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Penny for thoughts on copper

I was startled this morning when I checked the website to see that the prices of copper and nickel dropped rather sharply.

Copper was down 9.9 cents to $2.5983 a pound and nickel was down 31.07 cents to $5.7372 a pound.

These are sharp movements for a single day.

What I had actually gone to the website to check was the current melt values of the nickel, the copper-coated zinc cent and the old 95 percent copper cent.

The value of the copper and nickel in the nickel is 3.72909 cents.

Obviously, the threat of any potential melting is now purely theoretical at some point in the future when the metals might have higher market values.

The copper-coated zinc cent has a metallic value of 0.5418 cent, or just over half a cent.

Again, no danger of melting here.

The 95 percent copper cent still has a melt value higher than face value.

It is 1.72465 cents.

It remains illegal to melt cents and nickels, so the idea of making a profit from selling the metal in the old copper cent is as theoretical as for the nickel.

For the copper cent, the Treasury regulation to enforce a ban on melting still serves a purpose.

With the nickel, economic self-interest due to low metal prices renders the ban redundant.

Does this overnight price change on the website tell us anything more than the theoretical profits and losses on melting cents and nickels?

I think I will come back to this site a little more frequently than I have been visiting it in recent weeks.

Silver and gold prices have not been particularly strong. Are weakening copper and nickel prices canaries in the coal mine, warning that further weakness might occur in the precious metals?

It is a question worth asking.

Spending a minute to visit the Coinflation website is probably a good investment in awaiting an answer.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."