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Copper search worthwhile?

I had an email the other day from a fellow who wondered if pre-1983 95-percent copper cents would be good things to save for their copper value.

I responded with the following:

“If you can obtain them for face value and hold them until it is legal to melt them, you probably can make a little bit of money on them because they already have 2.3 cents’ worth of copper value at current prices.

“However, this play might take five or 10 years to work out.”

It was a busy day and I could have easily made my reply longer.

I think for anybody who is actively searching through large quantities of circulating cents to see what is out there as a means for adding coins to their collections, saving the copper cents is a no brainer.

However, to undertake something that you have not done before just to find copper cents might not be a good idea if it takes you away from something else you would rather do.

And at the end of the day, how many copper cents can you realistically hope to find in whatever time you might spend in the search?

One thousand dollars face value would be 100,000 coins.

At today’s prices, if the melting ban were lifted their value would be $2,300, or a profit of $1,300 minus whatever the margins are for the middlemen and the smelter.

If you are looking for an inflation hedge, you could buy one gold 1-ounce gold coin easily enough and then spend all the hours you would have spent searching for copper cents on learning about a new series to collect.

It has been proven over and over again that if you master a classic series and buy coins at the top end, you will make far larger profits probably in less time than on any hypothetical cent search.

But the bottom line is do what you enjoy. Profits have to be secondary to this.

Otherwise, why not just get a part-time job to fill your extra time?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."