Letter Re: Copper Pennies for Barter?

I was checking the prices on base metals today and saw that copper is at $2.10 a pound. Pre-1982 pennies are 95% copper, and 153 of them make a pound of copper. Any thoughts to using pre-1982 U.S. pennies as barter in addition to silver? If nothing else, I’ve been saving my pre-82 pennies for a few years. I have a few pounds worth. It’s not something I’m ‘stockpiling’ by any means, but every time I check my change I look for the 1981 (and earlier) pennies as well as the pre-65 dimes and quarters. It’s also a slight moral booster, considering it’s few and far between that I find a pre-1965 anything. OBTW: Silver took a nose dive the past few days, so if any readers missed the boat this would be the time to climb on board. – Prometheus.

JWR Replies: You are correct that pre-1982 pennies are 95% copper.  (The later ones are zinc tokens that are just flashed with copper.) It has been said that “silver is the poor man’s gold.”  So I suppose that by the same token (pardon the pun) copper is the starving man’s silver. However, per dollar value, pennies are extremely heavy and bulky. I guess that it wouldn’t hurt to have a few rolls of pre-1982 pennies on hand to make “change” for junk silver barter transactions.  But from a practical standpoint, at current copper prices it is hardly worth your time to sort out the pre-1982 pennies. At this juncture I should mention that there is apocryphal story about a church minister living in Germany in the 1920s–during the Weimar Republic mass inflation. During the mass inflation, he saved all of the copper pfennings from the donation plate.He eventually filled a disused bathtub with them.  When the D-Mark paper money was finally totally repudiated (used for kindling), he and his family were able to eat and had extra for charity, due to his foresight. I think that it would take similarly traumatic times before pre-1982 pennies ever become an “investment.”