What is American Money Made Of | A Complete Guide


So you’ve started wondering, what exactly is American money made of? Not because you plan on making any (of course), but just out of general curiosity.

If this is you, you’ve come to the right place. The purpose of this article is to provide you with the exact composition of each denomination of the American currency.

In each specific section below, we will talk about the current and historical composition of American money. But for those who just want a snapshot of each coin, I’ve included a table below which gives a quick overview of the current composition of American money.


What is American Money Made Of?

American MoneyComposition
Penny97.5% Zinc, 2.5% Copper
Nickel75% Copper, 25% Nickel
Dime 91.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel
Quarter91.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel
Half Dollar91.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel
Dollar Coin88.5% Copper, 6% Zinc, 3.5% Manganese, 2% Nickel
Paper Money75% Cotton, 25% Linen

American coins are mostly made up of Copper and Nickel, with the exception of the penny which is composed of Zinc and Copper.  While the American dollar is composed of Copper and Nickel, it also contains Zinc and Manganese. American paper money is composed of Cotton and Linen.

Throughout the next section of this article, we will take a deeper dive into each coin and look at when they were first introduced as legal tender. From there, we will look at the coins historical composition and how it’s evolved and changed over time.


Composition of the Penny

The current composition of the American Penny is 97.5% Zinc and 2.5% Copper.

Current Composition of the PennyFirst Introduced Still Legal Tender?
97.5% Zinc, 2.5% Copper1787Yes

Historical Composition of the Penny

YearsComposition
1982–present97.5% Zinc, 2.5% Copper
1962–198295% Copper, 5% Zinc
1947–196295% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc
1944–194695% Copper, 5% Zinc
1943Zinc-Coated Steel
1864–194295% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc
1856–186488% Copper, 12% Nickel 
1795–1857100% Copper
1793–1795100% Copper

Composition of the Nickel

The current composition of the American Nickel is 75% Copper and 25% Nickel

Current Composition of the NickelFirst Introduced Still Legal Tender?
75% Copper, 25% Nickel1866Yes

*Unable to find precise historical data on the exact composition of the Nickel.


Composition of the Dime

The current composition of the American Dime is 91.67% Copper and 8.33% Nickel.

Current Composition of the DimeFirst Introduced Still Legal Tender?
91.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel1796Yes

Historical Composition of the Dime

YearsComposition
1965-Present91.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel
1837-196590% Silver, 10% Copper
1796-183789.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper

Composition of the Quarter

The current composition of the American Quarter is 91.67% Copper and 8.33% Nickel.

Current Composition of the QuarterFirst Introduced Still Legal Tender?
91.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel1796Yes

Historical Composition of the Quarter

YearsComposition
1965-Present91.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel
1932-196490% Copper, 10% Nickel
1796-1931Unknown

Composition of the Half Dollar

The most recent composition of the American Half Dollar was 91.67% Copper and 8.33% Nickel.

Current Composition of the Half DollarFirst Introduced Still Legal Tender?
91.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel1794Yes, but not still being Minted

Historical Composition of the Half Dollar

YearsComposition
1971– 2002*97.67% Copper, 8.33% Nickel
1965-197060% Copper, 40% Silver
196490% Silver, 10% Copper
1794-1963Unknown

Composition of the Dollar Coin

The most recent composition of the American Dollar Coin was 88.5% Copper, 6% Zinc, 3.5% Manganese, 2% Nickel.

Current Composition of the Dollar CoinFirst Introduced Still Legal Tender?
88.5% Copper, 6% Zinc, 3.5% Manganese, 2% Nickel1794Yes. Only produced as collectibles.

*Unable to find precise historical data on the exact composition of the Dollar.


Composition of American Paper Money

The current composition of American Paper Money is 75% cotton and 25% Linen.

Current Composition of American Paper MoneyFirst Introduced Still Legal Tender?
75% Cotton, 25% Linen1690Yes

Conclusion

So there you have it – an in depth look at the current and historical composition of the American currency.

If you know of any change in the composition of these coins, please let us know at our contact us page. The goal here is to keep this resource as up to date as possible, so please let us know. We won’t be offended, I promise!

For a similar article, but one that covers both the American and Canadian currencies, check out our article What is Money Made Of | A Complete Guide.

As always, thanks for reading!

Geek, out.

Noel

Noel is the founder and main contributor for his blog - Noel's passion for personal finance has helped him amass over 600k readers to his Financial Geek blog.

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