Lincoln Pennies Get a VpCI® Make-Over


Patina is a word used by numismatists to describe ancient coins, not new circulating coinage. Patinas form on metals, like copper and actually protect them from further surface abrasion. Caused by water vapor and airborne sulfur compounds that react with copper and other metals, a patina is a natural incrustation or oxidation. Every time a penny is held in someone's hand it oxidizes. The more a penny is handled, the more its shiny surface dulls forming a tacky brown coating. So much for a coin's image.

Alltrista Corporation of Greenville, Tennessee makes the penny blanks that are shipped to the US Mint for stamping. The old method of processing blanks consisted of a toxic and flammable rinse of BTA (benzo triazole) in a solution of Isopropyl/alcohol to inhibit surface degradation. This solution caused staining, which gave the blanks an uneven appearance. The post-plating process necessitated a more effective, drier film protection, without a sticky, slow-to-dry surface. A treatment process was needed that would keep pennies tarnish-free longer while eliminating toxicity and flammability issues.

Cortec Corporation was brought into the penny, face-saving operation in 1982. Cortec's VpCI®-316 was applied in a 1% solution to a re-circulating rinse system. The blanks were dipped, rinsed and steam dried for a more effective, drier film protection against corroding elements. Cortec's VpCI®-316 is a water-based lubricating film that works through a unique vapor phase action producing a thin transparent protective coating on metals.

VpCI®-316 leaves a residual lubricity that is drier and more effective; it actually prolongs the life of the dies at the US Mint up to five times longer. The product was designed to replace hazardous corrosion inhibiting products for copper, brass, copper nickel alloys and silver. VpCI®-316's environmentally acceptable formula is nitrate, phosphate and silicone free eliminating the fire hazard and chemical toxicity associated with oil/solvent-based inhibitors.

Since Cortec became involved, 365 billion pennies have been protected with VpCI®-316. Because millions of pennies land in household penny jars, the mint is constantly replenishing dwindling penny reserves at the rate of 20 billion pennies a year. That's why the U.S. penny represents 35% of all coins minted in the world. The case for the sparkling penny is a case for embodying universal symbols and founding Fathers in shinning symbolic completeness.