Treasure hunt in a box

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

pennies and amelia bedelia

We’ve got a new craze at our house involving rolled pennies.

Seth is the resident expert, so I am going to let him tell you about this latest venture:

“We started buying rolls of pennies and taking out every penny made before 1982. Pennies made before 1982 are 95% copper and are worth exactly 2.28872 cents. Pennies made after 1982 are made of 97.5% zinc and are not worth a cent(I mean melt value not face value.) Pennies made between 1909 and 1958 are wheat cents,and any pennies made before that are hard to find.

I have gone through a total of 110 rolls of pennies ($55.00 in pennies), and have found $14.38 in copper pennies(1959-1982) worth exactly $32.91 melt value,  19 wheat cents, and 8 Canadian pennies.”

Okay, I will try to decode that for you.  Basically, pennies made before 1982 are worth over 2 cents in metal value, were it legal to melt them and sell them as copper.  It’s not legal, but people believe that pennies will be taken out of circulation someday and then it will be.  People do buy boxes of copper pennies on Ebay for close to melt value, planning to save them until they can be sold for their metal/melt value I assume.  Pennies made after 1982 are not even worth a cent in terms of metal value.  My kids are having fun just sorting their pennies, setting aside the “coppers” and “wheaties.”  All “wheaties,” also known as wheat cents, are made from copper, but are worth even more than melt value because they are collectible coins.  Wheat cents made between 1944 and 1958 are worth 3 cents, those made in 1943 or before are worth at least 10 cents.  This is the collectible value, not the melt value, mind you.  All the pennies made after 1982 are rolled up again and turned back in at the bank, while all the others are saved as treasures found.

Bottom line, this is a nice quiet activity, so I like it.  If you pick up a new bag of library books after stopping at the bank, you may end up with some kids quietly sorting coins, while others look at Amelia Bedelia, and it just might be an awesome hour or so if you time it all so that the baby is napping while the choking hazards pennies are on the table.  (Penny rolls come in boxes of 50.  Seth and Keats each bought a box.  Gabe opted to spend his money on a slingshot that day instead.)

Looking for a cool birthday gift for an older kid?  How about a box of rolled pennies?  It’s a treasure hunt in a box.  Totally fun.


  1. Canada is taking the penny out of circulation within the next year. Not sure what year they stopped being made from copper, but it might be worth finding out. They could be melted down and sold.

  2. Marcie in Canada says:

    Hi Ginny,
    Great project. I love it when the kids initiate it!
    We collect old coins here and I could send Seth a few, they’re all Canadian.

  3. How did you/Seth get into this in the first place? So cool.

    We’ve used coins to learn about history. Each kid grabs a coin and has x amount of time to learn everything he can about that year.

    • Seth and I are trying to trace this back…probably to coins that I have from childhood that Seth discovered in a box, followed by gifts of old coins from grandparents. Over the last few years he has stayed interested in coins and did research on his own about the values of coins. He decided to start “pulling coppers out of circulation” when he realized they are worth more than twice the face value of a penny. He continued to research and learned what other collectors are doing, and has just gone from there. I am just an innocent bystander 🙂

  4. Thanks Seth! I have a five year old son who loves coins. I’ll share this with him and he can have his own treasure hunt!

  5. I took thank you. I have several jars that need to be sorted and I really wasn’t interested in doing it. It might be a little more fun now.

  6. How wonderful your children are! I think my gang could get lost in your adventures for weeks!

  7. This is just plain awesome.

  8. Jennifer Stuart says:

    Thank you so much! My big kids were sick today and I needed to go to the bank anyhow….a great activity (and investment, to boot!) Only 1 wheat penny so far, but many more pennies to go….

    Also, I’ve been reading your blog for years…but only since you posted about visiting Summer did I realize what a small world it is. I lived in Chattanooga when she did and we became friends (I taught her to knit socks!). I loved realizing that we had a real person connection in addition to the kinship I felt from you from reading your blog.

    I planned my raised garden beds based on your nice symmetry 2 summers ago, by now. And my 3 year old twins have your Bea’s wispy hair. Much to the dismay of my photographing husband…they always look a mess. I don’t think I can count the number of people I have shown your post about when your girls “found” the kittens on the driveway.

    Thanks for all the great post about kids, gardens, knitting and books (and bees…I’m still working on my husband there though).

    • That’s so cool that you know Summer! I guess I can thank you for the two pairs of socks Summer knit me years ago (a pair for me, and a baby sized pair as well!) Thanks for introducing yourself!

  9. ah the joy of sorting!


  10. I have a couple of homeschool questions related to your awesome kids; Did you suggest this activity to them? What kind of help did you provide? I’m reading about project based learning and I’m finding it a new thought (although why it should be so, I don’t know!) that the kids would do the research/leg work/mindless boring details of their own projects. Also, forgive me if this is something you’d prefer not to share, how many days a week do you stay home? This post looks like a dreamy day at home. thank you!

    • No, I didn’t suggest it. It was my oldest son’s idea. He is kind of the leader of the pack when it comes to this sort of thing. He has a lot of interests and is very good at pursuing them. The only help I provided was driving him to the bank and helping him to talk to the teller. My other children aren’t as self directed as he is though. I am about to read Project Based Homeschooling and hopefully will get some good ideas on helping my other kids find and pursue interests as well. Typically they do whatever Seth is doing. As far as how many days/week I’m home, do you mean me? I don’t work outside our home. As far as a dreamy day, well….let’s say a dreamy half hour. That would be more accurate 🙂

      • Thank you for your reply. About the days home; I meant how many days in a week do you and the kids go out for scheduled activities (class, groups, etc)? I’d love to hear your review on the Project Based Homeschooling book! The author’s website is very interesting also. Cheers, and have a good rest of your week.

        • Oh, silly me. Keats has a violin lesson once/week and all three boys have piano on another afternoon each week. That’s it though as far as outside activities during the day (with the exception of spontaneous hiking trips and things like that.) There are seasonal sports as well, but that is in the evening.

  11. I am going to be taking a much closer look at my pennies!

  12. Get him interested in 50-cent pieces, specifically the Kennedy ones prior to 1969…one 50-cent piece from 1967 can be worth in the neighborhood of $3.50 and one from 1964 can be worth $8.50…yes, those are for “each.”

    When we cleaned out my grandparents’ basement, we found a safe filled with Kennedy 50-cent pieces. At face value, we had around $700. Of that $700, about $300 were 1969 or earlier. I turned that $300 face value into about $3000. It was crazy. And that doesn’t include the quarters or nickels…

    • Oh he is! He excitedly picked up a silver half dollar at the bank just today. The teller held up a stack of them, and he picked out the silver one just looking at the edges of them. I can only imagine the excitement of finding that safe! What a real treasure!

  13. What a great activity!! I also think it is cool Gabe bought himself a slingshot. My brother and I had fun as kids with our slingshots using acorns to shoot at targets. So great.

  14. Way cool!

  15. What a great idea! I wonder if Canadian pennies are the same? Maybe I should pick up a few boxes and see if I can make some extra $$, seeing that Canadian pennies are going out of circulation. haha

  16. that is cool info. now we are going to have to look thru our jar of pennies.

  17. What a great idea, My girls would love to do this. I’m going to have to start saving pennies (they have stopped making them here in Canada) and find out the melt values of our canadian ones 🙂

  18. That is really cool! I live in Canada and pennies have recently stopped being made and will be out of circulation very soon. A lot of stores have started rounding up and don’t give pennies back out in change but are bringing them straight to the bank. Very interesting!

  19. I have always been fond of pennies. I rarely spend them. As a kid, I’d separate and roll them by years, always searching for certain dates. I still examine the 1982s closely for the “large date/small date” error. I think there’s a date in the 70s with this error as well. 1970 maybe? I still find wheat pennies on a regular basis in change I get from stores. They seem to have a way of finding me. 🙂 My hubby and I have a large glass piggy bank (stands about 3ft tall and about 1ft wide) that we are slowly filling with pennies. Part of me wants to dump the whole thing out and sort them!

  20. You have awesome kids. That is all. 🙂

  21. Very cool project. We have been looking through our other coins for those with the high silver content. I will now need to add pennies to our list

  22. When my children were younger I used pennies to teach them to count, to add/ subtract, to stack, ect. I have an old milk jug that I store my pennies that I have been saving for about 25 years. The joke was to one day line them up, side be side on the roof, then take a blow torch to them for a one of a kind copper roof. My husband told me that was defacing government property and won’t allow it ;), Now I have no idea what to do with all of these pennies, the jug is full and can’t be moved.

  23. That is so cool! I wonder if a similar principle applies to UK pennies? I’ll have to find out. We’ve been metal detecting our land and have found two coins – a Farthing and a Half Penny – dating back to the late 1690’s! We’re planning a home school project based on what our village would have been like back then… So many ‘lessons’ to learn with a simple penny 😉

  24. What a cool activity. I used to count coins when I was a kid, but this would have been even more fun.

  25. Does Bea have new haircut? It looks like she does in the last photo 🙂


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