Pennies have been a staple of U.S. currency for over 200 years, but have you ever wondered what would happen if you melted them down? With copper prices on the rise, melting down pre-1982 pennies for their copper content can seem appealing, but is it legal?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: It is illegal to melt down pennies and nickels for profit in the United States.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the legality of melting pennies, what pennies are made of, how to melt pennies, and whether melting pennies is worth the effort and risk.

The Legality of Melting Pennies

Legality Of Melting Pennies

Before you decide to start melting your pennies, it’s important to understand the legal implications. While melting coins may seem like a harmless activity, it is illegal in some cases. Let’s take a closer look at the legality of melting pennies.

Federal laws against melting coins

At the federal level, there are laws in place that prohibit the melting of coins for their metal content. The United States Mint, which is responsible for producing and distributing coins, has strict regulations in place to protect the integrity of the currency.

According to federal law, specifically Title 18, Section 331 of the United States Code, it is illegal to “melt, or to export, or to import, or otherwise dispose of any” coin of the United States with the intent to profit from the metal content.

This means that if you are caught melting pennies to sell the metal, you could face serious legal consequences. It’s important to note that this law applies to all U.S. coins, not just pennies.

State laws on melting coins

In addition to federal laws, some states have their regulations regarding the melting of coins. These laws can vary from state to state, so it’s important to research and understand the specific laws in your area.

For example, in some states, it may be illegal to melt any coins, regardless of the intent. Other states may have more lenient laws that only prohibit melting coins for fraudulent activity or counterfeiting.

It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the laws in your state to avoid any legal issues.

Penalties for melting coins

The penalties for melting coins can vary depending on the severity of the offense and the jurisdiction. In general, if you are caught melting coins, you may face fines, imprisonment, or both. These penalties can range from a few hundred dollars in fines to several years in prison, depending on the circumstances.

It’s also worth noting that even if you are not caught in the act of melting coins, selling or possessing melted coins can also be illegal. The authorities can track the sale and purchase of precious metals, so it’s important to be cautious if you are considering engaging in this activity.

What Are Pennies Made Of?

Pennies, also known as one-cent coins, are made of different metal compositions depending on the year they were minted. Understanding the composition of pennies is crucial when considering whether they can be melted or not.

Pennies minted before 1982

Before 1982, pennies in the United States were made of solid copper. The composition was 95% copper and 5% zinc. These pennies had a reddish-brown color and were quite valuable due to their high copper content.

The value of the copper in these pre-1982 pennies is often worth more than their face value today.

Pennies minted after 1982

Starting from 1982, the composition of pennies in the United States changed. To reduce production costs, the U.S. Mint began making pennies with a zinc core and a thin copper plating. The current composition of pennies is 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper.

These pennies have a lighter color and are not as valuable as the pre-1982 ones.

It is worth noting that the U.S. Mint did produce a limited number of pennies in 1943 that were made of steel due to a copper shortage during World War II. These steel pennies are considered rare and collectible.

Implications for melting pennies

Melting pennies can be a controversial topic. While it is technically legal to melt pennies for their metal content, it is important to consider the implications. The U.S. Mint has implemented laws and regulations to prevent the mass melting of pennies, as it could lead to a scarcity of coins in circulation.

Furthermore, the cost of melting pennies may outweigh the value of the metal obtained. For example, the current value of copper in a pre-1982 penny is around 2.5 cents, but the cost of melting and refining the copper may exceed that value.

It is also worth mentioning that altering currency with the intent to defraud is illegal. So, if you plan to melt pennies to pass them off as something else, it is important to note that this is against the law.

How to Melt Pennies

How To Melt Pennies

Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to melt pennies? Well, the answer is yes! Melting pennies can be a fun and interesting experiment. Whether you’re curious about the process or you’re looking to create unique crafts or jewelry, here’s a detailed guide on how to melt pennies.

Don’t forget that melting pennies for their metal content is illegal, however, melting a piece or two for the purpose of creating a handmade project is okay.

Editor’s note: It is okay to melt down a piece or two to create a handmade work of art or jewelry. This is because melting down a small number of coins for personal use is not considered to be a threat to the US currency system.

Items Needed

Before you begin, make sure you have the following items:

  • A small metal crucible or melting pot
  • A heat source such as a propane torch or a furnace
  • Protective gear like heat-resistant gloves and goggles
  • A mold or container to pour the melted pennies into

It’s important to note that melting pennies is illegal in some countries, so be sure to check your local laws before proceeding.

Melting Process

The melting process requires caution and precision. Follow these steps:

  1. Prepare your workspace by setting up your heat source in a well-ventilated area.
  2. Put on your protective gear to ensure your safety.
  3. Place the pennies in the crucible or melting pot.
  4. Heat the crucible with the torch or furnace until the pennies start to melt.
  5. Once the pennies have melted completely, carefully pour the liquid metal into the mold or container.
  6. Allow the metal to cool and solidify before handling it.

Remember, always exercise caution when working with high temperatures and molten metal.

Safety Precautions

When melting pennies, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Wear heat-resistant gloves and goggles to protect yourself from hot metal splatter.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling harmful fumes.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of any accidents.
  • Never leave the heat source unattended while it’s in use.
  • Dispose of any waste materials properly and responsibly.

Remember to follow all safety guidelines and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

For more detailed information, you can visit ScienceDirect or Popsci for scientific articles and DIY guides related to melting metals.

Is Melting Pennies Worth It?

Many people may wonder if it is possible to melt pennies and if doing so is worth the effort. Let’s explore the various factors involved to determine whether melting pennies is a profitable endeavor or not.

Profit Potential

When considering melting pennies for profit, it is important to note that the melt value of a penny is often higher than its face value. However, it is crucial to understand that it is illegal to melt pennies for their metal content in many countries, including the United States.

Even if it is legal in your country, the actual profit potential may not be as significant as you might expect. The value of the copper or zinc in a penny can fluctuate, and the costs associated with melting and refining the metal may offset any potential gains.

It is also worth mentioning that older pennies minted before 1982 contain a higher percentage of copper, making them more valuable if melted. However, these older pennies are becoming increasingly rare, making it more challenging to find them in circulation.

Effort Required

Melting pennies is not a straightforward process and requires specialized equipment and knowledge. You would need a high-temperature furnace capable of melting the metal, as well as molds to shape the molten metal into desired forms.

Moreover, the process of melting pennies can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. It involves sorting and collecting large quantities of pennies, separating them by their metal composition, and then melting them down. The effort required may outweigh the potential financial gain.


There are several risks associated with melting pennies. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, it may be illegal to melt pennies in your country. Engaging in such activities can result in fines or legal consequences.

Additionally, the process of melting metal can be hazardous if not done correctly. High temperatures and molten metal pose risks of burns and injuries. It is essential to have the necessary safety precautions in place and to handle the process with caution.

Lastly, melting pennies can also harm the availability of coins in circulation. As more people melt pennies for their metal content, the number of pennies in circulation decreases, potentially affecting the economy and causing inconvenience to businesses and individuals who rely on them for transactions.

Can You Melt Pennies – Conclusion

While the copper content in pre-1982 pennies is appealing, melting down pennies is not worth the risk of steep fines and jail time. There are legal ways to source copper if you are interested in its material properties, but defacing and melting down U.S. currency should be avoided.

We’ve covered the essential facts about the illegality of melting pennies, pennies’ metal composition, how to melt pennies, and whether melting pennies is ultimately worthwhile. The bottom line is that melting pennies is not legal and the penalties outweigh any potential profits.

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