So how do you tell if your penny is copper or zinc? There are actually quite a few ways that you can find out. Over the many years that pennies have been minted in the United States they have been made from varying combinations of copper, zinc, nickel, and tin. The metal composition of your coins is one indicator of their value.
The weight of the penny, the date of the penny, and the sound of the penny as it hits a hard surface are all indications of whether that one cent coin is made from copper or zinc. A copper penny is heavier than a zinc one. A copper coin also has a different sound to it when dropped than a zinc one does.
If you don't feel like going through all the work of weighing in your penny just give it a little toss upwards. A copper penny will have a slight ringing sound when it lands whereas a zinc penny will just hit with a little thunk. A copper penny weighs 3.11 grams while a zinc penny weighs in at 2.5 grams.
Check Out the Date on Your One Cent Coins
Shake that little penny out of your piggy bank and take a closer look at it. If you know the date or production year of your penny then you just might be able to figure it out.
If your penny is older than 1837 then it is indeed a pure copper penny. All pennies minted previous to 1837 were made of one hundred percent copper and were in fact, the only true copper pennies to be put into general circulation in the United States.
From 1837 onward pennies have been created from a blend of metals rather than from genuine one hundred percent copper. For a ten year period between 1837 and 1857 pennies were created using an eighty-eight percent copper and five percent tin and zinc blend. So the copper penny still sported quite a nice percentage of copper over it's other counterparts.
The Rising Price of Copper is to Blame
From 1864 to 1942, the ratio of copper within the United States penny actually increased. Pennies minted during this time period were made from a ninety-five percent copper plus five percent tin and zinc combination.
This is where World War ll comes into play in how the penny was minted. Because the war effort required copper, the penny like many other things, paid the sacrifice. In 1943, the penny contained absolutely zero copper. It was made of steel and coated with zinc.
Between 1944 and 1982, the noble penny returned to it's ninety-five percent copper percentage combined with either a five percent blend of zinc, or mix of zinc and tin.
As copper became a more valuable resource, it was discovered that it was beginning to cost more to mint a penny than it was worth. Because of rising costs for copper, pennies minted from 1982 to today have been minted using a blend of 97.5 percent zinc and a 2.5 percent copper shell. The noble penny is no longer a genuine copper. It is now officially just a penny.
There are, of course, always a few exceptions to the rule and the penny is no exception to this. Usually, if you can find one of these exceptions, then you may have found yourself a coin that has the potential to be very valuable, and it may be worth your while to check it out further.
But Wait! There is More Than First Meets The Eye
If you spot a coin in your pocket or piggy bank that just doesn't look quite right, stop and give it a second look as it might just be worth a little more than the value that is written on the face of the coin. There are a couple unique pennies that you just may want to keep a close look out for.
There were a few copper pennies created in 1943. These copper pennies can be quite a valuable find. There are also pennies that were minted from 1944 to 1946 using the metal from old ammunition shells. These pennies may have a darker color than normal pennies or have streaks of color within them. How is that for an early idea for recycling?
To discover if your pennies really are largely made of copper simply pull them out of your pocket and compare them to the above list. Just keep in mind that there are many factors other than its composition which can make a penny valuable.
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