Composition and Specifications


The Lincoln Cent has undergone a series of compositional changes during the long history of the series. Initially, the coins carried the same specifications as the prior series, struck in a composition of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc. These coins had a diameter of 19mm and weight of 3.11 grams.

The first major compositional change occurred in 1943 when the need to conserve copper for the war prompted the Mint to produce cents primarily in steel. This new composition was unpopular with the public and only lasted for one year. These coins were struck in zinc coated steel and had a weight of 2.70 grams.

When the copper-based composition was restored in 1944, the tin component was removed, making the composition 95% copper and 5% zinc. This composition was used for only three years, after which the tin component was restored. In 1962, the tin component was removed permanently.

The next major change occurred in 1982 when the rising cost of copper made the cent more expensive to produce than its face value. During the year, a new composition of copper-plated zinc was adopted. These cents had a core composed of 99.2% zinc and 0.8% copper, with a plating of pure copper. This yields a net composition of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper and a standard weight of 2.5 grams.

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