US Pennies shiny new

16 Facts and Uses for the One-Cent Piece That are Worth Every Penny

For some people, pennies are so annoying, they don’t even bother picking up strays that end up on sidewalks and streets. Then there are those who eagerly collect the copper coin, living up to the Benjamin Franklin quote that a penny saved is a penny earned.

Assuming that the rest of us fall somewhere between those extremes, today I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few facts and uses for the lowest value coin in the U.S. currency lineup—the lowly penny.

US Pennies in a pile

Four, no more

Carry four pennies with you at all times so you always have just enough to avoid paying the odd cents when you make a purchase. This way you avoid getting pennies back in change. Serious “change savers” save other coins but want to get rid of the pennies as quickly as possible. This method will do it.

Tons of copper

Since its beginning, the U.S. Mint has produced more than 288.7 billion pennies. Lined up edge to edge, these pennies would circle the earth 137 times. The average penny lasts 25 years.

Big waste

It now costs two cents to produce a penny that is worth one-cent, making penny production a losing proposition, especially when the US Mint produces billions of pennies annually. According to an analysis of the U.S. Mint’s annual report (the most recent report available), “taxpayers lost about $85.4 million from penny production and $33.5 million from nickel production last year.”

Some rarities

In 1943, at the peak of World War II, pennies of steel-coated zinc were made for a short time due to war demands for copper. A few copper pennies from 1943 were produced by accident from the 1942 copper planchet remaining in the bins. Only forty 1943 copper pennies are known to remain in existence.


We call it a penny but that’s only a nickname. The U.S. Treasury’s official name for the coin is “one cent piece.”

Make a washer

If you don’t have washers on hand and need to finish a project, you can drill holes into coins and use them instead. Use a dime or a penny for a small washer, and a quarter or half-dollar to simulate a larger flange washer. Brass washers cost about 4 cents each and pennies cost, well, a penny.


penny tire measureRoad safety

Place a penny into a tire’s tread head first. See if the top of Abe’s head disappears. If it does, your tread is still above 2/32-inch. If you can see his entire head, it may be time to replace the tire because your treads are too shallow and you could experience a blow-out.

Keep in mind that tires do not wear evenly so be sure to check the tread on several places on each tire to determine that the tire’s tread depth is safe.

Party entertainment

Grasp a penny with the thumb and middle finger of your better snapping hand. Bend arm and tilt it so it’s parallel to the ground. Snap fingers, which launches penny with middle finger. Aim and repeat until you have everyone at the party engaged, amazed, and having fun.

As payback

Has anyone ever said to you, “I want you to pay back every penny you owe me?” Take them up on their word and pay them back in pennies. Just don’t try it in Canada. One man went to a lot of trouble to show up at the tax collector’s office to pay his property taxes with 200,000 pennies. He learned that under the Quebec Currency Act, no one is obliged to accept more than 25 pennies as payment for any product or service.

As a tool

Use a penny for leverage to pry the lid from a difficult “line-up-the-arrows” childproof medication bottle or other hard-to-pry-open situation. Or as a spacer when laying tile.

Balancing act

Slip a penny under a vase that sits a little wobbly to steady it.

Create ballast

Tape a penny to the tail of your kite for a little more stabilizing weight.

Remove a bolt

Use as an impromptu screwdriver in a wide slotted bolt or screw.

Build a sculpture

Follow this link for inspiration to make a penny sculpture that will amaze your friends and make your mother proud.

Leave a sign

Lay a penny on your loved one’s grave-marker each time you visit. Those who follow will catch on and follow suit.

Copper flooring

Are you looking for something new in your bathroom or kitchen? If you have lots of spare pennies, perhaps you should try the copper penny flooring. At $2.56 per square foot (256 pennies to the square foot laid 16 x16 in a grid pattern) that’s about as cheap as flooring gets.

Not that ambitious? Go for a shiny new countertop instead.


A stove top oven sitting inside of a kitchen



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14 replies
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  1. Memphis Rose says:

    The number of pennies considered legal tender in the US is to 50 and no more. Further, both parties involved in the transaction must accept the offered coin or paper legal tender as currency. Otherwise, the transaction fails. I learned this the hard way, trying to pay a rude merchant with 50 pennies and the remainder as $1 bills. He refused and I had to find another way to pay for my lawnmower repair!

    Thanks for the interesting information regarding pennies!!

  2. Maria says:

    Did you ever hear of “pennies from heaven”? If you find a penny it means that someone in heaven is thinking about you. I had to have a breast biopsy in 2004. As I was sitting at the desk signing in and filling out paperwork, I looked down and saw a penny on the floor. That to me meant that my late Mother was telling me that everything would be OK, and it was. I still carry that penny in my wallet.

  3. Alana Pethick says:

    Canada has long since done away with the penny (as have some other countries) and it was a saemless shift to rounding up and down, I’ve never heard anyone complain about it and it was done without any big fan fare. Why would any country keep producing it at such a loss?

    • Elaina Conant says:

      If you’re referring to the penny floor…Once you have it completed you coat it with a clear epoxy. You can get it at Home Depot, etc. The kind they use on wood bar tops. Check out more examples online. There are some really beautiful floors, tables even walls.

  4. Michelle S. says:

    Canada stopped production of their one cent coin in 2012 due to its rising cost of production relative to face value. Merchants round up or down to the nearest nickel when you purchase something. You win sometimes and you lose sometimes. I think it’s brilliant.

  5. Cally Ross says:

    Fascinating! thanks for clarification on drilling coins, I’ll assume it applies to the smashed-penny machines at tourist attractions- I have a bunch!
    i love the penny flooring! patience needed!

  6. JERRIE says:


  7. MJM says:

    I remember “See a penny and pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck – see a penny and let it lie and you will want before you die.”

  8. cheryl says:

    I love it!! With my Grandpa, (I am only girl out of 8 grandchildren) we used to save dimes for the fair that would come to town…you could toss a dime and whatever piece of china it landed on, is what you won….I outfitted my first apt. w/ those dishes….when he passed away…i would find dimes in random spots, usually when i was stressed or worried about a decision….just like he was saying it’s going to be alright.

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