Melting down pennies

Supposing I wanted to melt pennies into copper ingots for resale:

  1. Is there a way to do it efficiently that doesn’t require an industrial furnace?
  2. How many pennies would I need to make it profitable?

Pennies made since 1983 are 97.5% zinc.

I think it’s illegal to destroy coins.

If it’s copper in general you want to resell, recycling places do it. You get good money for copper, and it doesn’t require an industrial furnace (for you anyway).

It isn’t. It’s illegal to deface them, but not destroy them. Otherwise those “Turn a penny into a souvenir oval” presses at every tourist attraction would be illegal.

Come back Zinc, come back!

It is specifically illegal to melt pennies and nickles for scrap.

Zinc. What a cool word. Zinc.

Caresses the ear and brain in a way that sinc, minc, or klinc just don’t.

Zinc. Just awesome.

Define scrap. If I take that metal and cast it as something, is that scrap?


Assuming that pre-1983 pennies are 100% copper and that pure copper can be sold for $2.70 per pound, each penny is worth about 1.85 cents.

Math: 1 pound = 453.6 grams, giving a value of $0.00595 per gram. A penny weighs about 3.11 grams, giving a value of $0.0185.

I think that zinc is worth about half what copper is per pound, so you’d never make a profit from melting the newer pennies.

To be more specific, it is illegal to melt them for any reason. See 31 CFR 82.1:

"Except as specifically authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury (or designee) or as otherwise provided in this part, no person shall export, melt, or treat:

(a) Any 5-cent coin of the United States; or

(b) Any one-cent coin of the United States."

Of course. Using a material for another use based on its intrinsic value or properties ought to cover it.

It was all a dream.

Currently worth around .42 as much.

I think it’s funny that if you want to obtain copper, pennies (which look like they’re made out of copper) are the worst coin to choose. Nickels, dimes, and quarters all have significantly more copper in them than pennies do.

They’re essentially copper-plated zinc.

Back in high school 25 years ago, we used to heat them up with the bunsen burner, and the heat was just right such that the zinc would melt and the copper would stay solid. You could then toss them onto a hard surface and the zinc would come out and leave a weird shriveled penny shell.

Nickels and pennies have specific alloys that the Treasury Dept looks for on the scrap metal market. Nickels are 75% copper and 25% nickel, IIRC, so anyone selling that alloy will come to their attention. The old pennies were 95% copper and 5% zinc, and they keep their eye out for that, too.

Moderator Note

Given this, let’s keep everything on the legal side of the line, please. You can discuss the metal value in various coins (and various years of said coins) but let’s not discuss any specific techniques for melting them down, or how to make a profit while doing so.

I glued about, I don’t know, a thousand pennies on a tabletop and clear coated it. Should I be worried the feds are gonna come knocking and haul me to Leavenworth. Acckk!

Wow, you wasted a thousand dollars!

Niiiccee! I wonder if you were to run some household current through that if you could turn it into a radiant heat floor.