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Before 1982, the US made copper cents (not pennies) that are basically 95% copper. Thereafter, they have made zinc cents that have a small amount of copper- basically a plating. In 1982, they made both types, easily distinguished by their weight; copper=3.11 gms vs zinc=2.5 gms.
Because of the increasing value of copper, the copper cents have been hoarded. The practice is somewhat reminiscent of the hoarding of pre-1965 silver coins.
Copper has sometimes reached values that make a cent worth more than a cent in melt value. In the US, it is illegal to melt coins for their metal value.
Some "investors" believe that, eventually, the cent will be discontinued and no longer legal tender, allowing them to cash in on the copper. This is problematic in a practical sense (you have to collect and store a lot of them, wait for something that may not happen in your lifetime, then melt them, then sell them - and have the price of copper remain high enough).
I think some practices (hoarding for melt and using them as solder tips, or fuses) may be ill-advised. But, we all make mistakes.
But isn't it true the tips may be copper under the skin but any I'm aware of are iron plated. to keep the copper from dissolving by the solder, in use.
Older and very cheap irons typically use a bare copper tip, which is shaped with a file or sandpaper. This dissolves gradually into the solder, suffering pitting and erosion of the shape. Copper tips are sometimes filed when worn down. Iron-plated copper tips have become increasingly popular since the 1980s. Because iron is not readily dissolved by molten solder, the plated tip is more durable than a bare copper one, though it will eventually wear out and need replacing From - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldering_iron#Tips
Na man, I'm sayin just the tip, not the entire shaft. But I honestly didn't think mods would let me **** post like this lol. I grabbed a handfull of pennies and ~1/3 of em were pre-1982 and for a guy like me who bought a soldering iron with a flimsy tip who is determined to get his moneys worth, it would be a mistake to call this ill advised. It's not only as good as when I 1st bought it, it's better cause now it's breaking the law.
See, just jam it in there. Youtube vids of it soldering like new upon request