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Time to Notice Ordinary Nickels Again
December 30, 2009

I didn’t plan it that way, but yesterday’s blog about clad coins segues nicely into the news that the metallic value of the U.S. five-cent coin, popularly called the nickel since its introduction in 1866, once again has exceeded face value. It has been quite a long time since this has been true as copper and nickel prices had been knocked hard by the financial crisis.

I noticed this yesterday on the Web site after the commodity markets had ceased trading.

The premium over face value is slight and it would not pay to melt coins at current values, but the .0508741 value is enough to prompt me to remark that the new year will probably revive the question in Congress as to just what the coin should be made of.

It probably is not a priority and it easily could be postponed as long as overall coin demand remains light and the Treasury ban on melting or exporting the coins remains in effect.

The nickel is not a clad coin. It is a homogenous alloy of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. The irony is that the price of copper has more effect on the melt value of the nickel than does nickel.

The value of the current copper-coated zinc cent is .0065694, so there is no imminent danger of melting of this denomination.

The old 95-percent copper alloy pieces is another story. Each of these cents now has a metallic value of more than two cents, or .0217706 to be Coinflation precise. The melting ban makes this just an interesting point.

What will the future bring? What I know is I will be watching the Web site closely in 2010. Perhaps you should, too.

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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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