Presumably, from the exact composition of the metal? "Penny copper" is no doubt distinct from copper wire or whatever.dead_elvis wrote: ↑18 Aug 2017, 19:39What would prevent you from melting them yourself? If you showed up with copper, how does anyone know it came from pennies, and not, say, from scrap wire or pipes?Jennifer wrote: ↑18 Aug 2017, 18:09
I know that any 1981 or earlier penny I come across is immediately removed from circulation -- no, I don't sell it to a scrap-metal dealer, but I stick it in a coffee can, betting on the possibility that during my lifetime, the ban on melting copper Lincoln pennies will be lifted.
Realistically, if I were a scrap metal dealer who already had the equipment, I likely wouldn't be above tossing some pennies in with the other bits of scrap copper, but I wouldn't risk buying bulk pennies to melt them down, lest the penny-seller prove to be an undercover agent. Nor would I want to melt down a pile of nothing but pennies, just in case.
That said: I know I'm far from the only person pulling copper pennies out of circulation; the face value of mine are likely in the $100 range by now. Where the total spendable currency circulating in the US is concerned, those pennies are just as gone as if I had melted them down. Congress really ought to just go ahead and make it legal to melt down US coins if you wish; the reason they won't is because, per what Warren said upthread, the no-melting law was passed only a few years ago, during a time when nickel (the metal) prices were so high, a single five-cent piece contained something like 7.5 cents worth of metal; if melting coins had been legal, it no-shit would've been worth your while --especially for a scrap-metal dealer -- to buy $100 worth of nickel rolls from the bank, then melt them down and end up with $125 worth of metal. But prices did eventually go down; according to Coinflation.com just now, the current melt value of a nickel is "only" 3.7 cents.
I know that the US Mint, several times, has requested permission to make five-cent pieces out of a cheaper metal than nickel, but Congress keeps shooting them down.