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sort 1970-S centsThere are a number of different small and large date varieties in U.S. coinage, but by far the 1970S Lincoln cent has caused the most confusion. Part of the confusion is due to a lack of noticeable differences between the two that are easy to detect.
Actually that holds true for most published references because they all miss the most obvious marker difference between the two, thus most collectors remain unaware of this simple method of telling the two apart. The first publication of this simple method on the web that this author is aware of comes from www.coppercoins.com.
Most people tend to use LIBERTY as their marker. If it is weak, they assume small date - if it is stronger, they assume large date. This is fine if you have the two next to each other for comparison. The problem with using LIBERTY as the chief marker is that this feature is naturally weaker on 1970 Lincoln cents than on other dates, and that weakness could be mistaken as a small date coin.
Yet another difference that often goes missed because side by side comparison is usually necessary to see the difference is that small date cents have a pronounced hook shape to the inside of the 9 of the date, while large date cents have a squared-off inside to the 9 that drops downward. Yet another unreliable pick up point because the two are so similar to one another.
The fact that the large date has a lower 7 than the "level date" (small date) is also well publicized, but the problem with this is that the difference is so minute, many people still can't tell if they don't have the two next to each other for comparison.
The one tell tale sign between the two that NEVER fails is a crease that runs horizontally across the top of the diagonal of the 7 on ALL large date cents. That crease is completely absent on ALL small date cents (this works for proofs too). Take a look at the photos below and see for yourself...and enjoy collecting!
images1970S date comparison - Large date is on top:
1970S LIBERTY comparison - Large date is on top:
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