Pennies minted from 1909 to 1982 were made of 95% copper, and 5% zinc. You might not think of copper as worth much monetarily, but it is an extremely important metal. Copper is widely used in industry, especially in electrical, construction, transport, and many others areas. This is why copper fetches a fairly good price because it is also the best conductor of electricity, doesn’t tarnish and is malleable. To find copper’s melt value, we need to know that a pound of copper is currently worth about $3.12. 154 copper pennies equal one pound. So 3.12 divided by 154 is about 2 cents for each penny.
Since every copper penny’s value is 2 cents, it can be a small investment. The more copper pennies you have, the greater the investment. So, how do you still get a copper penny for its face value? First, you can find pennies prior to 1982 by examining your everyday change, or you can buy rolls from banks.
In addition to the fact that each copper cent is worth twice as much, its numismatic value is also important. Examining the dates and conditions of each coin the way a coin collector would, might give your copper even more value. But you don’t necessarily need to have the knowledge of a seasoned coin collector. Many rolls contain older “wheat” cents which were minted before the modern Lincoln cent (1959 – now). It’s easy to spot a wheat cent – look at the dates, minted between 1909 and 1959 and the reverse side on which the words “ONE CENT” are centered between two stalks of wheat.
Depending on condition, wheat cents are rarer and more valuable. The better the condition, the more they will be worth. When I hunt rolls, I usually find wheat cents in “good” to “very good” condition. These could fetch a price of 10-15 cents on eBay. It’s not uncommon to find many old wheat cents and copper Lincoln/Memorials in a bank box of 50 rolls. To get a better knowledge about conditions and prices I would go online and search for “value of pennies by year”, or “what’s my coin worth.” You can also buy the latest “Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins” which are available at bookstores or on Amazon.com.
Boxes of pennies you buy from the bank contain $25 of pennies in 50 rolls, which totals to 2,500 pennies. Unless you want to go through each roll and examine each one by one, you can buy a copper penny sorting machine that lets you separate the coppers from the zincs. If you’re not in a hurry to separate them, you can purchase a basic “E-Z Copper Penny Sorter” from $30 to $60. For quick sorting of lots of pennies, you will need a “Ryedale Apprentice Penny Sorter” which sells for $500.
Another reason to collect copper pennies is that someday when the Mint takes them out of circulation, it will be legal to melt them into bars. Bars are much more manageable to put aside instead of holding on to huge jars or bins that can contain hundreds or even thousands of pennies.
The wonderful advantage you receive when buying rolls of circulated pennies is that it won’t cost you more than what you paid for. It won’t cost you a cent, so to speak, because you buy all of the rolls of pennies at face value. Not only will you find many copper pennies, but older wheat pennies, which only adds value.