TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Amid war in Ukraine and market chaos, nickels are now worth more in melted metal than their face value. But before you empty the piggy bank and fire up a smelter in the yard, there are a few things you should know.
According to McKinsey & Company, Russia was the largest exporter of raw nickel in the world before the war, with 21.1% of the global supply of nickel mined in the country. The next highest was Canada, with 17.1% of raw nickel mining in the world. The war in Ukraine has injected instability into the global market causing the value of the metal to shoot up as much as 250% in a single day in March, according to the London Metal Exchange.
On Reddit, some Americans have discussed the value of hoarding nickels as a potential investment and a hedge against inflation. Nickel has value outside of coin production, it is used in car batteries, among other products.
If you were to melt down a single nickel today, the metal would be worth approximately $0.079, or nearly 60% more than the coin’s face value. At those values, a $2.00 roll of nickels, containing 40 coins, would be worth $3.18.
There are also a few problems with the thinking behind nickel-hoarding, one of which concerns the legality of melting coins. Melting nickels, dimes, quarters and pennies for the purpose of simple destruction, creating art, or other non-economic purposes is still legal in the U.S. — but it’s illegal to melt nickels to sell the metal itself.
It’s also worth noting that today’s nickels are only made with 25% of the metal they’re named for, according to the U.S. Mint. The rest of the coin is made with copper. (Ironically, pennies are mostly zinc instead of copper. The copper-plated coin has only contained 2.5% of the valuable metal since 1982.)
So even if you stuff nickels under the mattress to hedge against inflation, only a small part of the coin’s value would rise with the cost of raw nickel.
In reality, the 5 cent nickel has been expensive to produce for some time. The U.S. Mint reported the nickel’s unit cost rose by 14.8% in Fiscal Year 2021. For the 16th year in a row, nickels were more expensive to produce than they were worth as cash.