Copper vs. Zinc Pennies: Here’s How To Tell If You Have A Copper Penny Or A Zinc Penny

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Do you know how to tell a copper penny from a zinc penny?

It’s not as difficult as you might think.

Following are 4 ways to tell if you have a copper penny or a zinc penny…

#1 – Check the date on the penny.

Here’s the rule of thumb:

  • Pennies dated before 1982 were made of copper (technically, 95% copper and 5% zinc).
  • Pennies dated after 1982 were made of zinc (technically, 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper).

But 1982 pennies are unique — because both copper and zinc pennies were made that year!

If you have a 1982 penny, it could be either a copper penny or a zinc penny. The U.S. Mint made the 1982 penny in both copper and zinc varieties.

So you’ll have to use one or more of the following 3 techniques to see if your 1982 penny is made of copper or zinc.

#2 – Weigh the penny.

You can tell zinc pennies apart from copper pennies by their weight when using a gram scale:

  • A copper penny weighs 3.11 grams.
  • A zinc penny weighs 2.5 grams.

You can see the 2 types of pennies’ weight differences described in this video:

#3 – Look at the color of the penny.

You can tell zinc pennies apart from copper pennies by their color when looking at them side by side:

  • A worn copper penny usually has a chocolate brown appearance or a deep warm, orange hue.
  • A zinc penny typically has more uneven toning — which can often make the surface look somewhat spotted.

#4 – Listen to the sound it makes when you drop it.

You can tell zinc pennies from copper pennies by listening for a ‘clicking sound’ or a ‘ringing sound’ when you drop them onto a hard surface — like a table:

  • A copper penny ‘rings.’
  • A zinc penny ‘clicks.’

You can hear the different sounds that the 2 types of pennies make when they’re dropped in this video:

So there you go!… Now you know how to tell a copper penny from a zinc penny yourself!

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