When Did Pennies Stop Being Copper?

Why do we still use pennies if we're running short on copper?

Pennies are made of mostly zinc these days. But approximately 2% is still copper. Copper is getting more valuable and harder to get, because of the technology boom, and all of the wires, processors, and heat dissipation items that use it. So why are we still using pennies with copper in them? I think it's probably one of the more redundant uses of copper - it's only there for appearance. Do you think it would be useful to get rid of pennies altogether? Or perhaps we could switch to 100% zinc coins as pennies? What do you think we should do about the copper shortage, and pennies?

There's more copper in a cell phone than in a penny, maybe we should stop using them, too.

Pennies are still a part of our economy, so unless we ban 99c stores or sales tax that gives a decimal value we're stuck with them. Getting rid of them won't effect the copper market, but it will inconvenience a lot of people.

What was the last year that pennies were made entirely of copper?

I know pennies are now made of a mix of different medals, because copper is too expensive, but when did they stop using 100% copper?

1982 was the last year for copper pennies. And the first year for the zinc pennies. They made both types that year, and the only way to tell them apart is by weight -- the zinc pennies are lighter.

100% copper pennies were last minted by the US in 1857. These were large cents, about the size of the "golden" dollar coins. The Flying Eagle and Indian Cents from 1856 to 1864 were 88% copper and 12% nickel. Beginning in 1864 Indian Cents, and later Lincoln Cents, were minted in 95% copper and 5% tin, technically this is bronze.

What are pennies made of?

What year pennies is pure copper?

Hi Rae: Surprisingly, Canadian pennies made in the last 13 years contain very little copper:
Years Mass Diameter/Shape Composition
2000–present 2.35 g 19.05 mm, round 94% steel, 1.5% nickel, 4.5% copper plated zinc
1997–1999 2.25 g 19.05 mm, round 98.4% zinc, 1.6% copper plating
1982–1996 2.5 g 19.1 mm, 12-sided 98% copper, 1.75% tin, 0.25% zinc
1980–1981 2.8 g 19.0 mm, round 98% copper, 1.75% tin, 0.25% zinc
1978–1979 3.24 g 19.05 mm, round 98% copper, 1.75% tin, 0.25% zinc
1942–1977 3.24 g 19.05 mm, round 98% copper, 0.5% tin, 1.5% zinc
1920–1941 3.24 g 19.05 mm, round 95.5% copper, 3% tin, 1.5% zinc
1876–1920 5.67 g 25.4 mm, round 95.5% copper, 3% tin, 1.5% zinc
1858–1859 4.54 g 25.4 mm, round 95% copper, 4% tin, 1% zinc
I am fairly sure that US pennies are similar but as I recall the switch to "steel" pennies was a bit later. I had the Canadian data on hand.
Cheers, dr p
PS: From other answerers the US may still be using mainly Zn pennies.

Why do you think pennies are no longer made from only copper metal?

I know that now they are made from zinc with a coat of copper. We did an experiment in Chemistry using a post-1983 penny and put it in Hydrochloric acid. We put grooves around the edges and the next day it was floating. However, if it had been a solid copper penny it would not have floated. Why is that?

Because zinc is cheap. The scrap value of old pre-zinc pennies is substantially more than $0.01 each. If pennies were still made of copper, then scrap metal dealers could make money just by going to the bank, buying all of the pennies, and melting them down.

You can expect them to also change the nickels sometime soon. The scrap value of a U.S. nickel is somewhere around $0.06 I think. Congress passed a special law to make it illegal to melt nickels, but for some reason, laws never seem to stop the law-breakers.

When I was a kid, there were people lobbying congress to get rid of pennies 'cause they were worth so little. A nickel today is not worth half what a penny was worth back then. Pennies are trash.

money_pennies 150 pounds?

if you have one hundred and fifty pounds of pennies. what would the dollar amount be?

That depends on how old the pennies are. Before 1982 pennies were made of copper and had a mass of 3.1 grams, however modern pennies are copper plated zinc and have a mass of only 2.5 grams.

Therefore, if you have old pennies you would have:

150 lbs * 453.6grams/pound / 3.1grams/penny = 21948 pennies or $219.48

Alternatively if you have new pennies it would be:

150 lbs * 453.6 grams/pound / 2.5 grams/penny = 27216 pennies or $272.16

I hope this helps.

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