Letter Re: Stockpiling U.S. Nickels Versus Clad Quarters

James Wesley:
I read with interest your article on saving nickels. My question to you is why are nickels better than quarters?  Is it not easier to store a larger sum of funds in the same physical space with quarters than nickels?  If they do devalue the [printed] US Dollar by a factor of 10, then a nickel will [effectively] be worth 50 cents but a quarter will be worth $2.50. 
Regards, – Richard F.

JWR Replies: As a hedge against a zero (or two) being dropped from the paper Dollar, nickels (the U.S. five cent piece) and clad quarters are indeed comparable.  But from the perspective of base metal content value, consider:

A debased clad quarter (91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel) is actually worth $0.0516021. That base metal is only 20.64% of the coin’s face value.

In contrast, a nickel (75% copper and 25% nickel) is actually worth $0.0536129. That base metal is 107.22% of the coin’s face value.

So, by their base metal content, each nickel is worth slightly more than a quarter!

(Reference: Coinflation.com. Access date: 22 September, 2012.)

In summary, the U.S. Nickel is the ONLY instantly-recognizable coin in common circulation that is worth more than its face value.  Granted, the pre-1981 U.S. pennies are presently worth 248% of their face value, but those require sorting–either time-consuming sorting by eye or electronically with a $500 Ryedale coin sorting machine.

Though I stocked up substantially in 2006 and 2007, I still ask for a $20 tray of nickels each time that I visit the bank. Someday my children will thank me for that.

Back in 1963, you could walk into a bank and walk out with all the 90% silver quarters you could carry. Each silver quarter is now worth $6.24. That is 2,496.42% of face value. (Again, according to Coinflation.com.) I see nickels as a similar opportunity for our generation. The composition of the U.S. nickel has been the same since 1946. But once it is inevitably debased (most likely to a stainless steel slug with a base metal value of less than 1/10th of a cent), our window of opportunity will close. Stock up!