• seperator

663 ‘pennies’ for my thoughts

An experiment of nearly 10 years duration has come to an end.

The container I was filling only with cents made of the pre-1982 95-percent copper, 5 percent zinc alloy was full.

Yesterday, I took it to the bank to cash them in.

Care to guess how many copper cents I acquired in my change?

The count was 663. That isn’t much.

When I began the experiment, I wanted to see how many copper cents I was encountering.

To have been a formal study, I should have put aside the copper-coated zinc cents that I received during the same period. Then I could determine the percentage of coins that were copper.

I did not do this. Why? It was too much trouble.

Besides, when I started work here in 1978 one of the old-timers in the ad department had a milk can full of cents. That was not an inspiration when I started my experiment. It was the opposite. I did not want to have to devote huge amounts of space to quantities of cents that I could not easily store and move around if I needed to.

So anecdotally, what did I gain?

I certainly gained an appreciation for collectors who are going through large quantities of cents to set aside copper coins.

I did not make a profit.

When I began setting these coins aside, the prices of copper and nickel were soaring.

People were hoarding so many nickels that the Treasury put a melting ban into effect for cents and nickels. That was in December 2006.

The ban is not likely to be lifted anytime soon, even though nickels will no longer yield a profit by melting them. In fact, if you melted nickels today, according to www.coinflation.com, you would lose nearly half your money.

On the other hand, 95-percent copper cents still notionally could be melted for a profit.

One of these cents has a metallic value of 1.45 cents.

In practical terms, that is probably not high enough to allow anyone with 663 of the coins to realize a profit.

But even if there were no costs associated with melting, and it were legal to do so, I have abandoned the possibility of a $2.98 profit for ever.

But I did get this blog out of the deal.

I still have the container.

I guess I can start filling it again.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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6 Responses to 663 ‘pennies’ for my thoughts

  1. majacra says:

    I get about $1.50 out of $5.00 worth of rolls. 30% isn’t a whole lot of copper, but it is always fun for me wondering what treasure may be hidden in those rolls. I was floored one time to see the reverse of an Indian head cent. Turned out to be a good condition 1905. Those kind of finds keep me going back to my bank and watch the tellers roll their eyes when they have to go back in the vault for me.

  2. Bob says:

    It’s been a bit since I counted…but last check, I was finding 20-25% copper cents when going through rolls of them, usually $5 at a time. Certainly not a big profit, but if you do it for the fun of finding old and odd stuff, then those you set aside are a bonus. I think it’s a safe bet that some day they’ll be worth having held on to, one way or another…

  3. silverhawk118 says:

    Who wouldn’t trade $1.00 for $1.45? I’ll do it all day! The key here is to hold your position. One must realize this is the LONGEST position. All around, everyone needs a closet full of pennies in buckets for a multitude of reasons – cash in the mattress? hope no one finds it or that your house burns down. what about burglars? they’ve EARNED their haul if they get away with my pennies! IRS after you? i’d like to see them take pennies they don’ t know about (even if this post were to tip them off, buggers!)….

    All-in-all, it’s not going to make you rich overnight. Unless it does. Either way, I’ll stick with a measely 45% gain (noted in my first sentence.) If you don’t see the .45 on each dollar, look harder. I honestly would pay $1.25 per 100 pennies today, and I would have several hundred dollars for the seller. Please contact me if anyone wants to get rid of their pre-82 pennies.

  4. schnauzer says:

    I usually get 10-14 copper cents per roll of 50. I’ve slowed down somewhat on searching for them. I have 63 lbs. of the copper cents currently. Really not sure why, but……

  5. Vachon says:

    Copper cents haven’t really gone anywhere. The numbers people self-report are about right. They’ve just been overwhelmed by zinc cents.

    From 1959-2015, a total of about 445 BILLION cents have been minted (toss on another 26 billion if you want to include all the Lincoln cents but for the sake of this post, I’m assuming all the Wheat cents have gone).

    Of that total, about 125.43 billion cents were minted from 1959-1982.
    Of that total, about 319.66 billion cents were minted from 1982-2015.

    On a percentage basis, 28.2% will be coppers and 71.8% will be zincs. Roughly a 3 to 1 ratio in favor of zinc cents.

    • Vachon says:

      In my personal experience, I hoard 1978 dated coins (total mintage: 9.8 billion or about 2% of the total). When I go to the bank to get rolls to search, I’ll buy $10 at a week. For six months now, I’ve been getting between eighteen and twenty-four 1978 cents each time…just as expected. I’m not convinced copper cents have been removed from circulation to any significant extent except for Wheat Cents because out of that 1000, I won’t see anywhere close to 25 Wheaties…more like eight or fewer and those are typically dated between 1941-1958.

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