Copper in WWII

Roamy here. Mr. RFH brought me a page from his fact-a-day calendar that said,

To conserve copper during World War II, the United States produced zinc-coated steel pennies. The copper saved was enough to meet the combined needs of 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers, 1,243 Flying Fortresses, 120 field guns and 120 howitzers, or enough for 1.25 million ammunition shells.

This was done in 1943. There are a few rare 1943 copper pennies out there that used up the blanks left over from 1942. The zinc-coated steel pennies were a bust – people confused them for dimes. The zinc coating didn’t cover the edges, so the coins started rusting. One of the articles I read on this said that vending machines were set up to catch steel slugs as counterfeits, so the pennies didn’t work. I’d like to ask our older readers if vending machines actually took pennies back then. Maybe they meant slot machines.

In 1944, the US Mint went back to normal-looking pennies that were made mostly out of recycled brass from shell casings. They continued this for 1945 and 1946. These coins have aged darker than coins from other years.

Another interesting fact? There were no dollar coins in the US minted between 1935 and 1971.

4 thoughts on “Copper in WWII”

  1. Hahaha. Yea. This is all true. I remember these pennies because some of them were still in circulation when I was a kid. And I recall my uncle telling me about the problems with vending machines.

  2. Yes, vending machines took pennies “back in the day.” But of course I only know this from reading the history books and watching those Pawn Shop/Pickers/Restorations shows on the History Channel. I’m far too young to recall the days of five-cent Cokes.

  3. I called my dad this morning, and asked him, and he replied that yes, they used the pennies in vending machines.

    He also said they were a PITA, and actually encouraged him to save his money 😀

  4. Hell, I’m only 38, and I certainly remember penny vending machines. At least for that chiclet type gum.

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