Skip to main content

Keep cents and nickels longer

The recent slide in the price of gold and silver was the headline making face of a general slide in commodity prices.

If you haven’t looked lately, the value of the metal in a pre-1982 95-percent copper cent is now just over 2 cents at .0206206, according to

It wasn’t so many weeks ago the value of the metal in the coin was 3 cents.

Nickel has also followed copper lower and that has brought the value of the metal in the 75-percent copper, 25-percent nickel 5-cent to under face value at .0493789.

I know there are a lot of people who are saving nickels in the expectation that they can make a profit someday by selling them for far more than face value. That day seems far off at the moment.

Future writers will probably analyze these small hoards as they come back either into circulation and end up as circulation finds prizes, or they do get sold for a profit many years from now.

How this plays out depends on how the prices of metals behave going forward.

The metallic value of the copper-plated zinc cent, which was introduced in 1982, is less than half a cent at .0049725, but because the U.S. Mint’s overhead is so high the cost of production is approaching 2 cents.

It would help if the Mint could crank up the volume of output by two or three or four times the current level. That would cut the overhead costs ascribed to each coin, but such is not in the cards.

None of this will likely affect the contents of the report to Congress the Mint must deliver in 2013, but it could dull the sense of urgency once Congress gets it.

High metallic values and/or active hoarding by the public does wonders to convince Congress to act.