Is Recycling Pennies a Good Idea?

Recycling of metals can pay well depending on how much you have and the type of metal it is. As we wrote many times before, nonferrous metals are going to have a bigger payout  compared to ferrous metals. Copper continues to be one metal  that pays the  most  per pound. That brings us to the subject of pennies. These ubiquitous copper coated coins remind everybody about copper since that’s what we see when we hold one in our hands, but is it worth it to recycle these one cent pieces? Not really, and here’s why.

Copper pennies and piggy bank for recycling
Can copper pennies be recycled?

Way back when the United States was first formed and Benjamin Franklin was in charge design and minting of coins, that first penny was made of 100% copper. Given enough of these pennies, they could easily be melted down and recycled. Of course we’re talking about pennies that are now over 200 years old and are worth more as coins in the ever would be as recycled metal.

In the years since our country’s founding, however, the composition of our pennies is changed. Just after the Civil War the composition changed from 100% copper to 95% copper and 5% zinc. Fast forward to the late 20th Century and up to today that ratio has flipped and our modern-day pennies are more than 95% zinc and less than 5% copper. On a side note you may once in a while find a penny that has no copper. These were produced during World War II when the government needed as much copper as possible.

Trying to salvage copper from today’s pennies would probably take more effort than it’s worth given the low copper content. When all is said and done the answer is no. It’s not worth taking a wheelbarrow of pennies to your local recycling center. You’re better off taking them to your local grocery store or pharmacy that has a Coinstar machine and turning them in for a cash payout.

Other forms of  copper are of course still in demand and if you have copper pipes or other plumbing fixtures, pots and pans that  are past their prime, or anything else made of that metal, it’s worth bringing it to a metal recycling center like TM Scrap Metals.

On a note that’s unrelated to metal recycling, it may just pay extremely well to go through that piggy bank or jar of old coins and take a look at every single penny. Some extremely valuable coins have been found in circulation decades or centuries after they were first minted.  If you find one that looks a little different from today’s modern penny, even though it may be the same size and weight, hold onto it and check out valuable coins online before you take it to your nearest Coinstar machine.

Otherwise, if it’s metal, odds are it can be recycled. If you’re in Los Angeles area the one name you need to remember for metal recycling is TM Scrap Metals.  We may not take your pennies but we will pay top dollar!