Collecting Nickels

I have seen more stories on nickels lately, for some reason.  Here is one piece (via LRC).  It is a good time to review the subject of collecting nickels.  Nickels are a unique investment right now.  It is the only investment I can think of that is a hedge against inflation and deflation at the same time.

It is obvious why a nickel would be a good hedge against deflation.  It is money.  It is cash.  In a deflation, your money will gain purchasing power.  If you have a whole bunch of nickels, you can use them as cash. You can trade your rolls with the bank for bills.  Holding cash is good in a deflationary environment.

Now to the inflation side of things.  A nickel is made up of 75% copper and 25% nickel.  If you take the monetary value of the metal in a nickel, it is actually worth more than 5 cents.  Right now, it is worth a little more than 7 cents.  So a nickel is actually worth 40% more than 5 cents if you take the value of the metal.

It is inevitable that the U.S. Mint will stop producing these.  It does not make sense to produce coins at a loss when it is a fiat currency.  Of course, the government does a lot of things that don't make sense, but this will come to an end eventually.  Now, it is illegal to melt pennies and nickels.  It may or may not continue to be illegal when the government changes the content in a nickel and penny.  But this does not really matter.  If you go to a coin dealer, they will actually pay you more money for older pennies.  You will get the silver value of pre 1965 quarters.  The same goes for silver dimes.  People don't melt them down anyway.  They use the recognizability of the coin and store it or trade it for the metal content.

Of course the hard part of this whole thing is that a nickel is only worth 5 cents (or 7 cents if you judge it by the metal content).  You have to collect a lot of nickels to make it worth it.  A penny actually has metal value too, but it is just too small a value and too burdensome to consider collecting pennies.

Even though you have to collect a lot of nickels, why not start now?  At the very least, don't spend your nickels.  Put them in a separate jar.  Don't trade them in to the bank.  The worst case scenario is that I'm totally wrong on this and you will one day roll your nickels and trade them in for cash.  But the more likely scenario is that Gresham's law will take hold and the money will be driven out of circulation.  As the Fed continues to inflate and money becomes worth less and less, the metal content of a nickel will be worth a lot more than 5 cents or 7 cents.

You can certainly try hard to collect them.  You can ask for a roll of nickels at a store.  You can ask for some rolls at a bank.  I would not tell them your true purpose.  At the very least, stop spending your nickels.  Save them in a jar somewhere.  Keep them for a rainy day.  If you end up saving up a few hundred dollars worth of nickels, it may turn out to be a good investment.