Valuable Copper Pennies and Zinc Errors

In the middle of 1982 the composition of the penny was drastically changed. Previous cents were minted from 95% copper but were changed to 0.05% copper in the form of a micro-coating of copper over a zinc core.

Copper had become too valuable to be used for something with so little buying power as the lowly penny. In fact, as of today, it would take a little over 2.5 cents worth of copper to produce a traditional 95% copper cent. Add in the administrative and other costs involved and it goes even higher.

In order to affectively produce one cent coins without losing money a metal is needed that is as near to being worthless as possible while still being somewhat durable.

Copper Pennies

Copper Pennies

What? Our good old Lincoln Memorial pennies are made of near worthless zinc instead of copper? Yes, it is true (See Save Those Copper Pennies!).

If you find one of these zinc pennies that have been laying on the ground and exposed to the elements for just a short time you will notice how quickly they become corroded and pitted. If you scrape the coin even lightly you will see the shiny “silver” lining – unfortunately this is the zinc core, not silver.

I think we can probably say that, as the years and the decades roll by, high grade examples of these zinc cents may be in short supply. Some of them may even be considered valuable in years to come because of their rarity. We can certainly say that the 95% copper cents are well worth stashing back.

1969 Lincoln Memorial Cent 95% Copper

1969 Cent 95% Copper

Fortunately for collectors and investors, there really is some good news to all of this. This means that there are coins out in common circulation that are worth well over face value (A copper cent holds about 2.5 cents worth of copper at current prices!).

If you keep an eye on your pocket change you will find them from time to time. When you do find a copper cent in your change be sure to separate it; don’t spend that rascal!

And don’t forget that many copper cents were struck in 1982 although with 1981 and earlier dates it is easier to be sure they’re copper.

How to Tell if that 1982 Cent is Copper or Zinc

The best way to find out if your 1982 cent is a one of the good .95% copper pieces is to weigh them. The 95% copper cent weighs 3.11 grams while the 2.5% copper cents weigh only 2.5 grams.

Zinc Penny Errors Worth Watching For

Even more good news for coin collectors?

During the minting process when the planchets are coated with that ever so thin layer of copper errors sometimes occur. The zinc core is sometimes missing a portion or even all of the copper coating. If you find a cent that has no copper coating at all it is worth around $100. An example missing 50% of the copper plating is worth around $20 to $25. A specimen that is missing about 10% of the coating will be worth around $10.

Written by D. Slone, Copyright 2011

Filed under: Cents
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7 Responses to “Valuable Copper Pennies and Zinc Errors”
  1. richard bulluss says:

    speaking of copper in pennies how much copper is in a 1999 llincoln memorial. I have heard that the copper value is .999 is there any truth to this? Looking forward to a reply.

  2. mario says:

    I got 2009d penny copper the wait is 3.7 grams what do you think about that do you think it’s a error thank you very much

  3. danny says:

    i have a 2016 lincoln shield cent that has no copper it is a white metal zinc what can you’ll me about this coin

    • Old Coin Collector says:

      The 2016 cents are almost 98% pure zinc with a very thin coating of copper. Errors involving the zinc showing are fairly common

  4. Blane Barry says:

    I have a 2001 Lincoln memorial cent that is absolutely Barron of all copper how do I find a buyer or a value for the coin at all

  5. Charles O'Toole says:

    I have a 1987D penny with zero copper plating in beautiful pinks and greens. It is completely unworn and a very sharp strike. Looks like it never had any copper on it.

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