Not only is it illegal to scrap copper pennies or any US currency, but it can come with a costly fine and a visit to prison. Many times, people ask scrap yards if they take pennies or other coins for scrap. While occasionally scrap yards “accept” coins as scrap, it is completely illegal in the US, and both parties can be arrested for it.
According to the United States Mint, melting coins down is illegal and can land you a $10,000 fine and/or five years in prison. For the effort and the turnaround on the scrap value, scrapping pennies (or any other coins) is stupid and a waste of time.
What’s In Coins?
Now that we have determined that you cannot scrap pennies or any other currency in the US, it’s time to discover what materials and metals can be found inside coins so you don’t have to find out the illegal way.
- Pennies – Today, they are made from copper-plated zinc. The pennies now cost less to manufacture because they weigh 20% less than the previous pennies made from 95% copper and 5% zinc. Pennies predated 1981 were made from 100% copper.
- Nickels – These are made from a cupro-nickel clad of 75% copper and 25% nickel.
- Dimes & Quarters – Also made from a cupro-nickel clad, dimes and quarters have a copper core with an outer layer of 75% copper and 25% nickel alloy.
Many people try to collect predated pennies from 1981 in hopes of “melting” them down to create a copper bar for scrap. However, trustworthy scrap yards will see through these attempts and deny those who have copper bars or are trying to scrap pennies. Often, not only will scrap yards not buy them for legal reasons, but they have nowhere to sell them. Depending on the commodities marketing, sometimes the metals in a penny, even zinc, are worth more than a penny. Some coins scrap yards may buy are silver coins for anywhere from 3 to 15 times their face value.
Fun Facts About Coins
- You may have wondered why some coins, like quarters and dimes, have grooves on the edges of the coins, whereas nickels and pennies do not. The reason is that they are there to prevent counterfeiting with the higher-value coins. These coins were once produced with precious metals like gold and silver, and the grooves were there to prevent fraud in filing down the edges to recover the precious metals.
- On the penny, Lincoln’s portrait faces the right, whereas on the other coins, the portraits face the left. When President Theodore Roosevelt chose the coins’ design, he liked the sculpture by Victor David Brenner of Lincoln and decided to use that design on the penny.
- The average lifespan of a coin is 25 years.
- When coins are mutated or worn from use, they are sent to the mint. From there, they are melted down into their metals and sent to a fabricator to be reused in producing new coins. If you have mutated coins, you can redeem them for their total value at any Federal Reserve Bank.