Have Lead Pennies Ever Been Produced?

The U.S. Mint has never used lead in the production of pennies or any other type of coin. The U.S. Mint created the first pennies in 1793 out of 100 percent copper, not changing the metal composition until 1856.

Beginning in 1856, the government minted pennies from 88 percent copper and 12 percent nickel. The U.S. Mint changed the composition again in 1864, using 95 percent copper and 5 percent tin and zinc alloy. Pennies from 1943 were made from a zinc and steel alloy. In 1983, the U.S. Mint began producing pennies made from 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper.