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Why Was the Composition of the Penny Changed and Why Do We Continue to Use One Cent Coins?

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Historically, coins have been created from metals reflecting their value. Just as gold coins reflect a higher face value, pennies, or one cent coins, reflect their metal value. However in 1982, the United States Treasury anticipated an increase of the price of copper, which opened the door for a new coin composition.

Historically, coins have been created from metals reflecting their value. Just as gold coins reflect a higher face value, pennies, or one cent coins, reflect their metal value. However in 1982, the United States Treasury anticipated an increase of the price of copper, which opened the door for a new coin composition.

The once solid copper coin is now comprised of a solid zinc base that's coated in a copper alloy. Changing the composite from solid copper to a zinc and copper alloy also changed the weight of the coin itself. Pennies made prior to 1982 are composed completely of copper and are significantly heavier than their zinc and copper alloy counterparts of today. Imagine carrying a pocket full of copper pennies amongst other gold and silver coins all day while strolling through town and you'll appreciate today’s standards, if only for the convenience of weight.

Which leads us to the question, “Why do we continue to use the penny?”

Many Americans point out the irony that the penny costs more to produce than the face value of the coin itself. About $0.017 per coin to produce to be exact, along with the environmental impact of expending energy to mint them.

Still, no one can deny the fact that Americans love to collect coins. Coins represent a part of our culture and history, reflecting the eras in which they were struck. Whether they were produced purely of copper or are a modern day copper-alloy-coated zinc base, pennies are a beloved presence in our coin collections.

To learn more about rare coins, copper pennies, Wheat pennies and collectible one cent coins, stop by one of Bellevue Rare Coins' four locations in the Greater Seattle Area.

Did you enjoy this read? Try This One-Of-A-Kind World War II Penny Is Worth More Than You Think

Since 1979, Bellevue Rare Coins has been a trusted, family-owned business serving the Greater Seattle Area with locations in Bellevue, Lynnwood, Issaquah, and West Seattle. Specializing in gold, silver, diamond, and jewelry purchasing, in addition to dealing in rare coins. We now offer a vast selection of fine, vintage and custom designed jewelry. Visit anyone of our four friendly locations for the best deals selling or buying.

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