How to get a crapload of pennies.
August 26, 2009 4:24 AM   Subscribe

I need a large number of pennies shipped to me. Does anyone provide this service?

I need to get a large number of American pennies (tens of thousands), ideally clean ones, to Australia for a project (penny-pressing machine). I would like to get them shipped to Australia, either directly or through some sort of shipping consolidator. I've been having trouble finding a good source. I have tried visiting banks with some success, but they don't ship, and their pennies are usually dirty. I'm currently in San Francisco. I can continue picking up boxes locally, packing them up and shipping them, but I'd rather automate it if possible, especially since I might need more later.

Alternately, is there somewhere to buy copper (or other suitable metal) disks in Australia for a reasonable price? (yes, I'm aware that pennies are not copper). The only quotes I've had so far are in the 30 cent range, which seems very high.
posted by alexei to Shopping (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might want to go directly to the US Mint. They've got an online store.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:03 AM on August 26, 2009

Contact the US Mint.
posted by donpardo at 5:03 AM on August 26, 2009

The tarnished pennies you get from your bank can be made shiny with a mixture of vinegar and salt.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:51 AM on August 26, 2009

You should certainly be sure not to run afoul of this. I didn't dig to find the actual regulation but you should.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 6:55 AM on August 26, 2009

Here's the current version of the federal rules concerning pennies and nickels. In particular, there are two exceptions to the rule that might apply to you:
(a) The prohibition contained in §82.1 against the exportation of 5-cent coins and one-cent coins of the United States shall not apply to:

(1) The exportation in any one shipment of 5-cent coins and one-cent coins having an aggregate face value of not more than $100 that are to be legitimately used as money or for numismatic purposes. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to authorize export for the purpose of sale
or resale of coins for melting or treatment by any person.


(b) The prohibition contained in §82.1 against the treatment of 5-cent coins and one-cent coins shall not apply to the treatment of these coins for educational, amusement, novelty, jewelry, and similar purposes as long as the volumes treated and the nature of the treatment makes it clear that such treatment is not intended as a means by which to profit solely from the value of the metal content of the coins.
It's a little unclear whether your proposed project would run afoul of the law; a literal reading of the law would suggest that it's legal to export coins as money or for coin-collecting, and that it's legal to treat coins for "novelty purposes", but that it's not legal to export coins for "novelty purposes." The PDF I linked to contains a phone number (that of the U.S. Mint's Attorney-Advisor) that you can call for clarification if you want to do this on the up-and-up.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2009

Oh, and in case it needs to be said, I Am Not A Lawyer And This Is Not Legal Advice.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2009

Here's the text of the regulation. It appears you are allowed to export 10,000 ($100) one-cent coins. Otherwise you need a license from: Director, United States Mint, 801 9th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20220. Where to get 10,000 pennies, I cannot help you.
posted by yeti at 7:46 AM on August 26, 2009

How closely to the size, composition and heft of an American penny do these discs have to be?

FYI, one pound is about 180 post-1982 pennies (which weigh 2.5 grams each) if you're interested in comparing your target price to the price of raw materials. Copper goes for several dollars per pound retail in the small quantities you'd need.

Here's a place that has 13mm stainless steel discs weighing around 2g each for £2 per 100, and it looks like they give bulk rates for larger orders.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 7:52 AM on August 26, 2009

I assume you have the machine and that it set up specifically for the US penny size, so that you can't use the now obsolete Aussie 1c and 2c pieces?
posted by trialex at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2009

I was at Australia Zoo this year and they had a penny-pressing machine there, so obviously someone in Australia produces penny-like blanks. These people may be able to help.
posted by pompomtom at 6:52 PM on August 26, 2009

Copper is much softer than stainless, so the stainless might crack the dies in the penny machines.

His problem may be an old law on the books in Australia and Canada that is not in force in the UK any longer about squishing the queen's image. When I was in the UK the machines took UK pennies, in Canada, I found a machine that had a note on it asking you to use US Pennies and offering to provide them at the gift shop.

Japan uses copper slugs rather than american pennies, that place that Doofus suggests has aluminum ones. Modern american pennies are mostly zinc and that zinc will show through when you squish them.

Example of two zinc pennies: zinc

Comparison of the same penny in copper and zinc: one and two

Coin dealers might have sources for lots of pennies, but you will pay more than a penny...but at AU$1 for a squisher, you can prolly afford to pay a few cents :)

I think the current Australian penny machines use copper slugs.'s Australia penny locations

(I'd LOVE to buy a set when you get your machines set up, I don't have any from Australia yet!)
posted by legotech at 7:03 PM on August 26, 2009

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