The Cent Project 2020: How Many Pennies Are Really Out There?

The Cent Project 2020

Ever wonder how many 1975 Lincoln pennies are floating around out there in circulation? No, don’t need to look up mintage figures… Those don’t really mean much of anything in the context of how many coins of a given type exist today or can be found in commerce. That’s what Lincoln cent expert Chuck Daughtrey is trying to figure out, and he’s hoping to enlist coin collectors – including you – to help provide the answers so many folks want to know. So, he’s beginning The Cent Project 2020.

“I want to run a project where people across the nation take a small sampling of circulating cents,” explains Daughtrey, “and separate them by date and mint mark and report to a central source so we can reasonably use statistics and a bit of math to figure out answers to these questions and more. Which of the early zinc issues has seen the most attrition since it was issued? Are there any critically endangered issues we should hold at any grade? How could we ever know the answer to these questions?”

He says collectors across the country have wondered for years what the true mintage proportions of the seven different 1982 varieties are. “They have wondered for years whether the poor quality control over the first decade of the zinc cent had an ill-effect on what remains in circulation. Or perhaps you are among the vast number of hoarders pulling any pre-zinc issued cent out of change hoping to cash in on its 95% copper composition and are wondering just how many of these coins have already been snarfed up by like-minded collectors.”

His plan is to form a team of some 40,000 people to examine samples of pennies circulating in their area, with actual number of coins counted dependent on whether the individual surveyor is in a rural area or more heavily populated locale — those living in urban areas will count more coins than those in less-populated regions. His goal is to get a “single-year snapshot” of the coins in circulation. “It takes a village to get answers sometimes, and I am inviting anyone who will take part to be a part of this effort,” he says. “All it will cost is your time. Once the project is over, you can take the coins right back to where you got them and get a 100% refund of the material costs.”

Nitty Gritty About The Cent Project 2020

  • Looking to sort and count 1/100th of all of circulating one cent coins
  • About 22 billion in circulation means we need to count at least 220 million
  • At $50 per person, that’s 44,000 people. We could do it with 29,500 people at $75 each
Accumulation of data will be done by representatives across the nation acting as coordinators. Seeking 200 of those to represent the findings of 385 US counties representing 228.5 million of the 328 million people in the nation. That’s 69.5% of the total national population represented in this count.

What We Do…

  • Every person sorts, separates, and annotates their findings in a spreadsheet. One box ($25), up to four or five boxes per person if they are very generous.
  • They turn their spreadsheet in to their coordinator, then hangs onto the coins until the project is over to avoid duplicate counting of any of the coins.
  • The spreadsheets will be merged into a national database, and a dozen numismatic experts across the country will be invited to comment and write on the data.
  • Their findings along with the data will be published for everyone to see on the internet.

For more information, please check out The Cent Project 2020 website.


  1. Nicely done article! Love it! To register for the Cent Project 2020, all you have to do is figure out how many $25 boxes of cents you think you can sort for me, and send your name, county you live in, and the number of boxes pledged to – by “sort” I mean separate by date and mint mark, write down the count of each, and get that information back to me. If it’s one box you can do or 20, I welcome the effort!

    Visit for more, or find us on Facebook at “The Cent Project” (


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