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Cent, nickel melting ban imposed 10 years ago

The U.S. cent and nickel melting ban will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Dec. 14.

It was imposed as an emergency measure.

Old pre-1982 copper cents and any nickel were worth far more than face value as the year 2006 came to a close.

The United States Treasury was understandably concerned about a coin shortage caused by melting.

Sporadic cent shortages in the 1970s and 1980s made life miserable for officials.

A shortage of nickels in 2006 would have been far more disruptive.

High prices for copper and nickel at the time theoretically made it very profitable to melt the two coins.

In fact, an Ohio company’s business model was destroyed by the ban.

Metal prices have since declined.

However, the 95-percent copper cent still is worth more than face value.

The metal in it is valued at 1.69 cents, according to the Coinflation website.

For the nickel, the metal in the coin is currently worth 3.5 cents.

That means the nickel is safe. Market forces now work against melting the coin.

Even the old cent probably cannot be melted profitably at the current price of copper. It probably would cost serious money to acquire sufficient quantities to make it practical.

However, even if it could be melted profitably, so what?

Coins struck before 1982 are much older than the Mint’s projected life span of the current zinc cent, which is given by the manufacturer of the blanks as 25 years.

Copper coins are hardly seen any longer in change anyway.

The danger that their melting could precipitate a cent shortage is long past.

Treasury officials can relax.

When they do, they should lift the melting ban.

Government regulation that is no longer needed should be abolished.

Will it be?

I expect not.

In a hundred years, long after Americans have forgotten what cents and nickels are, the melting ban will probably still be on the books.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017. He is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”


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2 Responses to Cent, nickel melting ban imposed 10 years ago

  1. CoinRules says:

    I have to disagree with Mr. Harper on his statement that “Copper coins are hardly seen any longer in change anyway”, and his insinuation that this lack of pre-1982 cents makes collecting them not worth while. Although it may be a waste of time for an individual to spend his time trying to amass a large stockpile of copper cents, it is not a waste for all. Having worked in an industry that processes coin extremely profitably, I can attest to the fact that there is a model whereby pre-1982 cents can be culled with great efficiency from the general population of coin. In doing so, the single largest source of coin, outside of the FRB and financial institutions, could be sitting on a huge windfall if the melt-ban is ever lifted. I will be in a position to profit from this legislation if it ever comes about.

  2. Bob says:

    In going through pocket change and coin rolls, I see around 20-25% that are 95% copper. The numbers are clearly declining, but they are still out there in good numbers, at least in my part of the country…

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