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Melt values over face for coins

Copper popped to $3.63 a pound, nickel entered the record books at $9.38 a pound, and the value of a copper cent (pre-1982) suddenly makes sense to melt. At the same time, the U.S. five-cent coin became profitable to melt down since it now is worth over five cents at May 9 prices.

There are 2.204622 pounds in a kilogram and 5 grams of weight in a five- cent coin, three-quarters of which is copper, 25 percent of which is nickel.  The resulting calculation is $0.0206793 per gram of nickel, and $0.0080027 per gram of copper. or about three cents? worth of copper. The total is a little over five cents.

Given fabrication costs, it probably costs the U.S. Mint more than five cents to produce each five-cent coin, or soon will. (See related story.) The copper-plated zinc cent is also causing the Mint cost headaches. Though not applicable to U.S. coinage, some of the world?s aluminum coinage may be in jeopardy, as that metal moved to 18-year highs.

There?s no evidence that the coins are being melted or removed from the circulation pool yet. How long will that last? Nobody knows.

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