Colin Cooke Numismatic Forum

Copper coin scrap value

edited June 2008 in General
Can anyone enlighten me on the rules surrounding scrap values? In particular I'm thinking about copper coins considering the demand and increasing cost of the raw material. We even hear so much about theft of metals from streets including copper wiring !!

There must be tonnes (literally) of pre-decimal pennies, half pennies etc. not to mention European currency prior to the Euro. So much of it is valueless to the collector as well. I've got bucket fulls of the stuff that I'd love to get rid of - the charity shop might get lucky but what would they do with it ?



  • Decimal 1p and 2p were until 1992 made of Bronze
    After this (With a few exceptions) they are copper clad steel.

    So pre-1992 1p and 2ps are bronze which is 95% copper, the price of which has gone through the roof over recent years.

    At around £3800 a tonne (3.80 a kilogramme or 0.38p a gram) the copper in the 1p and 2p pre-1992 coins is therefore about:

    1p (3.56 grams x 95% = 3.38 grams of copper) = 1.28p worth of copper in a penny
    2p (7.13 grams x 94% = 6.77 grammes of copper)= 2.56p worth of copper in a 2p piece

    That seems a good mark up - but remember the above is the BUYING price for copper.
    Then there is the sorting costs(using a big magnet) and the purification - although the tin and the zinc (which make up the other 5%) would show a decent return as tin is even more expensive than copper.
    Then of course it is illegal (I believe) to melt coins down

  • PS - Presumbably the only people who (legally) could hope to profit from the exercise are the Royal Mint.
  • I have no doubt that the royal mint are eyeing the price of copper with interest.
    The main problem would be the cost of produceing the new coins to replace the ones they take out of circulation for melting.
    I am sure this would make this a loss produceing exercise at the moment.
    £5000 a tonne - that maybe is what they are waiting for.
    Or maybe just withdraw all coppers altogether- that would maybe be the best solution
  • Hi,
    Thanks for the posts....

    Do your comments about pre-92 1p & 2p apply equally to pre-decimal "coppers" ? There are loads of those hanging around which can't be spent - at least you can cash up the modern stuff.

    As for being illegal to melt coins - the same must apply to pre-47 silver but people don't seem shy to advertise. I guess it's illegal to melt other peoples steel gates and drain covers too !!!
  • uh.... I meant iron gates !!
  • While it is illegal to melt UK coinage in this country ,it is not illegal to export then melt it , or even melt it on a ship a certain number of miles off the uk coast , ie in international waters
    Many, many, tonnes of uk coins suffered this fate in the late seventies and I would presume quite a fairly large amount since then as well.
    I an not sure if there is any action taken against people found with large amounts of Uk currency silver coins on their persons heading for france (Or anywhere else) these days - I would imagine this is considered a minor offence these days, and priority goes to people /drug smuggling
  • Martin:

    a) Yes pre decimal bronze coppers are 95% copper also

    b) It is still possible to exchange ("cash in") pre-decimal coins in multiples of 5p equivalent. I believe certain designated banks in major towns still have this facility. So get your twelve 1827 pennies to your local designated bank right down and exchange for your shiny 5p!

    c) The coinage melting thing is indeed still a criminal offence - one made criminal not because it is morally wrong but simply for the reasons suggested byFarthingman above - the mint want the monolopy! Totally unconnected, but the laws against dog fighting brought in in Victorian times were not about animal welfare but about keeping the working classes.unemployed in order and stopping them gambling, fighting and being a bit loud. Laws are not all about the morality it first appears they are on about!
  • that should read "get your 1827 pennies... right now" (not down)
  • PS: As for farthingman's point about withdrawing the "coppers." One can see his point. The farthing when finally withdrawn in 1960 had a purchasing power in 2008 values of around 1.6p. The penny of 2008 has overtaken the decimal half-penny's last days in 1984 as the coin with the lowest value we have ever had.

    But we only need get rid of for CASH payments (with the rounding done of the total supermarket bill). Prices would still be displayed to the penny, and card purchases could still be paid to the nearest penny, but as I say cash payment would be to the nearest 5p. This is I believe what New Zealand (or is it Australia) has done. This method also prevents the impression of price inflation caused by rounding - and politicians cannot be accused of totally abolishing the penny.

    Remember my fantasy about revaluing the pound 100 old pounds = one new pound. Then the new new penny would be worth £1 - with a new halfpenny and farthing. At 25p the new farthing would much the same value as a farthing had in Victorian times. What with the rejection of the half-farthing in the 1840's one wonders how the Victorians managed with quite large value units - certainly when incomes were much lower.
  • Perhaps another way of dealing with coppers would be just to stop making them and for the banks to take them and return them to the mint for melting down (Well the bronze ones anyway)
    This way we could still keep them but there would be fewer and fewer in circulation each year - they would die a slow death effectively.
    People would then have time to get used to the idea they were being phased out
  • edited July 2008
    [quote][cite] jules:[/cite]PS - Presumbably the only people who (legally) could hope to profit from the exercise are the Royal Mint.[/quote]
    I don't think this is unreasonable jules as the royal mint has to bear the cost of producing our coinage.
    so they should also make the profits when it is returned for melting
  • Remember everyone the royal mint is not a charity that produces coins as a hobby but a business just like any other.
    It's not there as a loss making servant of HMG but because it turns over a tidy profit each year.
    Probably not as much as you would think by the way
  • I didn't mean "profit" in a bad way, just that through economy of scale means they are best placed for it to be worthwhile - as you say quite rightly so.

    I see from their annual reports that for many years now the Mint has made a lot more on "collectors coins" than currency - in fact more than half their turnover is on non-currency stuff. in fact if you read between the lines, no actual profit at all on currency is made - in fact in some years loss. So I suppose we ought to let them pump out some of the tat medallions they do - gives the tax payer some money I suppose.
  • The royal mint does not say how much it costs to make their coins as it could be used by rivals to undercut them.
    However I would imagine the minting costs for a £1 coin to be around 25p-30p and any smaller 10p-50p coins the minting costs must be much higher (relative to face value), with 5p and "coppers" producing zero profits.
    At last we have a royal mint that serves the needs of the people without ripping them off unlike some of the mint masters of the past who's stately homes litter this country - testement to the fraud and corruption they were very careful to hide!
  • Presumbably what is charged for minting a coin is nothing to do with its face value value - rather the metal content/size/extra processes. The pound coin therefore may well be as cheap to make as the 50p piece (although there is the edging process). From the reports one can see which "sector" of the mints business produces the best sales and results (UK currency, UK collectors issues,foreign sales).

    I still have doubts about the collectors' market - although the mint has always had a go at this market (witness the 1839 proof sets which were made and sold long after 1839), I think there are so many that the product ceases to be a coin becoming a medallion. Just my personal view!

    And people know my views about re-strikes. I haave an interest in operatic records from the past (1900 to 1924) - the metal parts (the original stampers) for certain recordings still exist and for years societies have paid for pristine pressings from these original and these are bought by members/collectors. Those collectors may in some cases have had to pay £500 for an original, now they pay (say) £10 for a pressing (which is exactly the same as the original, if not better). The original is still collected but nobody seems to mind the repressings...

    Personally I wouldn't mind paying £50 for a restrike Royal Mint proof William IV penny, but I wouldn't touch a modern silver proof set which I think is just artitificial. I knowI may be odd.

  • We have a similar situation with bronze cents pre-1982 and had with pre-1964 90% silver coins. Their melt value got to the point where the silver was more valuable and unfortunately, lots of nice coins that would be worth something in mint state got melted. We are experiencing a similar situation with bronze cents and the US Mint lobbied the Congress to pass a law making it illegal to melt US coins for scrap. A short drive over the Mexican border to a smelter makes the job very easy and legal too.
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