In 1964 if you buried $1,000 worth of quarters in your backyard and dug them back up in 2008 you would have over $12,000 worth of silver. In 1965 the US mint changed the composition of our silver coins to a less expensive composition consisting of copper and nickel.
In 1982 the mint decided to change the composition of the copper penny which previously consisted of 95% copper to 97.5% zinc with a thin copper coating. Copper prices in the US have soared by over 400% the last five years to about $4.00 a lb. The record highs in copper prices has fueled a nationwide plague of vandalism as thieves steal copper and other nonferrous metals such as brass and aluminum for their value as scrap.
A Toyota Prius has about 250 lbs of copper, over 5 times that of a non-hybrid vehicle. The average home has 439 lbs of copper. Large locomotives manufactured by General Electric contain about 16,000 lbs of copper. The U.S. nickel is actually 75% copper. The dime, quarter, and half dollar coins contain 91.67% copper and the Susan B. Anthony dollar is comprised of 87.5% copper.
Copper is biostatic. That means bacteria will not grow on its surface. Copper and copper alloy doorknobs protect against the transfer of disease in hospitals.
China is now the largest consumer of copper in the world at over 9 billion pounds. Demand for this metal, highly prized for its strength, durability and conductivity is expected to escalate causing continued upward pressure on prices.
It takes 151 pennies (minted pre-1982) to equate to one pound of copper. As of this writing, copper is valued at $3.85 per pound. In other words $15.10 worth of copper pennies, still commonly found in everyday change, is worth $38.50 as 10 pounds of copper bullion. The mint has declared it illegal to melt the coins but “penny entrepreneurs” are successfully selling 10 pound boxes of copper pennies on Ebay for $29.99 plus shipping, essentially doubling their money!
Check your change for these coins that will surely be out of circulation soon as armchair treasure hunters and collectors fill up their jars, coffee cans and in some cases barrels of pennies made of this valuable metal. Years from now we will reminisce about the good old days as we carry on the tradition of our parents by telling our children and grandchildren that “they just don’t make em like they used to” as we proudly dust off the jar full of our valuable and rare copper pennies.