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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, 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 won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017. He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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