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Keep the copper cent

Them’s fightin’ words if you are in a hobby discussion about whether the Mint should continue to strike one-cent coins for daily use.

However, I put “copper” in the title to indicate that I wonder how many individuals are saving the pre-1983 cents that were made of a 95-percent copper, 5 percent zinc alloy?

With a current melt value of 2 cents apiece, it seems like a no-brainer to keep any copper cent that comes your way.

But is it?

First off, the profit that seems so obvious cannot be realized because there is a ban on melting the cents to recover the metal that would realize the profit when sold.

So owners of copper cents are stuck.

They have something of value that cannot presently be realized.

Will the time come when cents can again be melted and profits realized?

Perhaps, but no one can know when that might be.

The funds tied up in cents could be tied up for many years.

It is possible that many other investments would do far better. Sell the copper cents and buy silver Eagles, for instance, or sell them and buy gold Eagles if you have a lot of copper cents.

Certainly a gold or silver Eagle would be easier to store.

Rather than profit, the only good reason to hold onto copper cents is to ask how holding them makes you feel.

If you feel connected to the good old days of circulation finds, then holding copper cents makes sense.

They are a ticket to wonderful memories of our past and no one can put a price on that.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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One Response to Keep the copper cent

  1. Vachon says:

    Something tells me the venture would hardly prove profitable regardless. There’s 152 pre-1982 cents to a pound of copper. A ton of copper would be approximately 304,000 cents. How much space does that take up? How much does it cost to store? How much time has to go into separating those coins from the “Zincolns”? How much to transport all that? What is the refiner’s percentage (assuming melting is legal)? Seems like a lot of effort to roughly double your $3,040 per ton investment.

    Maybe that’s why so many 95% copper cents are still floating around. I imagine the same would be true for the nickel should its composition ever be changed.

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