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Turn copper to silver or gold

The price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Iola, Wis., was $1.989 this morning.

That brought a smile to my face.

The scars of paying $4.259 a gallon in July of 2008 are still in the back of my mind.

However, the same economic forces taking gasoline lower are also working on commodity prices generally.

Copper is at lows not seen since 2009.

It looks like a test of $2 a pound is in the offing. We will see.

With a price of $2.0846 a pound posted on on Friday, the popular website that lists the current melt values of numerous U.S. coin issues shows the pre-1983 copper cent has a current melt value of just over 1.38 cents.

Unless you have something like a 25-year time horizon, it is looking more and more like holding the old cents in quantity in hopes of making a profit just isn’t going to work out.

It is still illegal to melt them. The ban has been in effect since 2006.

Even if the ban is lifted, there is insufficient margin a 1.38 cents a coin to generate a profit to the owners of the coins.

Mintages of the Memorial cents also are so huge that there will not be a numismatic scarcity factor in my lifetime.

Individuals might simply enjoy holding onto a hoard of cents.

From time to time the general news media reports on purchases made with stashes that have been accumulated over many years.

Inertia is a powerful force. It is likely that many hoards will just sit in place. After all, it takes some effort to take them to the bank to get folding money.

There is also that small voice in the back of the mind that says somehow or other these coins might someday generate a profit that will make them worth keeping however improbable it looks today.

In the past 15 years holders of gold and holders of silver made huge profits, especially if they were dextrous enough to get out at the 2011 highs.

Profits to holders of copper cents as of this morning – a big fat zero.

It looks like it might be a good idea to trade out the cents for some bullion or numismatic items that might be better in the long run.

Take the cents to the bank and use the cash to buy silver American Eagles.

If the hoard is big enough, use the proceeds to buy a type gold piece in Mint State, whether it is a $2.50 or a $20.

It wouldn’t hurt to throw in some extra money and use the current low prices to build a complete gold type set in Mint State.

When the next up cycle arrives, the silver or gold coins are more likely to generate greater profits than hoarded copper cents.

Perhaps the copper cents that are turned in will be spotted in circulation by budding young collectors and give them a circulation finds treat.

That would be a bonus.

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