It has been nearly 12 years since the United States Treasury banned the melting of cents and nickels. It prohibited the export of the coins as well.
This was done in December of 2006 because the government was facing the growing prospect of the mass melting of nickels. The price of that industrial metal had soared. The public was beginning to hoard. Some coin collectors certainly were gathering up as many of the coins as they could.
Publications like this one pointed out the potential profit in melted nickels. The late Russ Rulau even wrote a story about his efforts to tuck some of the coins away for face value.
The ban, which is still in effect, surprises many. Collectors reminisce about the melting of silver coins in 1980. That is true. We do not reminisce about the period of time prior when it was illegal to melt them.
Because of a loophole in the regulation, the silver coin melting ban did not apply to the war nickels of 1942-1945, which had a composition that was 35 percent silver.
Naturally, being a collector, I check the www.CoinFlation.com website to see what the melt values actually are for coins. This beats the old-fashioned way of having to calculate values one by one with paper, pencil and calculator.
Nickel currently is $6.25 a pound. Melt value of the five-cent piece is right about an even four cents. Even if the melt ban were lifted, there would be no profit in the activity.
The pre-1983 copper composition cents would be profitable to melt. One of the coins is worth nearly double face value – 1.85 – cents at the current copper price of $2.78 a pound.
Copper has been dropping fast since the trade war with China began. Copper is primarily an industrial metal, and its price ebbs and flows with economic activity.
While most collectors like to think about the value of ordinary cents and nickels, they might find greater opportunity in platinum. It is experiencing what you might call a “half price sale.” Today, it is valued at $833 an ounce. If gold had fallen by half, we would be talking $950 for that metal. Such a price, I expect, would initiate a mad scramble to buy.
Why has this not yet happened with platinum? Good question. Platinum stll is heavily used in automobile exhaust systems. The next chapter of the trade war might hit imported cars. Tariffs mentioned would dramatically raise their cost. That would reduce car demand and demand for the platinum that goes into them.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today
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• Keep up to date on prices for Canada, United States and Mexico coinage with the 2018 North American Coins & Prices guide.