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Why Some Americans Are Hoarding Their Pennies…. (Literally)
Pennies

by - April 24, 2012 - 14 Comments

Allow me to introduce you to a new kind of Penny Hoarder. While these hoarders may never have read this blog (they would be welcome of course), they do share something in common; they know the value of saving those little disks of copper we affectionately call pennies.

However, there is something that probably sets them apart; they literally buy and hoard pennies…

Why are some Americans Hoarding Pennies?

No doubt, you are familiar with the traditional form of literal penny hoarding. First, find a really old or uncommon mintage of penny. Then sell it to collectors willing to pay extra. Now, there is a completely different reason to collect pennies.

Over the last few years, the market for copper has skyrocketed. Just last January, the market peaked at $3.649 per pound. At 146 pennies to a pound, a single penny’s copper has a value of about 2.5 cents.

That’s not a bad deal! Get a penny for 1 cent and sell the copper for 2.5 cents? How often do you find an intentionally undervalued investment that is easily purchased?

Not All Pennies are Created Equal

The “copper standard” for pennies are those minted in 1982 and earlier. It’s pennies from this era that are composed of 95% copper.

The more recent generation of pennies are made of copper and zinc to lower the cost and value.

One Big Catch

If you think that making money on your pennies is too good to be true, there is a catch. It’s illegal to melt down currency and sell as scrap. Also, there is no crossing the border with your penny bags either. It’s illegal to leave the country with more than $5 in pennies. Most penny hoarders are stockpiling their currency in the hopes that the law will change and allow them to finally cash in on their stockpiles.

Getting rid of the penny is not an outlandish idea. The Canadian government recently abolished one cent coins arguing that it was too costly to produce.  Legislation for exterminating the penny isn’t strictly Canadian in origin either. In 2006, the US congress mulled the extinction of the penny. Once the penny is no longer used as currency, the flood gates open for penny hoarders to sell as scrap metal.

You Can Make a Profit Selling Pennies Today!

The good news for the penny hoarding entrepreneur is that you don’t need to wait for an act of congress to make money selling pennies.

As with all investors, there are those with high risk tolerances. These investors are hoarding pennies today in the hopes that laws will change and they can earn a big return. However, they need to get their pennies from somewhere and grabbing a roll from the bank is likely to be littered with pennies from 1983 and later. This is giving rise to penny entrepreneurs who are selling pennies to penny hoarders. Here’ s how it works:

  1. They get pennies from banks, stores and their own pockets
  2. Sift through the lot for pennies from 1982 or older
  3. They sell these pennies in bulk on eBay to the folks looking to stockpile for future legislation

Pennies can be sold in bulk at 2 cents a penny on places like Ebay (watch out for seller fees) and penny hoarding forums (seriously, they exist). After shipping, it adds up to a $.76 profit for every $1.00 of pennies you sell.

Good luck Penny Hoarders! (both kinds…) :)


  • http://www.ontargetcoach.com Brent Pittman

    Wow! This sounds very time consuming, but I’m eyeing my penny pig wondering how many pre 1983′s I’ve got. 276 pennies per pound…wow!

  • http://Thecardsite.com Joey v

    I am a member of one of said forums. Not only metal content is worth money. Collector pay premiums for certain dates and mint errors. Sorting is not difficult if you buy a ryedale machine.

  • http://tightfistedmiser.com Andy Hough

    It looks like I might be going through my penny jar. I’m going to see if I can make a little money from this.

  • http://frugalportland.com Frugal Portland

    Welp I think I just found the line, and I am unwilling to cross it!

  • http://goingcrazywannago.com JanetGoingCrazy

    This is hilarious…but pretty darn awesome!!

  • http://couponsandlessonplans.blogspot.com Amanda

    Had no idea that copper in pennies was worth that much in comparison. lol Guess I’ll go through those penny jars on top of the dresser for 1982 and earlier. =)

  • Alexandra Roach

    Really great article. Thanks for the info.!

  • http://coincollectingenterprises.com Copper Pennies

    The largest issue is time. If time = money, then sorting pennies needs to be done in an amount of time that does not offset the amount of money you could have made doing something else. This is a simplest form of opportunity cost. Either way, investing a few hundred dollars is very different than investing in copper pennies by the ton.

    There are many investors that are literally buying freight truck loads of tons of copper pennies. Picking up boxes at the bank to sort through would be very difficult for someone to successfully do to reach this size of an investment. I do this for a living and it is by no means an easy task or simple from a logistics standpoint do in large volumes.

    In the end, it’s about catering to individual needs and ensuring that you’re doing what is best for you. That’s the real niche. For some, sorting themselves is best. Others, sorting and buying. And for many, simply buying. After all, to maximize return, we should generate income at what we do best in our own area of expertise rather than try to do everything when it comes to managing ones own time (back to the time = money factor).

    All in all, great read and thank you for helping inform the public about copper pennies. It’s a niche market that should be taken advantage of while prices are low. After all, they don’t make them anymore, so supply will eventually dry up.

    -Dan

  • Melanie

    I enjoy hoarding my pre-1982 pennies; so far I’ve collected about 5 pds of copper pennies, and have found some neat wheatback pennies in the process.. Ive been trying to get better to at identifying pennies with mint errors, or double-dye pennies; etc. Ive really enjoyed watching how our money has changed through history as I find an indian head or a much older penny so for me it has an entertainment value and is why I dont mind sorting through them.
    You can also sort through your pre-1964 dimes and quarters for silver coinage, and some people are big on collecting nickels for their nickel/copper content; but its harder to find silver these days as most of it has been picked out so I buy my silver junk coins from a dealer or ebay. I plan to hoard a ton of pennies and then sell them to ebay or a major penny hoarder :)
    And remember– a penny saved, is a penny earned– words that ring so true in todays economic climate.

    • Rex Remes

      I guess you can sell your 5 pounds of pennies and clear enough money to maybe buy a pizza (about $11).

      Don’t quit your day job.

      • Melanie

        lol Rex! Its what you call a LONG TERM investment… I do it because its fun and relaxing– a good hobby and you can learn alot about the value of coins and its history, etc. Its more for fun right now, but I do believe over time it will pay for itself and then some!

        • Rex Remes

          hi Melanie … i guess a long long term investment, haha ;-)

          I agree collecting old coins can be fun. As a kid, my mother got me a bit interested. Always looking for wheat pennies and pre-64 dimes and quarters. Even old bills.

          She always dreamed of finding some super-rare coin. Hasn’t happened yet. :-) I like collecting Bicentennial Quarters … pretty hard to come across them these days.

      • Basil

        I understand the point you’re making, but it’s a little nearsighted.

        That’s like buying stock in a company, and then turning around the next day and noting that you haven’t made much money.

        Think of copper pennies as an excuse to save. Or a savings account that will double upon withdrawl. Or a stock that can’t go below the buying price.

        It was more obvious what would happen in ’64 with silver, but even then there were probably people in 1965 thinking “this is silly”.

        And as someone who *does* buy cents by the box, and *does* sort by hand, it’s faster than you think. One hour in front of a TV and I can go through a box. One more and they’re rolled, ready to return. I do it when I go to the bank for my job. If they sell for just $0.05 each (not an outlandish amount) in the future, it’s already worth it.

  • Ä

    I realize that this article was posted almost 2 years ago and not many people will read this comment but I would still like to make the following observation for anyone thinking of hoarding pennies. If the US mint stops producing pennies – which I think it should, and soon will – it will still be illegal to melt them for scrap. In Australia the Australian mint stopped producing 1 cent coins (and 2 cent coins) back in 1993 but they are still considered legal tender and it is still illegal to melt them for scrap (or deface them in any other way). Some people still do and the police don’t seem to care unless they are scrapping massive amounts of coins but it is still illegal.

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