The metallic value of the copper and nickel in the U.S. five-cent piece has gone to over nine cents.
Commodity market fluctuations have pushed nickel to $22.50 a pound and copper to $3.40 a pound as of April 10.
It is currently illegal to melt or export the American nickel. It is composed of an alloy of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. This has been unchanged since 1866.
Though the Mint has been concerned enough about potential melting to see to it that the melting prohibition was imposed in December, it has not yet publicly addressed the basic issue that it costs more than 10 cents apiece to strike each coin, leaving it taking a loss on each coin currently being produced.
Congress would have to act to authorize a change in composition, but no proposals have been discussed in public.
Nickel is a critical ingredient in the production of stainless steel. A building boom in China and elsewhere has pushed demand up sharply.