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Look, We're Stress Free
June 05, 2008

Most days of the week I check the Web site to see what the metallic values of the zinc cent and the nickel are.

It is a handy site if you want to know those numbers because it sure beats making the calculations myself or setting up something on my computer to calculate it for me.

Though it is illegal to melt cents and nickels, the concept of melt value is a handy one. It is an indicator of the level of stress on the supplies of these and other coins in the U.S. banking system.

If the melt value rises, you can be sure that the risk of hoarding rises. If the melt value falls, the risk of hoarding falls.

What are the current numbers? Well, when I checked this morning, the copper-coated zinc cent was valued at slightly more than one-half cent as metal. To be precise, as the site is, the number is .0052711. Nobody in his right mind would be tempted to melt anything that would reduce its value by half.

There would appear to be no stress on the cent supply from a threat of hoarding. A previous blog where I mentioned the significant decline of Mint output of cents would confirm this. Any incipient hoarding would show up as increasing demand for the coins from the Mint and that would make production totals rise.

What about the nickel? Numismatic News ran several pieces by Russ Rulau last year about hoarding and what is currently found in circulation. This seemed a reasonable topic when the price of the metal in the coin very nearly reached 10 cents, or double the face value.

The current value, though still over face value, is .0577402. That means that on a $1,000 face value, if you could melt everything without cost to you, you would have copper and nickel worth roughly $1,154. Since accumulating the coins, shipping the coins and melting the coins cannot occur without cost, there doesn't seem to be any hoarding stress on this denomination either.

Current mintage figures confirm this. They are down, too.

The Web site also provides melt values for other coins that are useful. These run from the 90 percent silver coins to the current clad compositions.


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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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