What Are Some Facts About the Composition of American Coins?


Quick Answer

As of 2015, with the exception of the penny, all circulating U.S. coins are an alloy of copper and nickel. Pennies minted between 1909 and 1982 are 95 copper and 5 percent zinc and have a metal value slightly higher than their denomination. Pennies minted after 1982 contain 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper. The Jefferson nickel, first minted in 1946, contains 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel.

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Full Answer

All dimes and quarters minted after 1965 are an alloy of 91.67 percent copper and 8.33 percent nickel. Dimes and quarters produced before 1964 are 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. The value of the silver in these coins is generally 10 times greater than the face value of the coin itself.

During World War II, nickel was an important military resource, which led the U.S. Mint to change the alloy used in nickel coins. From 1942 to 1945, U.S. nickels contained 35 percent silver, 56 percent copper and 9 percent manganese. As a result, these coins have a metal value roughly 16 times greater than the face value of the coin. However, due to the relative rarity and short production life of this coin, the silver war nickel generally has an even greater value on the coin collecting market. For example, 1945 San Francisco silver war nickels can sell for up to $700 at auction.

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