Why is the outside surface of a penny made of copper and not zinc?

Coinwiki Answered First
Traditionally, the US penny (or, more properly, the US one cent coin) has been made of copper or copper with a small amount of zinc (except in 1943, when it was made of steel with a zinc coating). During 1982, as the price of copper meant that the "melt value" of the coin was more than one cent (that is, it had more than one cent's worth of copper), the decision was taken to produce the penny out of a cheaper metal - zinc. A coating of pure copper (equal to 2.5% of the total composition of the penny) was added so as not to change the appearance of the penny.
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Alloy made of copper and zinc?

  Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.

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