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What is a large date or small date on a coin?

Question: I see different descriptions about a coin and there is a description saying the coin has a large or small date. What does that mean and how do I know what to look for? How do I know which is best?

My Answer: The descriptions you refer to are talking about different varieties of a certain coin type. For different reasons the die that struck the coins was changed. In the case of small date and large date coins, the date was changed, and the result was either a date that was a tiny bit smaller or one that was a tiny bit larger.

The rest of your question is a tough one to answer because the difference between large date coins and small date coins is not going to be the same with different types of coins. So it all depends on which type of coin you are talking about.

Most of the time the difference between a small date coin and a large date coin is very subtle. Sometimes it is even difficult for seasoned numismatists to tell the difference and they depend on a third party grading service to make the determination.

The "Red Book" (The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins 2009) gives image examples of large date coins and small date coins side by side which is helpful in making a determination. It also shows images of other subtle differences in sizes of lettering etc. on coins.

Since I don't know which type of coin you are referring to, I will use the 1960D Lincoln Cent as an example.

examples of large date and small date 1960D Lincoln Cent

At first glance it is hard to see any differences in the dates on the images above, but they are there. Below are just a few of the many differences between the 1960D Lincoln Cent large date and small date varieties.

  • Take a look at the 9's. Notice that the inside of the loop on the 9 is smaller on the small date variety.

  • Now look at the 6's. Notice how the upper part of the 6 extends further on the large date variety.

  • Notice how the zero is much smaller on the small date variety.

  • Notice that on the small date variety, the top of the 9 is even with the 1, but on the large date variety, the 9 is taller than the 1.

This is just one example of differences between small date and large date varieties of coins. It takes a trained eye to distinguish the differences on some types of coins.

Comments for What is a large date or small date on a coin?

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Sep 01, 2009
Great Question!
by: Eva - Moderator

What a great question! I am sure there are lots of people wondering about the answer to that one. Thank you for contributing!

Mar 31, 2010
by: Anonymous

i was not able to find a good example and discription of the differences till now. great explanation

Mar 31, 2010
by: Eva - Moderator

Thank you, I am glad I was helpful.


Feb 01, 2011
small dt large dt
by: jt

Now i can tell the differance. I save all the coins that have large dt and small dt and can finaly go through them thanks for all the help.

Feb 11, 2014
by: Anonymous

Finally, some one clearly showed me the difference... why can't the coin magazines add this?

Feb 27, 2016
Totally needed that!!!
by: Super Coin

I didn't know that. I searched this question up on google and it wasn't the top result. Definitely should be #1!!!!

May 20, 2016
Large date or small date? Now I know!
by: Anonymous


Jul 15, 2016
great help
by: cj

Thanks this was very helpful

Oct 26, 2017
Thank You NEW
by: Anonymous

I just started collecting pennies and there are spaces for xxxx-Large Date and xxx-Small Date.

To me a date was a date and now I know that there is a difference. Thanks for the photos and the explanation.

The challenge for me will be to be able to easily differentiate on sight. I imagine that comes with experience.



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