as many proof coins minted than Mint State.

Gold American Eagles were still a few years off, but gold bugs had something to buy in the meantime – American Arts gold medallions. The 1982 one-ounce medallion depicted musician Louis Armstrong; the half-ounce, featured architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Edges were reeded. These 90 percent gold medallions, made from 1980-1984, were not popular with collectors. Ordering was difficult; these were medallions and not really coins, or even bullion “coins” such as the South African Krugerrands or Canadian Maple Leaves. Many of these medallions have been melted. These pieces are still unpopular and largely forgotten by collectors who prefer the recent American Eagles in gold, silver and platinum. A set of the American Arts gold medallions can be hard to find, but may be a good way to own gold pieces for a gold bug who likes something different.

A 1982-S proof set was issued, with five coins, as the dollar coin had been discontinued. Over 3.8 million were made, the highest mintage since 1964, except for the Bicentennial year 1976. No government mint sets were issued this year.

Coins do not have to be old to be interesting. The year 1982, with its varieties and different items to collect, in copper, gold, and silver, make this an interesting year for numismatics.

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