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Why Save Copper Pennies

Why Save Copper Pennies

Just a note to start …Keep in mind that in the US and Canada, though they are commonly called pennies, they are technically called the One Cent Coins.  I’m sure I will mix the terminology up, but believe me… some coin aficionado will correct you if you call a one cent coin a penny.

Anticipating a rise in copper prices, in 1982 the US changed the composition of the one cent coin, from an alloy of 95% copper with the balance being zinc, to a zinc based coin with a thin coating of copper.  The old coin weighed 3.1g each, and the new one 2.5g.  It takes about 150 pre 83 "copper alloy" coins to equal a pound of copper.  So for each pound of copper based cents/pennies, you are actually getting (at today’s prices) over 4 dollars of copper base metal.  Not a bad bet, considering the downside risk is limited to the face value of the coins you keep.  Keep in mind it is currently illegal to destroy the US Cent or Nickel coins due to a melt ban rule passed in 2007.  Most people are sorting, reselling, or simply keeping them as a hedge against inflation, with the intent to someday cash in on their investment.

In Canada, cents were made with copper through 1996, so the same opportunity is also available.  In general it takes more copper coins in Canada to equal one pound due to the light weight coins from 1982 to 1992 (the 12 sided coin). Canadian copper pennies have a higher copper content at 98%, the balance being zinc and tin.


Why should I save Copper Alloy cents/pennies?

Some 1982 and all prior years are made with 95% copper.  With copper at historic high prices, each of these coins are worth much more in actual metal content, than their face value.

Throughout history governments and mints have changed or reduced the metals used in their coinage to offset costs.  This was the case for US and Canadian cent and penny coins.  The US changed the composition from 95% copper %5 zinc to 97.5% zinc (core) and a 2.5% copper coating.  Canadian coins changed from as high as 98% copper to mostly zinc, and even steel coins.


Canadian Pennies and Nickels.  

Along with the opportunity in the US One Cent coin, a similar opportunity exists in Canada with their penny and nickel. Pennies through 1996 were made with 98% copper and a mix of zinc and tin for the remainder.  Nickels in Canada were made with pure nickel (unlike our US Nickels which are 75% copper 25% nickel).  These coins are easily sorted out by the Ryedale sorter when properly set up using the Nickel chute (wider to pass the extra width of the nickel) and sometimes a speed control device on the feeder.  It takes about $5 dollars face value of these nickels to equal one lb.  See for more information on coin values. There is a section on Canadian coin values at the following link 

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