Cleaning Pennies?

We collect pressed pennies. You’ve seen the machines around tourist destinations: put in two quarters plus a penny and net an oval pressed penny souvenir! We like these because they are:

  1. Cheap
  2. “Cool” metal souvenirs depicting where you visit
  3. Kinda fun to make
  4. So prevalent!

Want to elevate your pressed penny game? Start with the right pennies, and make sure to clean them. About now I should say it’s bad to clean valuable coins! These guys are getting smashed so we want them to shine. Here’s what to do:

  1. Take your penny jar and sort out the ones that are from 1981 and earlier. These have much higher copper content and make for better pressing. rimg_7445
  2. That’s a good start, but they are so dirty! Clean copper looks nicer. Make a solution of 1T salt to 1/2C vinegar. Soak the pennies in there. The change is quick, and dramatic.rimg_7446
  3. If you want, scrub them down with a brush/toothbrush. Dip the brush in baking soda to get them really shiny. Rinse them off really well and dry them. Here are some before and afters:
    rimg_7447
  4. Think about how you dissolved 35+ years of nasty grime and environmental toxins with an aqueous acid solution, and then soaked your hands in this solution, while possibly neutralizing the acid with a base and precipitating whatever nastiness was on the pennies onto your hands. Wash hands thoroughly, discard the cleaning liquid and wash the containers well. You know what? Wear gloves next time!
  5. Store the pennies in a dry place so they don’t oxidize too quickly. Plastic bag with desiccant is pretty good if you have it. Mini-M&M tubes make a good storage sleeve for quarters and pennies.
  6. Take them to a National Park, or other destination, and find a penny press! Here is the most comprehensive list I’ve found. My two from Valley Forge.rdsc_9944

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