Have you ever wondered why some metals are magnetic and others aren’t? It’s all to do with what they are made out of. To find out, get some coins out of your pockets, it’s time for a test! Today we’ll do a science experiment to see if your coins are magnetic or not depending on how old they are. This experiment is perfect for children in Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 to help them to understand more about why some metals are magnetic and others are not.

You will need: Magnetic coins equipment

  • A bunch of coins including one pennies, two penies, fives and tens.
  • A magnet, you can get some super strong magnets which we used in this experiment here.


  • Search your house and your pockets for coins!
  • Place all your ones, twos, fives and tens on a flat surface. You may wish to make them into a shape or pattern to make the experiment more exciting or could group your coins into 1ps, 2ps, 5ps and 10ps.
  • Run the magnet over them and see which ones are attracted to the magnet, these are the magnetic coins!

The science bit: magnetic coins experiment

  • Since 1992, 1ps and 2ps have been made out of copper-plated steel instead of the previous alloy of copper, tin and zinc. Steel is magnetic so pennies made after 1992 will be attracted to the magnet when it is close to them. Pennies made before this will not be magnetic.
  • Since 2012, 5p and 10p coins are made out of nickel-plated steel. You had magnetic coins in your pockets all along without knowing! 5p and 10p coins made before this date will not be magnetic.
  • For other coins like 20ps and 50ps, their composition is 75% copper and 25% nickel. Because copper is not magnetic and there isn’t enough nickel in them, these coins won’t be attracted to the magnet.

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