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Copper Pennies vs. Zinc Pennies

Updated on May 20, 2011

Bag of pennies

Copper Pennies Are Worth Saving

Did you know that not all pennies are actually copper pennies? In today’s world, copper pennies are no longer produced. They are still in use, just like many other coins and dollars originally manufactured decades ago. However, they are very different than the pennies which are made today.

Before 1982, pennies were composed of approximately 95% copper. The remaining 5% of material was basically composed of zinc. However, the U.S. government realized in the late 70’s and early 80’s that copper prices would begin to rise very soon. They decided to alter the way in which copper pennies were produced. Instead of being mostly copper, the pennies were now made out of about 97.5% zinc. The remaining 2.5% was comprised of a thin copper coating. By doing this, the U.S. government was able to save money and avoid unnecessary spending when copper prices began to rise, which they did shortly thereafter.

When this change was made, the size and shape of the penny was the same, the actual coin became much lighter. However, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the two thanks to the copper coating on the new zinc pennies. Although copper pennies are no longer being produced, they are still used in day to day transactions. The value of copper pennies, in these situations, is the same of the zinc pennies.

However, coin collectors have realized that copper pennies are actually worth more than zinc pennies. Because copper prices did rise as expected, the actual value of the metal in a copper penny is more than its face value of one cent. Because of this, many people have started to collect pre-1982 copper pennies. Those who are really dedicated to making money off of their copper pennies should consider investing in a coin sorting machine like the Ryedale Sorter.

How A Penny Sorting Machine Works


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    • jeffwend profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Michigan

      I find pre-1982 copper pennies all the time in my pocket change. Probably about 5% of the pennies I get back in change is copper.

    • truthfornow profile image


      5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Yeah, I don't think I have seen a real copper penny in a while. Guess I should have hung onto my old change.

    • Attikos profile image


      5 years ago from East Cackalacky

      I haven't seen one in change for ages. Once the scrap price of copper exceeded the value of the US cent, they disappeared from circulation in a matter of months. For a more noticeable phenomenon, just wait until the scrap price of paper exceeds the value of the US dollar, which thanks to Obama and Bernanke is coming at us like a runaway eighteen-wheeler.


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