Common Cents About Pennies

cash for pennies Can you really cash in on pennies?

Before it switched to zinc in 1982, the U.S. Mint primarily used copper to manufacture pennies. High metal prices mean that the copper in an old penny sells for about two cents. Some Americans hope to make money by collecting pre-1982 coins and melting them down. However, a recent federal law makes this rather difficult to accomplish.

Strict Rules

In December 2006, the U.S. Mint announced its new rules on pennies and nickels. It warned that melting coins or exporting them in large quantities is forbidden. If you bring cash to another country, a $5 limit applies to these coins. You can mail up to 10,000 pennies overseas, but a legitimate collector must purchase them.

People may face serious consequences when they break the law. If you illegally melt or export coins, the federal government can put you in jail for up to five years. You might have to pay a hefty fine as well: the maximum penalty is $10,000. Police also have the right to confiscate copper, zinc or nickel derived from these coins.

Why does the government consider coin melting such a serious crime? Federal officials warn that it could cause money shortages and increase production costs. The U.S. Mint spends over two cents to strike each penny, so the public must pay a considerable amount of money to replace coins that people destroy.


Nonetheless, potential earnings have enticed some Americans to collect thousands of pennies. If you can gather 5,000 pre-1982 coins, the metal would be worth about $100. Internet auction bidders often spend 1.3 to 1.9 cents for each vintage penny, but fees and shipping costs eat into the profits.

As DailyFinance points out, it remains legal to melt Canadian coins in the United States. Canada’s mint continued to produce copper pennies until 1997, and the country recently stopped making one-cent coins. You can easily find Canadian pennies in most northern states. However, it could take years to collect a significant number of them.

Possible Changes

Some collectors predict that the U.S. will follow Canada’s lead and abolish the penny. In late 2011, ABC News reported that U.S. officials were considering major changes to the nation’s coin production policies. It also revealed that many wealthy investors have spent thousands of dollars to buy pre-1982 pennies in bulk.

Penny hoarders believe that melting will become legal if the U.S. Mint stops making these coins. This remains possible, but it could take any number of years. For now, the best way to gain extra cash is to sell your unwanted gold and silver. Our gold-buying experts offer fair prices for all items that contain precious metals.

To discover the value of your old jewelry or bullion, please visit Premier Gold, Silver & Coins at 4208 Union Road in Cheektowaga, N.Y.