Save Your Pennies

“If it’s a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, then someone, somewhere is making a penny.” — Steven Wright

1937 penny obverse
Recently I posted on using gold and silver as money, and got some interesting commentary in return from Mark Herpel, editor of DGC Magazine. One of the resources he suggested referred to the use not of gold or silver, but of copper as a trading commodity, as it included a bit from a group that was planning to produce copper rounds for that purpose.

It made me think that while gold and silver get the limelight, copper too has a long history as a circulating commodity in coinage. And that reminded me of the humble penny, a coin which was 95% copper until 1982, but debased to be mostly zinc in that year because it started to cost more than one cent to manufacture a penny coin.

If you look through your spare change, however, you’ll see that a significant percentage of pennies in circulation today are still from before the Reagan Debasement. And these pennies are worth a lot more than their face value. There are about 155 pennies in a pound, meaning a face value of about $1.55. But the current price of copper is nearly three times that at $4.40 per pound!

Now, like many people, I’m not in a position to buy gold or even silver rounds and sock them away. But like anyone else, I get pennies in change. Sure, you’re not supposed to melt them down for their metal content, but might it still be worth it to sort out the ones from before 1982, roll them up, and set them aside? If inflation really goes haywire as some expect, it might not be the worst idea to take a few minutes a day to save your pennies — the real ones, anyway.