While early coins represented the value of the metal they were made of, modern day coins are issued by the government and their value is determined by free market currency exchange rates. Ideally the value of a coin should be higher than the cost of the metals used to make it, but when the price of metals, like copper, increases, pennies can end up being worth more for their metal. For example, the Canadian government has officially stopped distributing pennies
because not only do they cost almost 1.6 cents per penny to produce, but most people think pennies are worthless. But are they? Here are a few more interesting coin-related stories.
If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post