Are Pennies Made Of Copper

Are Pennies Made Of Copper
Posted on June 26, 2024 by BOLD Precious Metals

Because of their unique color, pennies are often assumed to be mostly copper. And for much of our country's history, that was true! But are pennies really made of copper today?

Well, a cent was made entirely of copper between 1793 and 1837. After that, the composition started to change. Modern pennies are mostly made of zinc, but they still have a thin coating of copper.

Even though the copper in pennies has a market value that varies daily based on the spot price of copper, their face value remains one cent. Want to know more? Dive into this blog to discover are pennies made of copper, how the composition of the penny has modified throughout the years and some interesting trivia about pennies.

Are Pennies Made of Copper?

Your Lincoln Memorial penny is 95% copper if the date appears on it before 1982. If the date is 1983 or later, it is 97.5% zinc with a thin copper coating plated. In 1983, this composition was adopted as the norm. Throughout our country's history, pennies have occasionally been made of different materials.

For example, steel cents were used during World War II. It's crucial to understand that pennies minted in 1982 may be either zinc with copper plating or a 95% copper alloy if you're interested in acquiring copper in the form of older U.S. pennies. It's also helpful to know that a copper one-cent piece currently has a melt value of only approximately $.02.

    Penny composition by Year

The cent was fashioned of bronze (five percent tin and zinc and ninety-five percent copper) between 1837 and 1857.

The cent dates back to 1857 and is composed of 12% nickel and 88% copper, which gives it a whitish appearance.

From 1864 until 1962, the cent was made of bronze (95 percent copper, 5 percent tin, and zinc), with one exception: in 1943, zinc-coated steel was used in place of the original bronze. Due to the crucial role that copper played in the war effort, this modification was only made for the year 1943. But only a small quantity of copper pennies were produced in that year.

The penny's negligible tin content was eliminated in 1962. As a result, 95% of the cent's metal composition was copper, and 5% was zinc.

The alloy's composition was 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc until 1982. After that, it was changed to 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper (copper-plated zinc). That year, cents from both compositions were published.

Year Range Composition Notes
1837 to 1857 95% copper, 5% tin and zinc Fashioned of bronze
1857 88% copper, 12% nickel Gave the coin a whitish appearance
1864 to 1962 95% copper, 5% tin and zinc Except in 1943
1943 Zinc-coated steel Change due to the critical use of copper for the war effort; a limited number of copper pennies were minted that year
1962 to 1982 95% copper, 5% zinc Tin content removed in 1962
1982 97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper (copper-plated zinc) Cents of both compositions appeared in that year

    Fun Facts About Penny

    Pennies and dimes were hard to distinguish due to their similar size despite different colors. In 1943, pennies were made of steel with a zinc coating, making them look like dimes. This only lasted for a year.

    The large cent, America's first one-cent piece, was nearly the size of a half-dollar and was first struck in 1793. In 1857, a smaller penny took its place.

    The first real person to appear on a regular-issue American coin was President Lincoln in 1909 on a one-cent coin.

    In the past, American currency was mandated to be made of gold, silver, and copper by a 1792 law. Gold was used for the $10, $5, and $2.50 pieces, silver for the dollar, half dollar, quarter, dime, and half dime, and copper for the half-cent and cent coins.

    In March 1793, the Mint produced its first coins for circulation, totaling $111.78. That initial batch included 11,178 copper cents.

    Paul Revere, a hero of the American Revolution, was not only an accomplished horseman and informant but also a silversmith who contributed to our country's coinage. The Mint used rolled copper from Revere's Metals Company to produce the first cents.

    Lincoln was featured on both sides of the Lincoln Cent (1959–2007), with his profile on the obverse and the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse. The coin also bears the initials of two distinct engravers.

    The "white cents" were one-cent coins with the Indian Head and Flying Eagle designs from the mid-1800s. They appeared white because they were made of 88 percent copper and 12 percent nickel.


So, are pennies made of copper? The answer is both yes and no. While pennies were once made entirely of copper, today's pennies are primarily made of zinc with a thin copper coating. This change reflects the evolving needs and resources over time.

From the early all-copper cents to the zinc-coated pennies we use today, the composition of pennies has a fascinating history. Adding these pennies can bring historical significance and value to your collection!

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