History of Copper Coins - England, Australia, US

England

ValueFirst IssuedCurrent WeightCurrent CompositionComments
Penny17973.56 gramsCopper Plated SteelIn 1797 it changed from ½ gram silver to 100% copper, initially 28.3 grams then after 1806 18.9 grams.
In 1860 it became bronze (95% copper, 4% tin 1% zinc) weighing 9.4 grams.
With decimalization in 1971 it remained bronze but down to 3.56 grams.
Since 1992 it has been copper plated steel (iron and carbon) and Legal tender up to 20p

Australia

ValueFirst IssuedCurrent WeightCurrent CompositionComments
One cent19662.6 grams97% copper
2½% zinc
½% tin
Withdrawn in 1991 as metal value exceeded face value
Two cent19665.2 grams97% copper
2½% zinc
½% tin
Withdrawn in 1991 as metal value exceeded face value
Five cent19662.83 gramsCopper 75%
Nickel 25%
Ten cent19665.65 gramsCopper 75%
Nickel 25%
Twenty cent196611.3 gramsCopper 75%
Nickel 25%
Fifty cent196615.55 gramsCopper 75%
Nickel 25%
Initially released as 80% silver, 20% copper but this coin was discontinued as silver content exceeded face value. In 1969 it was replaced with a twelve-sided coin to differentiate it from 20 cent coin.
One dollar19849 gramsCopper 92%
Aluminium 6%
Nickel 2%
Two dollar19886.6 gramsCopper 92%
Aluminium 6%
Nickel 2%

USA

ValueFirst IssuedCurrent WeightCurrent CompositionComments
One cent17932½ gramsCopper Plated Zinc (97.5%)In 1793 it was issued as 100% copper weighing 13.48 grams, then after 1795 10.89 grams, in 1856 mostly copper at 4.64 grams, in 1864 at 3.11 grams, then since 1983 it's been Copper Plated Zinc at 2½ grams
Five cent half-dime (nickel)17925 gramsCopper 75%
Nickel 25%
In 1866 the five cent nickel replaced the silver half-dime — 90% silver, 10% copper — with its 1.125 grams of fine silver
Ten cent dime17922.268 gramsCopper 91.67%
Nickel 8.33%
In 1965 the ten cent dime replaced the silver dime — 90% silver, 10% copper — with its 2.25 grams of fine silver
25 cent quarter (two bits)17925.67 gramsCopper 91.67%
Nickel 8.33%
In 1965 the 25 cent quarter replaced the silver quarter — 90% silver, 10% copper — with its 5.625 grams of fine silver
50 cent half dollar179411.34 gramsCopper 91.67%
Nickel 8.33%
In 1965 the 50 cent half dollar reduced the silver half dollar — 90% silver, 10% copper — with its 11.25 grams of fine silver, from 90% to 40%. In 1971 it replaced it completely
One dollar17948.1 gramsCopper 88.5%
Zinc 6%
Manganese 3½%
Nickel 2%
In 2001 the Sacagawea dollar coin was issued with zero silver or gold. The earlier silver dollar coin up to 1934 — 90% silver, 10% copper — with its 22.5 grams of fine silver and the gold dollar coin with its 1.505 grams of fine gold were often hard to find in general circulation (except perhaps at Christmas time as presents)

Paper dollar notes in the US have always been far more popular when people purchased goods, however in the early years there was no guarantee any private banknote would be honoured by another bank. In 1863 the National Banking Act brought in extra control, creating National Banks with their banknotes backed by US securities, with the government itself printing US notes (called "greenbacks"), and lastly imposing a 10% tax on banknotes issued by private State Banks. In 1913 the US Federal Reserve was established, a decentralised organisation of twelve districts: Boston (1-A), New York (2-B), Philadelphia (3-C), Cleveland (4-D), Richmond (5-E), Atlanta (6-F), Chicago (7-G), St. Louis (8-H), Minneapolis (9-I), Kansas City (10-J), Dallas (11-K), and San Francisco (12-L). The US Federal Reserve Notes issued by these twelve districts then steadily replaced all other US paper dollars, in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100.

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