Save Those Copper Pennies

We have all heard, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” but did you know that it has never held more truth than it does today?
Right now there is a real opportunity to invest in your future just by keeping an eye on your pocket change for copper pennies.
While these coins are getting less common in pocket change every day they are still common enough to be found by anyone who keeps an eye out. If you see a US cent with a date earlier than 1982 you are looking at a coin that is worth more than double the face value in copper alone!

1981 Cent 2.95g Copper
1981 Cent 2.95g Copper

At the time of this writing copper is around $4.00 to $4.25 per pound. It takes around 155 pennies (depending upon the level of wear) to equal 1 pound of copper. This means that at $4.00 per pound 1 penny holds 2.5 cents of copper.
I am saving all the copper pennies that I find in my pocket change and I have no doubt that by the time my children are grown these will easily be worth more than a buck each.
Here is how it happened;
Lincoln Memorial Cent 95% Copper
Lincoln Memorial Cent 95% Copper

By 1982 copper was already too costly to use for a 1 cent coin. Production costs had to be reduced so the metal content of the coin was changed from 95% copper and 5% zinc to 97.5% zinc and only 2.5% copper (Relatively worthless).
Note: During 1982 both types of cents were minted. The 95% copper cent weighs 3.11 grams while the 2.5% copper cents weigh only 2.5 grams. If you scratch the zinc cent only slightly you will see the shiny zinc.

Here is a chart that will make it clear how copper is performing.

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Remember, in 1982 the government realized that copper was much too valuable to be used to mint one cent coins. In fact the metal value of a 1981 penny is higher than any other normally circulated coin either then or now.
That was nearly 30 years ago and during that time a great many of the pre-1982 pennies have already been removed from circulation by both banks and collector/investors. However, if you keep a close watch on your pocket change you will occasionally find those copper cents which you can put up somewhere.
This is not a get rich quick scheme but imagine a time when copper is over $25.00 per pound and you have a big cache of copper cents worth 15 times face value or more. Now, that is a high return investment considering its humble beginnings.
Happy collecting and from now on you may have an irresistible urge to check that pocket change. Don’t waste those good copper pennies!
Copper/Zinc Cent Plating Errors are Valuable
Also keep an eye out for a bright shiny silvery colored penny. Since the U.S. cents from mid 1982 to date are copper plated zinc sometimes the copper plating is missing revealing the zinc core (at only 0.05 copper and 0.95 zinc the plating is very thin). The more plating that is missing the more the coin will be worth. For example a cent with about 10% of the copper plating missing is worth around $10 to $12, with about half the plating missing it goes up to about $20 to $25. If the cent is all zinc with no copper plating it is worth $100 or more! Check out this related article – Valuable Copper Pennies and Zinc Errors
The US Nickel

US Nickel
US Nickel

Another common coin to consider is the US Nickel. As of April 2010 a nickel contained $0.0626539 in metal.
As nickel prices rise we can expect to see changes made to the nickel coin similar to what we saw with the cent.
You really can’t go wrong saving up your Jefferson nickels and pre-1982 cents. And no doubt you will notice how few “real” copper cents you find in your change. But keep your eyes out and set those you find aside. Don’t consider spending them unless you really “hit on hard times”.
Written by D. Slone, Copyright 2010

8 thoughts on “Save Those Copper Pennies”

    • I would recommend that you get yourself a price guide. There are so many different years to mint mark combinations, errors, varieties, different grades, etc that would make it nearly impossible to list them all here in a reply to your comment.

  1. It takes time and patience man. Coin collecting is about time and patience. I found a stash of a huge jar of pennies that my step-father allowed me to go through. I found a lot of AU 1970’s in there. I rolled them up. Put them in a box. Time will tell. It surpasses our life-span. I really don’t expect any pay back from them. Maybe my great-grandchildren will reap it. And as of now, it is Illegal, and wrong, to melt pennies down. Copper is in them. But, it’s not worth anything until it becomes legal to melt it. And when it does, a lot will go, and I’d advise future generations NOT to melt all of them. So many will be melted, and the value of the ones not melted will rise.

  2. The coins dont need to be melted before the metal value comes into play. Right now, collectors are gathering and trading on “junk” silver coins. Pre-1965 US coins containing 90% silver. The coins are not melted down but their value is tied directly to the value of silver nonetheless.

    • I agree. Why melt the coins for the precious metal content when you don’t have to? When melting a coin you lose the numismatic value of the coin and only have the precious metal content. I’d rather have the value of both. I put any loose change I have in a coffee can at the end of the day and sort out everything into rolls about once a year or so. Also, I have the quarters divided into regular Washington quarters, state quarters and national park quarters, the nickels are divided into regular Jefferson nickels and back to Monticello nickels and the pennies are divided between pre-1982 copper pennies, and post-1982 pennies with the Lincoln memorial and those with some kind of shield on the back.

  3. I have @97%90% perfect 1963 penny like it just left the bank along 2ith several just as lovely and beautiful ive never polished it and to my knowledge there isn’t even a scratch. On it

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