Did you know a good deal of the change in your pocket is actually worth more than its’ face value? In fact, one coin alone is worth more than 250% percent of it’s current face value. Did you also know that one of the coins could potentially kill your dog, or oddly enough, your parrot?
The penny is probably one of the most interesting U.S. coins. Not a lot of people know that a penny actually costs about 1.79 cents for the government to make. That’s right, a penny costs more to make than it is worth. Even more interesting is that pennies with a date of 1982 or earlier are actually worth 258% ($0.0258) of their face value in copper. It would actually be profitable to melt down these pennies and sell the copper. Although, melting them down is illegal and could cost you five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Pennies have been made out of a few different metals over the years. During World War II (starting in 1943) pennies were made out of carbon steel and coated with zinc. People complained that the steel pennies looked like dimes so the government switched the composition in 1944 to include spent shell casings. In 1946, after the war, pennies went back to being composed of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc.
Soon (in 1962) tin was removed from the penny and it went to being only copper and zinc. Then in 1973 the government decided to try out aluminum as the material of choice due to the rising cost of copper. The coins were never released to the public, being rejected mainly because it wouldn’t show up on an x-ray if it were swallowed. Only a few of these pennies trickled their way into the public and they’re actually illegal to own.
In 1982 the government again decided that copper was way too expensive and decided to switch the composition of the penny to 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. The pennies essentially look the same as old pennies, the only difference being the new pennies are slightly more toxic. Zinc is very soluble in stomach acid and can cause damage to stomach linings. While this isn’t that big of an issue to humans, pennies can be extremely fatal to dogs and parrots.
So there you go; a short history of the penny given through a chemical standpoint. It’s kind of interesting to learn all these things about change in your pocket. Let us know if you have any other penny trivia!