hoarding copper cents? (US)

Zinc is running about $3,000 a ton, which just a bit less than 1 cent per modern pennysweight (2.5 g) of zinc.

Okay, with the 95% copper content, we’d only have 19/20 tons of copper worth $7,600.00

And (thanks to squink), the 1/20 of a ton of zinc would be worth a “whopping” $150.00 making a total worth of $7,750.00 for the metal value of the pennies.

As we can see, this has reduced our profit by $250.00 and we are now left with $4,766.00 for sorting, counting, melting and refining 300,000 pennies. :eek:

Another factor to take into account - do scrap metal dealers actually pay $8,000 for a ton of copper to just anybody who walks off the street?

It’s about $3 per pound to anyone who walks off the street. I suppose you could argue the price up if you had enough copper.

It’s OK to use a wheel-barrow of pennies to pay debts, as they are certainly legal tender. However - Merchants and vendors are free to set their own requirements for entering a transaction, which is a different matter. They could specify cash-only or credit-card only or blue beads, wampum, whatever they want. As far as melting pennies goes, one needs to factor in where the nearest smelter or scrap metal refiner is as those costs are more or less borne by the guy with the truckload of wheaties.

I pulled 100 pennies out of a penny box, and found 23% of them to be pre-1982 copper cents. So, accounting for mass and alloys, the mix is about 26% copper on a weight basis.
That compares well to commercial open pit copper ores:

That 30% figure is after several expensive and time consuming steps.

However, there probably aren’t enough copper pennies in existence to make large scale recovery operations feasible: Supposedly, there are about 140,000,000,000 pennies in circulation. If 23% of them (28 billion) are pre-1982 copper pieces, that represents about 90,000 tons of copper. This compares to global copper production of about 17,100,000 tons per year. Arizona alone produces of 1.3 million tons of copper a year.
So even though there is a lode of copper in pennies, it’s not a very big one.

Damn, I hate when I do that. Sorry.

Yes, that’s another major issue I thought of but didn’t want to do the research on. :slight_smile: Glad you did.

I have a few hundred dollars worth of copper pennies, about half of them having the “wheat” on the back. I squirreled them away years ago, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. They might be the most foolish investment I ever made. Even if I could sell 100 pennies for $1.80, that profit pales when you spread it out over the 20 years I’ve had them. :smack:

After reading around on the links sent to me by the friend mentioned in the OP, here are the reasons these people give for saving the copper pennies:

[Quoted from this page (linky)…]


**Here are two scenarios where the hoarding of pre-1982 copper pennies may prove profitable: **

1. The price of copper rises. This is very likely, the precious metals market has been going up. Copper has many different uses in industry and the price of copper has already been steadily rising over the years. (that is why it is no longer used to make pennies) Currently, even though a pre-1982 US cent contains 2.5 cents worth of copper, it would not be economically worthwhile to sort out the copper cents and melt them. Rest assured at some point in the future the price of copper will rise enough to make it very worthwhile. At that point it will be too late to start hoarding the copper pennies, because they will quickly disappear from circulation.

2. The economy collapses, and regular money becomes worthless. This is not as farfetched as it may sound. Historically speaking, every economy, country, government, etc., collapses or crashes. When that happens the money that government produced becomes worthless, unless it also has some real metal value (like gold, silver, and copper). Most people learned in school about how when the German Mark was devalued, it took a wheelbarrow full to buy a loaf of bread. It has happened many times before, and will absolutely happen again, it is a matter of when, not if. When this occurs, people will need something to use for money that has actual value. (gold, silver, copper, and the barter system.) This scenario is referred to in some circles as WTSHTF (When The Sh#t Hits The Fan). It is probably not a bad idea to prepare for such a time, and saving or hoarding real money (money that contains its value in metal) because the paper and junk metal we use now may be absolutely worthless.


Historical example: Prior to 1965, the US dime, quarter, and half dollar were made made of 90% silver. Silver was phased of our change because the metal became worth more than the face value of the coins. For a few years after 1964 you could still find silver coins in change easily, every day. Even though the silver was worth more than face value many people thought it was a waste of time to hoard the silver coins and only spend the new clad coinage. Eventually the price of silver went up enough, and the silver coins quickly dropped out of circulation. Now it is extremely rare to find a silver coin in change, no matter how long and hard you look. One could have hoarded silver coins right after the changeover, and have made a very, very nice profit.

The situation is the same with pre-1982 copper US pennies today. You risk nothing because you can acquire the copper cents at face value, and if neither of the two scenarios mentioned above happen, (a rise in copper prices, or TSHTF), you still have the pennies that can be cashed in and spent at face value.

In a SHTF scenario, people will still have to make purchases, and need a medium of exchange. The barter system will be huge, but eventually people will need something to use as money. (How many chickens should I take for a box of shotgun shells?) Gold will be used for the huge purchases, Silver for smaller purchases, and copper pennies may be used for smaller purchases, or to make change for silver coins and one ounce silver bars and rounds. We have the oppurtunity right now to obtain as many pre-1982 copper pennies as we want at face value. Once that oppurtunity is gone, it will be gone forever. If you never need them, your children may.

So, I am guessing this behavior is more survivalist mentality hoarding rather than actually a main stream profitible one.

Thanks for all the input!


Copper today is quoted on the Comex at about $3.45 US/pound.

I respectfully suggest that you probably can’t walk into any scrap yard in the US and get $3/pound for copper. Especially to anyone off the street. If you think different, call two local ones tomorrow and report back.