Reading the headline of this post, you might wonder why it is newsworthy that a nickel is worth a nickel. The answer is that around this time last year, a nickel was worth almost a dime! I'm talking about the melt value of the U.S. nickel coin, which is actually made out of 75% copper (and 25% nickel.) Most people are aware that the U.S. Mint stopped making the penny out of copper back in 1982 because the metal in the coin was worth more than face value. For the better part of the past two years, even the post-1982 zinc pennies (which have only a thin copper coating) had a melt value approaching one cent, and the expenses of producing the penny sent the production cost well over face value. The nickel is suffering a similar fate, even though its melt value has been hovering near its face value the past couple of weeks. The U.S. Mint is working with Congress to craft an appropriate bill that would allow the Mint to strike U.S. coins in alternative metals; an attempt to pass a bill mandating steel pennies by 2009 passed the House but got stalled in committee in the Senate. The Mint strongly opposed that bill.
Numismatic News, via their Numismaster.com Web site, reported on August 14 that the nickel's melt value was $0.0492888 (just below 5 cents), but the price of nickel bullion has since rebounded a little, to a teeny bit above 5 cents. You can track the melt value of all major U.S. and Canadian coins, plus many world coins, via Coinflation.com. Coinflation.com is one of those "gee-whiz, what a brilliant idea" type of sites that are listed in my Top 10 Coin-Related Web Sites.