Making a “Gold” Penny – A Copper/Zinc Alloy (Brass)

Making a “Gold” Penny – A Copper/Zinc Alloy (Brass)

So with a little bit a chemistry we can
take a copper penny coat it in zinc metal and then melt the
copper and the zinc together to produce what looks like a gold penny.
So let’s see how we do that. First thing will need are some shiny
pennies. The year doesn’t matter as long as the outside copper Then we’ll
dissolve sodium hydroxide pellets in water to make a really strong basic
solution. And sodium hydroxide is fairly dangerous so we’re gonna be very careful with this. once or sodium hydroxide pellets that
dissolved in the water we can add zinc powder and that zinc powder is also going to solve some extent and that’s what’s gonna coat the outside
of our pennies. so here we have a hot plate with our
pennies in the solution of sodium hydroxide and then we also have that zinc powder
in there and that zind powder is dissolved in the water, much of it, is
and that’s what’s coating the pennies. It only takes about 15 to 30
minutes for the pennies to be covered in zinc. The hot plate is really useful because it
speeds the whole process up. So you can see close up here we pt the penny in the sodium hydroxide zinc solution and right away the
color starts to lighten. After just a little bit you can see it’s
been coated with zinc on the outside the penny and then after
a little while the copper color is no longer visible
which you see that zinc color. So when we apply heat that layer of zinc is gonna melt with the copper beneath
and we’re gonna end up with brass which you saw happen right there. The
nice thing about brass is that it doesn’t corrode like zinc. And
that means we’re going to have our gold penny for years to come. This is Dr. B, and
thanks for watching.


  1. Who knew Dr. B had the voice of Morgan Freeman?  Between the calm, measured voiceover and the science, that was completely hypnotic.  Also it explains the gold pennies that came in the mail!

  2. Do you know why the zinc powder stuck on the penny's sets on fire when drying? I did this experiment and I cleaned my penny and left the wet zinc on a paper towel, suddenly it spontaneously bursts into flames setting the paper towel on fire, from that knew not to place the soaked zinc into a bin…

  3. Will this work with a quarter, if you start by stripping the initial quarter's coating (by heating quarter and dipping in methyl alcohol)?

  4. HI Mr. Wayne. Im a total chemist noob. Zero basic knowledge of chemistry whatsoever. I have a question though, can the color of brass be changed without losing its anti rust properties? Last question, can we take any metal with its specific properties and mix it? If I wanted to learn chemistry, what is the best place/books to start base on your recommendations? Thanks!

  5. Dr.B my only problem with this is wouldn't the zinc metal react with the sodium hydroxide to produce an insoluble hydroxide wouldn't be easier to use zinc chloride solution to plate the copper penny instead

  6. I've had a gold penny I found for many years and always wondered if there was anything special about it. Well, nothing to special, but maybe I can sell them for a few extra dollars.
    I love science so maybe it is special!

  7. What is the purity of the sodium hydro oxide used. Please give the quantity of NaOH that is to be used per litre of water in simple lab demonstration.

  8. It can wear off but to make the color last longer (either silver or gold colored) put it in a place with no oxygen like a ziploc bag squeezing all of the air out of it then closing the bag making sure it is completely closed will let it have less oxygen.

  9. Thank You for the great video and information. You answered some questions that I had about zinc and brass. Again Thank You.

  10. I've been making these for years using the zinc from inside 1982 and newer pennies, what a complete hassle that is using a blowtorch and a big needle piercing the pennies and the mess of the copper clads, but tonight for the first time I followed your advice and  ordered some zinc powder and used one big tablespoon full and instead of doing 10 it coated 35, and I'm going to try to do 30 more tomorrow with the same solution and zinc powder still in the Pyrex bowl. 
    I'm going to be Father Christmas this year, Thank YOU!

  11. i remember the old days where you can take a normal copper penny and put it on top of an incandescent light bulb and after a few hours it will turn gold.

  12. if that's true then howcome when you heat a newer pennie it will not turn gold after all all pennies after 82 car coper and zink

  13. If you can't access zinc powder, another option is a "Flanged Insert Nut" (very common at your standard hardware store). Some of these are just zinc plated, but there are many that are a zinc alloy with a larger percentage of zinc.

    Or you can grind up (or sand down) a newer (after 1982) US penny. They are 97.5% zinc (plated with copper).

    If you still have Canadian pennies lying around you need to look for the years 1997–1999. Those are the only years they made them mostly from zinc (98.4%). Between 2000-2012 (when they stopped making them) Canadian pennies were made from steel (94%).

  14. Wait so from the comments I'm reading, technically if you heat up 1982 pennies and newer (which more zinc inside) would it make brass? So you could skip the dangerous solution part entirely

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  16. so cool! now I know how to electroplate brass onto almost anything. first it must be copper plated, then put into a sodium hydroxide (lye) solution with zinc.
    should last longer than brush-plating brass

  17. it will work without a hotplate Mines working right now the edges of the penny are silver and the face is starting to be covered.

  18. Please at 1:22 you heat the penny, transforming it in brass, so please, what is the minimum heat to reach for this ?

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