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When cents become a bother

I am getting lazy about cents. I find that it is becoming more of a chore to look at the dates of the coins I get in change.

Does this have anything to do with the falling price of copper?

I consider myself a collector.

I have checked change for years, but it was only in recent years because of the sky-high copper price and the Treasury ban on melting the pre-1983 copper coins that I began to segregate my cents.

In the past nine years in day-to-day transactions I have managed to accumulate $15 face value in copper cents.

Yes, that is a suspiciously round number. I pick it as an estimate simply by looking at the size of the container I have been putting the cents in.

Do I really want to bother counting 1,500 cents to determine if the actual figure is 1,399 or 1,673?

Not on your life.

Cents don’t have much value, especially when I already know that virtually all of them date only to the 1970s and there are no scarce pieces.

There is one lacquered piece that looks wonderfully well preserved. It is from the 1950s. Even here, I cannot bestir myself to want to take a look at it to nail down the date that I no longer remember. I only have the memory of getting it a year or two ago and wondering if I should put it into my copper stash.

I checked the Kitco website this morning to see what metals are doing.

While I noticed gold was down $9.50 to $1,124.50, I was more interested in copper. It is $2.32 a pound.

The melt value of a pre-1983 cent is only 1.54 cents.

This profit though is purely notional as the Treasury ban on melting makes any attempt to realize it futile.

Besides, what am I going to do for $7?

The smelter would likely take most of it.

Then there are shipping costs.

You get the idea.

Copper cents are just not worth bothering with once you have made the determination that the coin in hand is not a 1909-S VDB or 1914-D.

So I face a decision.

Will I continue to expand my little copper hoard at the glacial pace of the last nine years or will I cry uncle and simply throw the copper cents into my change regular container along with the copper-coated zinc coins?

Even in my lazy state of mind, I might not yet be willing to go that far yet. We’ll see.

There are many copper cent hoards out there across the country. Some are quite large.

The next downturn in the economy might just see them going to the bank as their owners fight to pay their bills. This is what happened to huge numbers of state quarters in the Great Recession.

With copper so cheap, it is likely to happen to the pre-1983 cent hoards if tough times come again.

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

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