Post 1984 pennies are composed of a zinc core and a copper shell. Why is this best?

Jan 10, 2017

In what currency........?

Explanation:

Most of the metals we use are alloys. This is certainly true for coinage. Clearly, the alloys used for coinage must be: (i) durable; (ii) resistant to chemical and physical damage; and (iii) easy to machine. This particular alloy evidently meets these properties. If there is a coated zinc core, presumably the less reactive copper coating hinders corrosion of the zinc.

See this old answer for more examples of alloys.

The alloys we use for currency must also be cheap and inexpensive. We are long past the days of $\text{gold sovereigns}$ and $\text{silver florins}$ where currency had a significant precious metal content and an intrinsic value. Or are we? You can still buy $\text{Krugerrands}$, which are 90% gold; I don't recommend that you use them to buy your groceries. These are investment items used to speculate on the price of gold. On the other hand, I own a half dozen old sterling silver sixpences, which I put in the Christmas Pudding each year.