One of the biggest areas of contention in the scrap metal community involves the collection of copper pennies. Here’s some background on the subject to help you form your own opinions. But let us state clearly at the very beginning: scrapping or melting down a copper penny to be scrapped is currently illegal.
Why People Collect Copper Pennies
As many scrap metal enthusiasts know, copper is a fairly valuable metal. Because of this, older pennies that contain copper are often considered to be worth more than their face value in scrap metal. Many estimate that each copper penny is worth about one and a half cents, though this fluctuates every day with the market value of copper.
However, melting these pennies down is illegal, meaning that they are not viable for scrapping at this time. Despite this, many scrap metal and coin collecting enthusiasts collect copper pennies, hoping that the ban on melting them down will be lifted in the near future.
Because of the significant enthusiasm around the collection of copper pennies, many collectors end up paying a premium on copper pennies. This is not worth the money in most cases for several reasons.
The first is that copper pennies are readily available at face value. The second is that there is no guarantee that the ban on melting pennies down will ever be lifted. The third is that copper pennies are not pure copper; rather, they consist of 95% unrefined copper.
While paying a premium for copper pennies is not a good idea, you may think it’s worth your time to get copper pennies in other ways. Simply picking up a roll or box of pennies at your local bank could net you a few copper pennies, for example, if you take the time to sort them.
While there is no guaranteed return on this investment because the ban may never be lifted, you also cannot lose money “buying” pennies at face value. Some scrap and coin collectors don’t think sorting through the pennies is worth the time, while others think it is a fun hobby and a good way to find rarer pennies that fetch good sums of money on the open market.
Where to Find Copper Pennies
Almost any penny made before 1982, and some pennies from the year 1982, are made of 95% copper. If you’re interested in collecting pennies for their copper scrap value, these are the pennies to look out for.
Copper Penny Collection Dos and Don’ts
If you decide to start collecting copper pennies, please follow this list of suggestions. This will help you maximize the potential return on your investment and keep you from breaking any laws regarding the scrapping of currency.
DO separate pre-1982 pennies from post-1982 pennies.
DO investigate any pennies from the year 1982 more closely—some of these are copper as well!
DO get pennies from a legitimate source such as a bank (or, look for copper pennies in your pocket change!)
DO keep your pennies secure. They are real currency, and you’re also choosing to treat them as an investment.
DO NOT pay a premium for copper pennies, unless the coins have value for some other reason (such as rarity or collectability).
DO NOT attempt to sell pennies to a scrap metal recycler.
DO NOT melt pennies down yourself and try to sell the resultant material to a scrap recycler. Scrap recyclers know their metals, and will report you to the relevant authorities.
DO NOT expect full “spot price” for your pennies if they become legal to scrap. They are only 95% copper, and this copper is “unrefined.”