How Much Copper Does A Penny Have In It? Pennies have a monetary face value of one cent, but the copper that they are made of actually has a market value that will vary day by day depending on the spot price of copper.
A Copper Penny And It’s Worth
So let’s find out how much a penny is really worth? Well first of all, to all readers who are numismatic in nature (coin collectors) the US does not actually make Pennies (is a British term), but rather in the United States they are cents.
The U.S. Lincoln Cent, designed by Victor David Brenner (whose initials V.D.B. are famously associated with the beloved coin design he created) first entered circulation in 1909. It has endured with the same obverse (“heads” side) design ever since, making it the longest running coin type in U.S. history, and placing it among the longest running coin types ever in world coinage history. The reverse design on the Lincoln Cent changed in 1959, from the “wheat ears” type to the Lincoln Memorial design, and the metal the Lincoln penny is made out of has seen several changes.
With that basic coin knowledge out of the way… let us move along to our original question how much copper is inside a cent.
Did I mention above that different years contain different metal composition?
That’s right between 1962 and 1982 cents contained 95% copper and 5% zinc by weight and each one weighs 3.11 grams (There are 454 grams in one pound.) After 1982 the Lincoln Cent alloy was changed to 97.5% zinc, with a pure copper coating that comprises 2.5% of the total alloy. The hope was that the pennies would still look the same, while the government didn’t lose its shirt manufacturing them. Although there were some problems early on, with the coins corroding quickly and the plating becoming streaky or bubbled, overall the zinc-alloy cents have a been a great success.
The price of copper fluctuates. Between 2000 and 2017, there were times when its price was lower than $ .75 per pound and other times when its climbed to more than $4.00 per pound. As of my writing this blog post April 5, 2017 Copper is at $2.65 per pound
So here is the math 3.11 grams x .95% copper = 2.9545 grams per cent
454 grams in a pound divided by 2.9545 per cent = 153.66 cents per pound
Basically it would take 157 cents to equal One Pound of Copper
An interesting side note is that Pennies Don’t Make ‘Cents’ and really do waste taxpayers money since according to recent US Mint production figures producing pennies costs about 1.5 cents per coin. With 822,800,000 minted in 2016, the U.S. spent almost $121 million to produce less than $83 million of circulating currency.
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