(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 percent of the global supply of nickel mined in the country. The next highest was Canada, with 17.1 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent in Fiscal Year 2021. For the 16th year in a row, nickels were more expensive to produce than they were worth as cash.