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What are Quarters Made of? The Metals that Quarters, Dimes, Nickels and Pennies are Made of

It is a common misconception, often started when we were young kids, that the coins in our possession are Silver. There was a time in history that circulating coins consisted of Gold and Silver, but because the prices of metals increased, this was no longer practical. "Coins that have a Silver color should be mistaken for Silver. These Silver-colored coins are the quarter, nickel and dime coins, made using Copper-Nickel combination." (AZO Materials) Many people today have questions like "what is a quarter made of?" and "what are nickels made of?" The answer to these questions and more might be surprising. 

Copper, Nickel and Zinc prices are not as highly priced as Silver or Gold, but their abundant supply has played a role in modern coin production. Copper and Nickel is a unique element combination used in industry and we may not even know it. 

Facts about the Copper-Nickel Combination 

The quarter, nickel and dime consist of a Copper-Nickel combination, called a Cupro-Nickel or Cupronickel, in scientific terms. Cupro-Nickel is an inexpensive way to produce circulating coins at bulk rates, but there are other important uses of Cupronickel in everyday use. In regard to coinage, Cupro-Nickel replaced pure Silver for circulation because of its resistance to corrosion and durability. Here are other facts about the Cupronickel.

  1. Applications for use in shipbuilding and shipbuilding repair use Cupronickel. The cost-effectiveness and solid state of the element lend itself for perfect use in high-pressure applications. It is also used in construction as reinforcements for beams and load bearing structures.
  2. Cupronickel is recyclable, making it an element that is reused without losing its chemical properties.
  3. The combination element is also durable and stable. Both are perfect features for coinage because of how often it is utilized.
  4. It is often found in a 3-to-1 ratio of Copper to Nickel in American coinage. In other applications, such as the automotive industry or the marine industry, the ratio is greater or lower depending on the need. 
  5. Strengthening elements are added to Cupronickel. It is not uncommon for Cupronickel to include Iron or Manganese. Other elements such as Zinc and Chromium have been used to add strength to Cupronickels. 

Cents (commonly called pennies) on the other hand, are copper-plated Zinc. Zinc is found in abundance naturally in the earth, which makes it appropriate for the smallest U.S. denomination. "From 1793 to 1837, the cent was pure Copper...From 1837 to 1857, the cent was made of bronze." (Live Science) Today, it takes on a different metal. While it is common to think about circulating coins as being Silver or Bronze, we know the truth about what current coins are made of. Even though they are not Silver or Gold, there is still denomination value, which makes it every bit as important for consumers today. 

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