As noted in multiple sources (such as the Lincolncentresource.com [Podraza], the Authoritative Reference on the Lincoln Cent, [Wexler & Flynn, 1996], the Cherrypicker’s Guide [Fivaz & Stanton, vol 4, 2000) there are (4) four known instances where the obverse design for the Lincoln cent was changed during a given year producing two distinct designs - all have been designated with the labels of Small Date and Large Date even if the label does not necessarily fit.

1960 (P & D) proofs and business strikes - Small Date, the 9 is almost the same height as the 1 and 0; and the inner loops of the 9 & 6 have different heights.

1970S proofs and business strikes - Small Date: the 7 is almost the same height as the 9 & 0, the inner loop of the 9 points at the middle of the 7 (large date points at the base of the 7); LIBERTY lacks detail and is mushy in appearance. (Proofs have the same diagnostics).

1974 (P, D & S) business strikes - Small Date: the 9 & 7 are thinner; the 4 is narrow with the triangle inside also being narrower; the lapel catches the light and appears raised; the bow tie is different; and the details in the hair and portrait are mushier than the Large Date. It should be noted that Large Dates are frequently confused as being class VI DDOs. (The Small Date is unconfirmed on proof issues.)

1982 (P, D & S) proofs and business strikes - Small Date: is naked eye obvious, the date and motto are a clear crisp font. The 8 is smaller on top compared to the Large Date and the base of the 2 is curved where as the Large Date is straight.

James Wiles has done an exhaustive inventory of the Obverse Design changes for the Lincoln Cent (VarietyVista.com). The number as noted by Wiles for the particular design has been noted within theillustrations (e.g., the 1960 SD is ODV-022).

It should be noted that the 1970S Small Date should have all of the diagnostics as opposed to just one or be slabbed by a TPG. LIBERTY could be mushy on a Large Date due to die wear or other factors. The height of the 7 in the date tends to be interuptible depending on the photograph used (or the imagination of the seller). Large dates are erroneously sold as Small Dates on eBay on a daily basis – take caution.

There exists a class VI DDO for both the 1974P and 1982P Large Dates – do not mistake a normal Large Date for one without proper die markers (see Coppercoins.com).

If one were to lay a table full of '74s (mixed with Small Dates and Large Dates), then place a light, low and to the left, you can pick out the Large Dates easily without magnification by the way the light hits the edge of the lapel.

     

1960P & D

1970S

 

1974P, D & S

1982P, D & S

     
   

A not on prices:

While in all cases, probably just by chance, the Small Dates (SD) tend to be rare, scarce or a little harder to find than Large Dates (LD) – only the 1970S SD business strikes, proofs, and a nice proof example of the 1960P SD command a noticeable premium.

The PCGS price guide, while not a good indicator of the value of a coin in hand, lists the 1960P and 1960D in MS-65RD as $5 and $2 higher respectively over LDs in the same condition – which is not very much.

The 1970S SDs can be found for less than $100 raw, and again, most of the ones on eBay are actually LDs erroneously listed as SDs.

The 1974 SDs are less common than LDs but easily found and most collectors seem to ignore them (…maybe if albums created spots there would be more interest?). Take note there are two styles of S mintmark for the San Francisco business strikes.

The 1982 SD Lincolns, both clad and copper issues, are scarcer but still findable and really only worth more in a full BU roll.


Images © Jason Cuvelier 2009: www.cuvelier.org