Copper pennies can be sold to collectors in coin shops or in bulk online through eBay or Craigslist. Many people collect copper pennies minted before 1982 as an investment. Older wheat pennies sometimes sell for 3 cents or more apiece at coin shops. Some older pennies and half-pennies can sell for more.
Although federal law prohibits melting down or defacing U.S. currency and selling the copper, many people collect pennies with the expectation of a penny phase-out in the future that makes penny recycling legal. Commodity prices have risen since 2001, and pre-1982 pennies are composed of 95 percent copper and contain 2.95 grams of copper each. Therefore, these coins are worth more than their face value. Pennies minted after 1982 are made of 97.5 percent zinc, so they are not currently worth much.
People can invest in pennies by obtaining them from banks in $25 boxes, saving pennies from spare change, searching for loose pennies or purchasing them from dealers.
Pennies that were incorrectly struck or made from other substances during times of copper scarcity are also potentially valuable. For example, during World War II, pennies were made of zinc-coated steel or old ammunition shells. Copper usage resumed in penny manufacturing after the war.