"From the Mint", Book VI
What is the third-most-consumed industrial metal in the world?
It is not silver, not gold but if you guessed copper, you are correct. Copper is the third-most-consumed industrial metal in the world behind iron and aluminum, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS) and silver and gold are way behind these. After the last blog was posted one of our readers asked; “Why Osborne Mint didn’t make the 1909-S Lincoln Penny Commemorative Round in a copper version?” As you remember that round was just released as the third collectible in our American Legacy Collection. The reader continued to share that “…a copper version would look more like a real penny.”
First off, thank you for the question and for reading the blog, much appreciated. We do a lot of collectible rounds in copper, but unfortunately not the 1909-S Lincoln Penny nor any of the pieces in the American Legacy Collection. To prevent counterfeiting, rounds cannot be made with the exact dimensions and weight of any coin produced anywhere in the world. That is why our copper penny replica of the current one-cent piece, is just a little larger. Our version is certainly not the penny to put in your shoe.
The makeup of pennies as American currency has changed many times throughout our country’s history. They were made of pure copper only from 1783 to 1837, and for the next twenty years pennies were made of bronze (95% copper and 5% zinc or tin). At the start of 1858 the amount of copper in pennies dropped to 88% with the remaining 12% being nickel. In 1864, the penny returned to its previous recipe of 95% copper, which it continued until 1962. However, in 1943, copper was needed for war materials, so pennies were made out of zinc-coated steel. Because the color was silvery, it was easy to mistake a penny for a dime. Fortunately, pennies were only made that way for one year. In 1962 the supplemental ingredient in pennies was specified as only zinc, thus dropping the tin additive. The largest transition to the content of the penny came in 1982 and was primarily a cost cutting measure. The copper penny was beginning to cost more to produce than its face value. The makeup of the coin changed dramatically to 97.5% zinc and only 2.5% copper. These are the pennies we know as today’s one-cent coin, a far cry from the original copper coins of 1783. (For more fun facts about the penny visit the US Mint website: https://www.usmint.gov/learn/kids/coins/fun-facts/category/penny/page)
Why Collect Copper?
Selection: Copper collectibles are a great place to start for any budding numismatist. Copper rounds come in a plethora of designs and shapes. Over the course of a year Osborne Mint mints close to a million copper rounds and ingots (bars) of various designs. Our partners at US Coppers (USCoppers.com) currently post for sale over 1,000 various copper pieces and more than 90% of those were designed, struck and manufactured by us at Osborne Mint.
Price Point: Collectibles designed in copper have a “soft” cost entry point. Regardless of the design that is crafted onto the round the weight of the copper holds its value as an investment metal. Often a designed round is only dollars over the current price of the weighted copper itself. Another bonus of the affordable pricing is the ever increasing intrinsic value, as many of these collectibles are purchased for the art, design and representation.
- Low Risk: Because of the lower dollar spend, one can invest in precious metals by purchasing copper rounds at prices much lower than the same collectibles in silver or gold. Copper also allows one to diversify their holdings and safeguard their wealth. Copper tends to increase in value relatively lock-step with silver and gold, meaning your investment could potentially see growth over time as would any precious metal venture.
- Design: Copper as a base metal is extremely malleable; in fact a copper awl is the oldest metal object to be found in the Middle East, dating back to 5100 B.C. Copper is easily made into coins, thanks to its workability, and has an extraordinary resistance to impact and wear. These features are indispensable to items continuously subject to handling. It is this pliability and durability that makes copper a chosen metal for coin and collectible round designers. Often our designers at Osborne Mint will select copper to test designs, view shadowing of a coin and define the depths of the relief.
- Health Benefit: Seriously, there is a scientifically proven health benefit to collecting copper. The Copper Development Association pointed out that copper contains antimicrobial properties. Its reports share that “in the course of two hours on the surface of these coins, 99.9% of dangerous bacteria like E. coli are killed.
But Doesn’t Copper Tarnish?
Yes copper, like other metals, tends to tarnish over time, especially if exposed to water and air. Take the Statue of Liberty; because of the oxidation reaction, the copper-plated outside of the statue is now a dull green and not its original orangey-red copper color. According to the New York Historical Society, the change to today’s green statue occurred over time and was completed in 1920, 34 years after the stature was unveiled. As with any collectible, we at the Osborne Mint recommend storing your pieces in airtight containers and handling your precious rounds while wearing white gloves.
One of my favorite hacks for restoring a real penny that is tarnished and tattered, that I leaned from Steve Spangler’s science pages, is to dip the coin into a cap full of Taco Bell Medium Flavored Taco Sauce. The vinegar and salt in the taco sauce work vigorously to remove years of wear and tear from the coin. Now I don’t recommend this process for your collectibles, but it does make the penny look shiny and new. Stay tuned for the video of me cleaning a severely tarnished copper round with taco sauce!
Thank you again to our readers for posing questions and placing inquiries about copper, it made for a very interesting topic. Although we have not made our American Legacy Collection in a copper alternative, we have crafted and designed thousands of collectible copper rounds. Again visit our partners at US Coppers and their catalog of our copper craft. Keep reading, keep sending in your queries and keep collecting.
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