Not many people know that there is very little copper in modern pennies. In 1982, they were changed from 95% copper to simply copper-plated zinc. If you cut open a penny made after that date, you’d see the grey-colored metal on the inside. In fact, in 1981, pennies of both recipes were made, and collectors have to listen to the sound they make when they bounce to tell the difference. Do it yourself with a penny from the 70s and one from the 90s; the difference will be obvious.
The price of copper closed last night at $3.48 a pound. That means that a 3.1 gram penny has about 2.26 cents of copper in it. Melt down a big wad of those, and you can make yourself a tidy profit. The price of zinc has been escalating in the last few months, too, so it might not be long until it’s worthwhile to melt down new pennies, too.