Composition and Specifications

compositionThe Lincoln Cent has undergone a series of compositional changes during the long history of the series. The coins have alternately been struck in bronze, zinc coated steel, copper, and copper coated zinc. Throughout the series of transformations, the same familiar obverse design has been used.

The first major compositional change occurred in 1943 when the need to conserve copper for the war prompted the Mint to produce pennies in zinc coated steel. This only lasted for one year, as the new composition was unpopular. For the following three years, the tin component was removed from cents before being replaced in 1947. The tin was ultimately removed in 1962.

The second major change occurred in 1982 when the rising cost of copper made the penny more expensive to produce than its face value. A composition of zinc coated with copper was used. The penny had the same copper color, but was much cheaper to produce.

For the special Bicentennial Lincoln Cents released in 2009, the United States Mint released collector versions of the coin struck in the original composition of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc. These coins were included in the annual proof and mint sets, as well as the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles Set.

Bronze Lincoln Cents

Dates: 1909-1942, 1947-1962, 2009
Composition: 95% copper, 5% tin and zinc
Weight: 3.11 grams
Diameter: 19 mm

Zinc Coated Steel Lincoln Cents

Date: 1943
Composition: steel coated with zinc
Weight: 2.70 grams
Diameter: 19 mm

Copper Lincoln Cents

Dates: 1944-1946, 1962-1982
Composition: 95% copper, 5% zinc
Weight: 3.11 grams
Diameter: 19 mm

Copper Coated Zinc Lincoln Cents

Dates: 1982-present
Composition: 97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper
Weight: 2.5 grams
Diameter 19 mm