Steel was first introduced in the United States in 1864 by a company called Union Metallic Cartridge. It was created for gunpowder, but ended up being used in other fields of production as well. In the 1950’s, these pennies were demonetized because they were thought to be instruments of espionage and counterfeiting.
Steel pennies make for an interesting collectible with some unique characteristics. Since they are not redeemable as US currency, some people will try to bypass this fact by exchanging them for some other type of coin. Steel pennies are quite common; you can find one in any general store in any town.
They have value only if you just like them for their looks, or if they have sentimental value. Most steel pennies are worth less than a dime, so it is usually better to use them in a trade rather than redeeming them. The penny was created in the United States around the time the country was transitioning from coins made of gold and silver to coins made out of copper and zinc.
Should you clean steel pennies?
If the penny is just a little bit dirty and is still shiny, then I wouldn’t normally clean it. But if it has been handled by lots of people and has grease or oil on it, then a quick cleaning with some warm soapy water should do the trick.
Avoid using any metal scourers on the penny, since you might scratch it up. For more ways to clean old pennies
Does cleaning steel pennies make them lose value?
Cleaning steel pennies won’t make them lose their value. If they are still in uncleaned condition, then they will be worth something. If you clean them and remove the darkening of the copper, then they will not be worth as much.
How to Clean Steel Pennies
Steel pennies are quite common, and while they have no real monetary value, they can make a nice keepsake. The only thing that generally goes wrong with them is that over time they start looking rusty and grubby due to exposure to the air and dirt.
The best way to clean them is with a bit of vinegar and baking soda! You’ll need:
- baking soda
- cup or bowl for mixing the solution in
Just combine one part vinegar, one part baking soda, and two parts water in your cup or bowl. There’s no need to use any measuring devices or spoons, just eyeball it.
Once you’ve got the solution in your cup, just drop the steel penny in, swish it around a bit, and pull it out. You can see that mine was pretty rusty before I swished it around.
After a five-second dip in this magic solution, this is what my penny looks like! It’s still not perfect, there are a few dark spots and some of the original colorings is gone but it’s way better than it was!
After you rinse off your penny with running water (or spit!) you can pat down any remaining baking soda residue with a dry paper towel. It took me about a dozen pennies to get them all clean, but it’s so worth it. If you have any tips or tricks you prefer do let me know! Enjoy your shiny steel pennies!
What can you soak pennies in to clean them?
While soaking the pennies in a bowl of vinegar to neutralize the salts from the water, then rub the pennies with steel wool to clean off any remaining corrosion.
Be sure to rinse the penny off before putting it back into your coin collection. Bring one-quarter cup of water to a boil. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and one tablespoon of vinegar. Stir and let stand for thirty minutes. Soak your dirty penny in this solution for a few minutes.
Use an old toothbrush or soft rag to scrub off any rust stains or dark greasy spots that are left behind, to reveal shiny and fresh-looking pennies! Then rinse them off with cool water (or spit if you’re out of water!).
Soak your pennies in a cup of plain white vinegar and a couple of drops of dishwashing soap. Scrub the pennies with a toothbrush or soft cloth to remove stubborn rust stains. Then rinse them off with cool water. It’s also great for cleaning pennies without damaging them.