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Is Mint Lucky or Good?
November 26, 2007

Back safe and sound from your holiday weekend? Good.

I wasn't expecting to be in the office, so this was prepared ahead of time. The day before Thanksgiving, I checked to see what the current metallic values were for cents and nickels.

Prices have been tumbling with the stock market. Because copper and nickel are industrial metals, demand is primarily from users who grow or contract with the overall economy.

With the stock market going into panic mode reasonably regularly since late July, it probably should be no surprise that metals are making their way lower regardless of what gold is doing.

Copper has fallen below $3 a pound to $2.9386, taking the value of the old 95 percent copper cent to approximately 1.95 cents each.

Nickel has declined to $13.3802 a pound. The five-cent coin is now worth 6.1 cents in copper and nickel metal. We have come a long way down since spring when I was writing that the coin was worth nearly 10 cents.

The real shocker for me and anyone who doesn't follow the market daily is the price of zinc. It is less than $1 a pound at .9943. The copper-coated zinc cent that has been made since 1982 is now worth .57477 cents each. The Mint might actually be able to make a profit again at that level. Certainly there is no threat of melting for this particular coin.

If metal prices keep declining we will have to ask ourselves: was the Mint lucky or good when it did not rapidly move to change the alloys when the price increases first threatened the viability of the cent and nickel coins. What do you think?

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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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