There were two different types of pennies made in 1970, and one that was far rarer and worth more than the other. One is the small date variety and one is the large date variety. The scarce 1970-S small date variety is characterized by a more delicate date of a finer punch as compared to the large date variety. The large date will exhibit a seven that is relatively level with the rest of the date, more so than its counterpart by quite a bit. The word “Liberty” is weak and indistinct (particularly on the E and the TY) on all specimens of this variety including proofs. Those are the main differences between the two coins, and we’ll go into more detail with them in this article.
Spotting the Difference
This is a tricky coin to say the least, and only coin enthusiasts who really know what they are looking for can spot the differences between the two strikes of this coin. The value and the price of the coin will vary greatly depending on this difference though, so it’s important to be able to tell and not mistake one for the other. For a cautionary note for example, the word, “Liberty” may also be weak on a large date coin so don’t use that as your only determining factor. This is a poor indicator of the type, so be sure you are looking at multiple different indicators.
Probably the best indicator from one to the next is that the font of the entire date is completely different on the small date coin than on the large date. It all comes down to the “9” in the year, “1970”. The “9” on this variety shows the tail of the upper loop tapered more to a point and curved up slightly higher than on the large date version, and this is how most collectors discern one from the other.
That is not all though, and there are in fact more, key differences between these coins that can point out which is which, if the coins are in good condition and the indicators are legible. For example, the common 1970-S large date variety is typically (if you can make it out) characterized by a slightly bolder date and a low “7” in the date. There’s more than that too. The word “Liberty” will generally speaking be sharp and bold on many specimens of this variety. Don’t go off of that alone though, because not all of them have this characteristic.
Many of the “Liberty” words may also be mushy or weak due to wear and tear on the dies at the mint or possibly due to the use of abrasives to dress-out the die when removing clashes, etc., it all depends. If it has a strong “Liberty” though, then you can rest assured that your search is over as it is the common large date and you need not be all too excited. However, given the fact that there are multiple different ways to tell one way or the other what the coin is, if it is a weak “Liberty” then the coin most definitely needs to be examined further for other more reliable diagnostics of the specific type.
Another good way to tell one from the other is with the “9”. With the “9” in the date it can be pretty clear to see one way or the other which one is which. The way the “9” on this variety of the large date coin is bolder and comes to a more blunted tip on the end of the upper loop on well struck specimens with that tip pointing further down than on the small date variety. Be sure to look for this first as this will be your best indicator.
All in all, there are multiple different defining factors that can show one coin from the other, and can make or break whether or not you have a very rare and very valuable coin or a pretty common one. Either or, use the above information to your best and happy hunting to you.