Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Penny

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PENNY, a British coin (formerly of copper, since 1860 of bronze) and money of account, the 12th part of a shilling. It was at first a silver coin weighing about 22½ grains troy, or the 240th part of a Saxon pound. Till the time of Edward I. it was so deeply indented by a cross mark that it could be broken into halves (thence called half-penny) or quarters (fourthings or farthings). Its weight was steadily decreased till at last, in the reign of Elizabeth, it was fixed at 7 grains, or the 62d part of an ounce of silver. Copper pennies were first coined in 1797, but copper half-pennies and farthings had been in use from 1672. The old Scotch penny was only a 12th of a penny sterling in value, the pound being equal to 20 pennies sterling.

In the United States the term penny is commonly used for “cent,” the 100th part of a dollar. It consists of 95 per cent. of copper and 5 per cent. tin and zinc. There are 1,000,000,000 pennies in circulation throughout the country and the Philadelphia mint is turning them out at the rate of 4,000,000 a month to keep up the supply. Copper blank sheets are bought by the government large enough to cut 100 cents from. On reaching the mint the sheets are cut into strips, from which the round blanks called planchets are punched, and these run directly through the stamping machines. Then they go to an automatic weighing machine, which throws out all the imperfect coins. In 1897 Pennsylvania took the most pennies, 11,000,000. New York came next with a demand for 9,000,000, and in New Mexico, where the penny is little used, only 4,000 were asked for. It is estimated that 100,000 pennies a year are lost in various ways.