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How to Get Large Quantities of Copper Pennies

Updated on January 28, 2013
A Copper Cent (Penny)
A Copper Cent (Penny)

Copper Cents:

With China purchasing Copper by the tonnes and Copper mines, many people are beginning to take their Copper Pennies out of circulation.

There are many reasons that people do this but the biggest one is: it is the cheapest way to obtain Copper.

As of this writing, a single U.S. Copper Cent has a face value of 1 cent but a Copper value of 2.2 cents. What other investment can you buy right now and get an immediate 220% return?

Melting Down Pennies

Currently it is illegal to melt down U.S. Pennies but that hasn't stopped people from selling rolls of them on various websites for the value of the Copper.

Copper Bullion

This article is going to focus on Copper Pennies, but I will not neglect to mention that you can purchase Copper bullion online.

If you are going to purchase online then you are going to pay well over spot, in some instances up to ten times above spot, which makes Copper much less of an investment in my opinion. Right now, the absolute most affordable way to enter into the Copper market is by sorting or purchasing Copper Pennies.

Copper Penny Difference:

Despite popular belief, the current pennies are not completely Copper. Actually, pennies from 1983 and forward are 2.5% Copper and 97.5% Zinc. This change was made due in large part to the volatile price swings in Copper. The new Pennies are now basically Copper coated Zinc. This is why I will refer to Pennies as either being Copper or Zinc.

Sorting Copper Pennies:

Current US Pennies are only 2.5% Copper, this is why it is important to properly sort your Copper pennies. Below we are going to review the various sorting methods.


I personally have never tested this method but some people have reported having up to 80% accuracy. Now, that does mean that you will have up to a 20% loss and not all of the Pennies that you roll will be 95% Copper.

Depending on how you value your time, this method may be a good option as it is less time consuming than many methods, and also no entry cost. The one drawback is that you have to know what to look for. Usually picking out the really dark dull Pennies should yield fairly good accuracy, but many Zinc Pennies can take on similar looking characteristics which leads to the inaccuracy.


The most basic, cheapest, but most time consuming method is sorting by date. This is very accurate for all dates except 1982. 1982 was a unique year where there were both 95% Copper Pennies, and 2.5% Copper Pennies minted.

Other than this inconsistency it is an accurate sorting method. Because the Copper pennies are older they tend to be more worn, and dirty which can lend some of the dates to be hard to read. This is part of the reason that sorting by date is so time consuming. If you don't plan on sorting through lots of pennies then this may be the best option for you.


This is a great method with low entry cost high accuracy and medium speed. The basic idea is to sit down with a scale that can measure in small gram increments.

The scales generally cost between $10.00 and $20.00. Then, one at a time, place a penny on the scale. If the penny weighs 2.5 grams then it is a Zinc penny, slide it off to the side. If the penny weighs 3.1 grams then it is a copper penny, slide this off to the other side.

After sorting through a jar of Pennies you should be left with two piles: a pile of Zinc pennies and a pile of Copper Pennies. Really the only inaccuracy is it you toss a penny in the wrong pile which can happen from time to time. This sounds like a time consuming method, but eventually you get into a rhythm and you start flying through the stacks.

Automated Sorting:

This is probably the most expensive route to go but it is the most efficient if you plan to sort larger amounts of Pennies quickly. There are a small variety of machines out there that specialize in sorting pennies.

Some machines boast sorting up to 18,000 pennies an hour. The machines range anywhere from $50.00 to $500.00. If you are planning on running a commercial operation or just have a voracious appetite for sorting Pennies then this would be a good route to go.

Copper Storage:

I'm going to briefly touch on the subject of storage as it is a very important factor that some forget to consider before they jump in and buy sorting machinery.

Copper, naturally, is going to occupy space. It is best to figure out where you are going to store it, what you are going to store them in, and how much you want to store. If it is a large amount, (getting into the hundreds of pounds and higher) you are going to want to make sure that the foundation of where you are storing it can handle the weight.

This may sound silly at first, but the metal can get surprisingly heavy as it accumulates over time, and the weight is highly concentrated compared to that of a vehicle where the weight is distributed over 4 tires and across 50 square feet.

So make sure the foundation is strong, and you have proper boxes (preferably plastic), that can handle the weight. Don't stack the boxes too high as tipping over can become a deadly risk.


U.S. Nickels are another way that you can enter the Copper market. They are 75% Copper and 25% Nickel. Because nearly all Nickels in circulation (barring the rare Silver Nickel that might show up) contain 75% Copper you get a good exposure to the Copper market and you don't have to Sort through them at all unlike the Copper pennies. The one con (which some may view as a pro) is that you are also exposed to the Nickel market. The density of Nickel is very close to Copper so gram for gram Nickels and Pennies will occupy the same amount of space.

As stated previously, the main advantage to Nickels is that you don't have to sort them. Depending on how highly you value your time, and your access to sorting technology, it may be more efficient and cost effective to buy Nickels over Copper Pennies.


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    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      I used to hoard copper pennies but sadly gave all of mine to Coinstar because they were taking up space. It might be decades before their worth in over 10 cents a penny, in which it might make sense to have them take up that much room. The sheer weight of them makes it difficult to move. I may re-enter eventually. It's a great hobby for those who enjoy it.

    • Adventure Colorad profile image

      Adventure Colorad 6 years ago from Denver,CO

      Very informative, I tend to roll all the coins I find, this last week I could three wheat pennies in the process of rolling about five 50 cent rolls. It's amazing what you find when you start paying attention.

    • debris profile image

      debris 7 years ago from Florida

      Yep, coinflation is a great tool that everyone interested in real money should use.



    • Cedar Cove Farm profile image

      Cedar Cove Farm 7 years ago from Southern Missouri

      Good article, thanks! Ever been to ? Great site with lots of info.

    • profile image

      crazy coin guy 8 years ago

      nice article...very informative.

    • debris profile image

      debris 8 years ago from Florida

      Thanks Enelle! Glad to see you drop by, it has been a while :) It's a funny idea thinking that your money is worth more than the number stamped on it, right? :D

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Wow - that's a lot of great information! Sure dashed my plans of selling my pennies LOL....oh well...better luck next time :D