Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Z is for Zinc (and Copper)


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter Z

I am in the process of sorting through everything in my parents' home, and in so doing, I have been looking through all my childhood memorabilia, the majority of which I hadn't seen since my parents packed up my belongings and moved them from the home I grew up in to this house some 45 years ago. My 2024 A to Z Challenge theme is based on the treasures I have found in the boxes and the drawers and closets. Join me on my bittersweet journey back to my childhood.

The debacle that created my post for Y is for Yikes resulted in me looking up how much four pounds of pennies would be worth. The answer was not as straight-forward as you would think. 

From 1944-1946, and again from 1962-September 1982. pennies were made from what they called gilding metal, a combination of 95% copper and 5% zinc, and each weighed 3.11 grams. From 1947-1962, they were made from bronze, which was a mix of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc and also weighed 3.11 grams. Since October 1982, however, pennies are copper-plated zinc and comprised of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper (I think we've had the wool pulled over our eyes on that one) and weigh in at 2.5 grams each. If the pennies in my Raggedy Ann (yes, I will die on that hill) bank were minted after September 1982, which they weren't, then they would be worth approximately $1.82 a pound. Pennies minted from 1944-46 and 1947-62 would come in at $1.43 a pound. My (at the time) life savings inside Raggedy Ann came to about $5.72. Abraham Lincoln's profile appeared on the front of these pennies, and on the back of pennies minted up to 1959 was two stalks of wheat (which I thought were bananas and referred to them as banana pennies) and the Lincoln Memorial from 1982 to the present.

Pennies minted from 1859-1909 were known as Indian Head pennies and featured Liberty (as in Statute of) wearing a head dress and were made from bronze after 1864. 

My mom had a jewelry box on her dresser from ever since I could remember until some time in the early 1990s. I loved looking through the beautiful treasures inside, all of which were simple costume jewelry but seemed like so much more to little me. It was white with gold trim and when you lifted the lid, there were two boxes that lifted up and out to reveal more storage underneath, and it was there that my mom kept a small plastic bag with Indian Head pennies inside. She would let me look at them occasionally, but they were always returned to their bag and tucked into the bottom of the jewelry box.

Maybe 10 or 12 years ago, my mom divided up the Indian Head pennies and shared them between me and my brother, at which time I tucked mine into the bottom drawer of my own jewelry box. That old jewelry box of my mom's has been on a dresser in one of the upstairs bedrooms at my parents' house, some odds and ends of her old costume jewelry still inside, and it reminded me of my stash of Indian Head pennies. I pulled them out tonight to give them a good look.

The dates range from 1881-1909 and they vary from still a little shiny to worn flat. This one is barely worn and feels thicker than the other coins:

The entire Indian Head and the writing was completely worn off this coin. I imagine someone carrying it around in their pocket, perhaps as a lucky penny, and any time that person was anxious, they ran their thumb over and over, around and around, until the image on the coin was polished smooth.

This penny is from 1892. Can you even?!

While each coin is probably only worth $2 or $3, the true treasure is that some great, great grandparent who couldn't have even imagined me held onto these bits of copper and zinc and passed them on, as someday, I will, too.

Peace out, A to Z Challenge. Until next year....


  1. A coin collector would have a field day with that collection of pennies. Thanks for the entertainment in April. Well done on completing the challenge.

  2. That is so lovely, to have those old coins passed down through your family.
    Congratulations on completing the A to Z! I enjoyed going through your old stuff with you.

  3. I'm glad you have the pennies and will keep them for your own children. It's still a shame what happened to your Raggedy Ann bank.

    Congratulations on finishing the A to Z!

  4. I thought for a moment that you might be British as you were referring to pennies rather than cents but eventually learnt that you were referring to American coinage - is it usual to call them pennies? I too wrote about Zinc - https://how-would-you-know.com/2024/04/zinc-and-a-zuhitsu-poem.html
    Congratulations on completing the challenge!