Rising metal prices increasing value of coins

That nickel in your pocket is almost worth what you think it is.

Rising metal prices have pushed the intrinsic value of the old copper penny to almost 2 cents, and a nickel is worth nearly 5 cents.

Metal prices are booming – gold briefly crossed the $600-per-ounce mark Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange – but the value of the metals in American purses and pockets is beginning to challenge the actual purchasing power of some coins.

According to coinflation.com, a Web site that tracks the metal value of American coins, the metal in old copper pennies is now worth 1.74 cents, and the newer zinc-based pennies are worth 0.72 cent each. A nickel, thanks to its copper and nickel metal content, is now worth 4.2 cents.

“Who says a nickel’s not worth a nickel,” said Todd Martin, an economic adviser to People’s Bank in Bridgeport, Conn.

Prices are so high for metals that Martin joked it might be worth it to break a $20 bill for a $2 purchase and say, “I’ll take the change in pennies please.”

But you might want to think twice before trying to melt down that piggy bank full of change, because to collectors the value of a coin can have little to do with its metal content.

In the 1940s copper was badly needed for the World War II effort, so the U.S. Mint used steel to make pennies. However, it also minted a small number of copper pennies, which are now each worth thousands of dollars to collectors because they are so rare.

A 1793 penny is considered so rare one would be worth more than $275,000, according to Americans for Common Cents, a Washington-based group formed to fight attempts by Congress to eliminate the penny.

(via Detroit News

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