United States Penny

us penny one-cent



Table of Contents: 

  1. What are pennies made of?
  2. Cost to Make U.S. Penny/One-Cent
  3. Penny designs over the years
  4. What is the most valuable penny?
  5. When was the United States Mint made?
  6. Who designed the Lincoln cent?
  7. What is a penny made out of?
  8. When was the last copper penny made?
  9. What is the rarest coin in the United States?
  10. What is the value of a wheat penny?
  11. How many pennies are in a pound of copper?
  12. Pennies per pound?
  13. How much does $100 of copper pennies weigh?
  14. What is the real name of the US penny?
  15. Does the penny cost more than a penny to make?
  16. Why was the 2009 Penny special and what did it celebrate?
  17. How to make money on copper pennies?
  18. Did Canada eliminate its penny?
  19. How many pennies per roll/box/bag?

US Penny/One-Cent Introduction


The United States penny, officially called a one-cent coin, is the smallest denomination in US currency current in use. Intriguingly enough, the word penny actually is colloquial as that’s technically the British coin of similar value. 

The US one-cent is, mathematically speaking, a value of currency of 1/100 of a US dollar or .01 cents. The penny has long been debated about possibly having the penny be eliminated and no longer used. It’s even had research studies down on it to see if it is still fiscally reasonable to produce the penny for a cheaper material. This study was called the Coin Modernization Act. The studies were inconclusive.

The year copper pennies were made typically speaking for metal content value is mid-1982. Many people ask when were pennies pure copper. The origin of the pennies dates back to the 1800’s when the penny was first minted. The pennies referenced in that question of pure pennies typically means the 1982 and older pennies which are 95% copper brass mixed with 5% zinc.

As of 2015, charts compiling data extrapolated from the United States Mint annual reports shows that the Lincoln one cent piece cost 1.67 cents to make each individual cent. This is down from a whopping 2.41 cents in 2011 when the prices of metals were higher. The cost wrapped into this number have to do with the metal makeup of the coin, production costs, and distribution costs.

See below for everything you wanted to know about the United States one-cent piece called the penny.

What are pennies made of?


The current penny, the Union Shield cent, is made of a metal alloy consisting of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. The change in what are pennies made of occurred in 1982 where pennies used to be made of 95% copper and 5% zinc.

What pennies are made of changed because of what happened due to rising copper prices and inflation devaluing the penny/one-cent coin. The US Mint, as a result, sought to find a cheaper solution to make the penny. Thus why pennies are made of 97.5% zinc instead of predominately copper.

The exception to this rule is 1943 when copper demands for World War II caused the US Mint to temporarily mint the US penny out of steel instead of copper (which was used for ammunition in the war).

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Cost to Make Penny/One-Cent?


Current, 2017 cost to make U.S. penny/one-cent is 1.50 cents per 1 cent produced by the United States Mint. This is up from 1.43 cents the year before. 2011 cost to make the U.S. cent hit a peak at 2.41 cents per coin due to higher metal costs.

The year 2000 yielded a much smaller cost of 0.81 cents and one can see a clear trend line increasing over the past two decades where rising costs are making the one-cent coin unprofitable to produce.

2017 cost to produce the U.S. penny was $46,00,000. Furthermore, these numbers show a continued increase in cost of the years, up nearly 10 million dollars from the prior year.

In 2010, the U.S. Mint conducted a study called the Coin Modernization Act of 2010 to determine if there was an alternative method to produce the coin for less. The results were inclusive.

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What are the penny designs over the years?


The designs of the penny can be broken down into two main categories: Large cents and small cents.

The large cents designs are as follows:
1793: Flowing Hair Chain
1793: Flowing Hair Wreath
1793-1796: Liberty Cap
1796-1807: Draped Bust
1808-1814: Classic Head
1816-1839: Coronet
1839-1857: Braided Hair

The small cents designs are as follows:
1856-1858: Flying Eagle cent
1859-1909: Indian Head cent
1909: Lincoln Wheat cent with VDB initials on reverse
1909-1958: Lincoln Wheat cent
1959-2008: Lincoln Memorial Cent
2009: Lincoln Bicentennial cent (4 designs depicting Abraham Lincoln’s life on reverse)
2010-present: Lincoln Union Shield cent

What are pennies made of

United States Mint Copper One-Cent/Penny Specifications & Design

Coin Denomination $0.01 or one hundredth of a US dollar
Metal Composition/make 1909-1942: 95% copper, 5% zinc, less than 1% trace amounts of tin
1943: Steel with zinc-coating
1944-1958: 95% copper, 5% zinc
Weight per Cent/Penny 3.11 grams, exception: 1943 steel cent: 2.70 grams
Cents/Pennies per pound 147 pennies per pound, exception 1943 steel cent: 168 pennies per pound
Design Obverse/Front: United States president Abraham Lincoln
Reverse/Back: Wheat stalks with large letters ONE CENT United States of America

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What is the most valuable penny?

The most valuable and expensive US penny would be the most sought after penny made in the year 1943 which was made of copper. It typically was made of steel due to World War II demand for copper for ammunition.

Furthermore, there are only a hand full of these copper 1943 cents in existence. 50, approximately, are known to exist. In fact, most in existence are actually counterfeits. Usually, they’re easy to spot as the 1943 dated pennies made of steel are heavily attracted to magnets. Copper cents having their date altered to a 3 for the 1943 can generally be easily spotted as well upon close examination.

If you have a 1943 penny, it could be worth thousands of dollars to even millions of dollars.

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When was the United States Mint made?

The United States Mint was passed for formation by congress on April 2nd, 1792. This was proposed by Alexander Hamilton who prepared the plans himself. The Mint was authorized to be built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The primary mission of the United States Mint has been to serve Americans through manufacturing and distributing coin for circulation as currency, precious metals and various collectible coins for individual value, as well as national medals.

The locations of the United States Mint are Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, West Point, New York, Denver, Colorado, San Francisco, California, Washington, DC, and the infamous Bullion depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The United States Congress approved the penny to be made in 1857 to be struck with 88% copper and 12% zinc. It featured the flying eagle design and, after that, the Indian Head design starting in 1859 to 1909.

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Who designed the Lincoln cent?

Victor David Brenner designed the Lincoln wheat cent which made famous the obverse (front) image of Lincoln on the United States one-cent piece. He was born in Shavli, Lithuania, studied in Paris, and lived in the United States in New York City. He has a famous artwork piece plaque of President Abraham Lincoln and was chosen by Theodore Roosevelt to design the penny when as the cetennial commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

Some 1909 cents, on the bottom of the reverse (rear) side of the coin have the initials V.D.B. stamped on them – representing the initials of Victor David Brenner. Complaints occurred about the initials, so they were eventually removed from the coin. due to those criticisms. So some Lincoln 1909 cents have the VDB and others do not have the VDB on the reverse. The 1909 Lincoln wheat penny with the V.D.B. on the reverse And an “S” may be very valuable. The “S” mint mark on the obverse (front) of the coin represents the coin was minted at the San Francisco mint.

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copper scrap

What is a penny made out of?

The current US penny is made of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. The Metal composition changed in 1982. It used to be made of copper with a ratio of 95% copper and 5% zinc.

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What year are the copper pennies?

The copper pennies are dated 1982 and older. The switch over from copper to zinc happened in 1982 so some 1982 pennies are copper while others are zinc. The exception to this rule is 1943 pennies were made of steel, except for a few very rare copper ones. There are also some experimental pennies that were made and found their way to circulation made of such materials such as aluminium. In addition, the wheat cents, or wheatback pennies, have a very small percentage (approximately 1% or less) of tin in them.

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When was the last copper penny made?

As far as mass production of pennies goes, the last copper pennies were made in 1982, when, mid-year, the production switched to a predominately zinc make up (97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper). There are exceptions such as rare 1983 copper pennies that were left over planchets “accidentally” minted and distributed. As well as various proof pennies.

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What is the rarest coin in the United States?

The most rarest coin is a matter of opinion. Some say, at least in popularity, the rarest coin is the 1943 San Francisco Mint copper penny. We will have to get back to you on that.

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What is the value of a wheat cent?


This is a difficult question to answer as it is very subjective. Some could be worth literally just one cent. Then again, there are wheat cents that actually have a value in the millions of dollars. We believe wheat cents are soon to become quite valuable and rare like the Indian head pennies.

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How many pennies are in a pound of copper?

Simply put via math: There are 147 copper pennies per pound. You can use a 1.47 ratio to multiply out weight to face value. Meaning, if you have 1 pound of pennies, you have $1.47 face value of pennies.

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How many pennies are in a pound?


Pennies per Pound

Type Metal Composition Weight per Penny Count per Pound Count per Ton
Copper Penny 95% copper, 5% zinc 3.11 grams 147 294,000
Zinc Penny 97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper 2.5 grams 182 364,000
Wheat Cent 95% copper, 5% zinc, >1% tin 3.11 grams 147 147,000
Steel Cent Steel with zinc outer coating 2.7 grams 168 336,000

Source/more details: How Many Pennies per Pound
Copper pennies have 147 cents per pound because they weigh 3.11 grams each per cent.

Zinc pennies have 182 cents per pound because they weigh of 2.5 grams per cent.

Wheat cents have 147 cents per pound because they weigh 3.11 grams each per cent new. Though typically more per pound since the vast majority are worn so their weight has dropped due to wear.

Steel cents have 168 cents per pound because they weigh 2.70 grams per cent. It’s a toss up between adjustment in weight from wear but also rust.

Memorial cents are either 147 cents per pound or 182 pennies per pound based upon whether they are copper or zinc base metal.

Shield cents are 182 cents per pound as they are 2.5 grams each made primarily of zinc.

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How much does $100 of copper pennies weigh?

Approximately 68 pounds of pennies is equal to $100 face value. That is why you see $100 of copper cents usually shipped in 68 pound boxes via USPS medium flat rate box. a standard bank bag of $50, if all copper cents, would weigh 34 pounds. The plastic bank bag would most likely weight approximately .15 pounds.

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What is the real name of the US penny?

Though the colloquially accepted name in the United States for the .01 denomination is a penny, the actual US Mint defined term is one-cent.

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Does the cent cost more than a cent to make?

The cent used to cost more than a cent, it’s face value, to make. Currently, not anymore when discounting the face value. The older copper pennies have a copper weight greater than that of their face value. However, as of the beginning of 2017 determined metal value, the newer zinc cents have a metal value less than that of their face value.

You can technically argue that to sell the one-cent coin, you have to not only account for the metal value, but the face value. So if you make a 1 cent piece, it would be 1 cent plus its metal value, thereby making the cost greater than 1 cent.

How much does it Cost to Make a Penny

Currently, in 2017, it costs 1.5 cents to make 1 US penny/one-cent (Read more: 2017 penny cost). In addition, rising zinc cost could lead to dramatic increases for the year 2017.

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Why was the 2009 cent special and what did it celebrate?

The 2009 cent is a very special cent. 2009 marks the bicentennial celebration of the US cent coin from its inception in 1959 with the Lincoln design. Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 and the cent with the design on the front showing Lincoln and back showing the Memorial building was first minted in 1959 following the Lincoln wheat cent that was minted from 1909 to 1959. 2009 was a special year where there were four individual cent models made to honor Lincoln.

2009 Lincoln Cent Models:

1) Lincoln Cent Birthplace

2) Lincoln Cent Formative Years

4) Lincoln Cent Professional Life

5) Lincoln Cent Presidency

The penny, following 2009, starting in 2010, was then remodeled so that though the front still shown Lincoln, the back of the coin was remade to show a shield and thus called the shield-cent.

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How to make money on copper pennies?

Money can be made by investing in copper pennies. Yes. Investing. Why is buying copper pennies considered investing? Copper pennies have a the unique combined attribute of having an intrinsic copper value and face value. The copper value is based on the fact copper pennies are a form of brass being made of 95% copper and 5% zinc. The face value, of course, being it is US currency valued at one cent. Therefore, when you own copper pennies, you are simultaneously valued with copper price and face value price. Essentially, a floor value of one cent with unlimited upward potential.

The key is the combination of weight and face value. The cent is a physical object. Therefore, it’s made up of actual material. In this case, it is made of copper. That copper weights 3.11 grams. Though 3.11 grams is a very small amount, it adds up when you get into pounds and even tons of copper pennies. The copper is worth more than one cent in each one cent.

Inflation & Pennies

How is this possible? Inflation. Over time, literally decades, the copper in the cent has become more valuable in relation to the dollar. Copper is not necessarily more valuable intrinsically to itself over time, but rather the value of the dollar has depreciated due to massive quantities of printed dollars by the United States government. Copper price, as a result, has risen over the years even with up and down swings where the copper in a cent is worth more than the face value of that same copper cent.

Furthermore, you can actually go back over a hundred years to the birth of the current Federal Reserve in the United States. If you do an analysis, the dollar is but a tiny fraction of its value compared to its inception. That is the main point. Even if copper value held still, the value of the dollar, over time, declines. Therefore, copper price on a long enough time scale inevitably must increase in value and thus copper cent price increases in value.

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Did Canada eliminate its penny?

Canada eliminated their penny in 2012. The penny was removed from circulation, technically, in 2013. So what happened to the copper Canadian penny when the Canadian penny was removed from circulation?

The value of a Canadian copper penny went straight to melt value or even higher when Canada eliminated its penny.

That is big news. Generally, one can’t predict the future of investments. However, this is a perfect way to predict the value of copper pennies in the United States. How much evidence does one need to see that copper pennies have a trade value above face value but below copper price.

Then, when the penny in a particular country is eliminated, that copper coin value goes to copper value. It’s straight forward. The catch is, of course, timing when the coin is eliminated. Many say it is inevitable based upon inflation, quantitative easing, and general political pressure.

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How many pennies per roll/box/bag?

There are 50 pennies/cents per roll. The roll value is $0.50 face value.

A box equals $25 face value and holds 50 rolls.

A bag equals $50 face value and holds 5,000 loose cents. Customers at a bank buy this as a standard bank bag.

Coins per Bank Roll
Coin Count Face Value
Pennies 50 $0.50
Nickels 40 $2.00
Dimes 50 $5.00
Quarters 40 $10.00
Halves 20 $10.00
Dollar Coins 20 $20.00

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English Penny

The English penny is the originating name for the US colloquial term. The US penny is called one-cent. The English version originally was 1.3 to 1.5 grams silver. It originated in the year 785 and were similar to deniers.

In addition, England has much influenced the United States coinage system. Because the US history coming from being ruled by England, this should be fairly clear as to why. In fact, the Canadian coinage has many coins with Queen Elizabeth’s image on them.