Did you know that those hundreds of pennies lying under the couch cushions and on the car floor could be a source of income? You have several options that are far more favorable than rolling and cashing them in at the bank.
Recycling pennies may sound a bit like a late night infomercial, but there is some merit in the concept.
Pennies minted before 1982 are comprised of nearly 95% copper. As of the date this post was written, recycled copper was selling in my area for $4.13 per pound (and the price has been rising steadily for several months thanks to a crappy economy).
You’ll need about 151, pre-1982 pennies to make a pound of copper. Yep, your $1.51 could yield $4.13 for the work of sorting through a few pennies and driving to the nearest scrap yard.
“But wait! Can I just bag my pennies and haul them in?” Nope, there are a few catches.
- Since most of these copper pennies are only 95% copper (and 5% zinc), technically they are considered brass in recycling terms. Brass is currently selling for between $2.61 and $3.03 in my area (depending on the quality of the brass), not nearly as high as $4.13 for copper.
- The majority of scrap yards will NOT take a bag of pennies for recycling because it’s against federal law to deface U.S. currency (see USA Today’s article for more information). While I’ve heard stories of people melting down pennies and separating the copper to place in extruders or molds and make it look like copper wire or scrap pieces, this is still highly illegal and most scrap yards question where you got the scrap. If they think the origin is fishy, they’ll refuse it on the spot and may call the authorities to investigate. Melting your own pennies is NOT recommended.
Looks like recycling pennies is a bust at this point, but you do have options to still cash in on your old pennies.
David’s Note: Doh! Reading this got me excited there for a moment!
Viable Options for Getting More from Your Pennies
- Sell them on Craigslist or Ebay. Many people are hoarding these old pennies in bulk. Some of them believe these stashes will be an asset when the economy collapses, some are waiting for federal laws to change to allow the melting of coins for recycling, and some of them just like old coins, but most will pay high dollar for small to moderate quantities of old pennies.
- Check out your pennies for rare and valuable coins. Many of us have probably held a valuable coin at one time in our lives and never even noticed. Making a habit of studying up on what coins are valuable and sorting through your pocket change every night could prove to be a wise financial move. A good place to start learning about valuable coins is the Professional Coin Grading Service or Heritage Auctions. When I went through a small pile of old coins given to me by customers when I waited tables, I found six “silver” dollar coins that were worth a total of $90.
If you’re going to start a collecting hobby that could potentially yield a financial profit, collecting coins and old pennies is an obvious win-win choice.