Scrap metal value versus metal value of the actual coins – you might be surprised at some of the results
Money is a simple thing for many people, a basic question of how much they can earn, what they can buy with it, and maybe how to balance debts and shortfalls against savings and interest. For those with a more sophisticated approach to all matters financial, the concept of ‘value’ takes on highly complex economic, social and political implications and even the day to day mathematics of what your money and investments are worth can become complicated and time-consuming.
But perhaps the most fundamental value judgement of all on money is that of the raw materials from which the cash we use is made. For example, gold was used to mint coins as far back as two and half millenia ago, and some coins from as recently as the turn of the last century are actually worth more for scrap metal value than they would be if they were still legal tender. Most of these are pretty low value coins, however, and if you wanted to make a fortune from old coins you’d do better to invest in some collectibles rather than thinking about getting into the scrap metal trade!
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And as for today’s coins, on a coin-per-coin basis there is no percentage in thinking of any other use for your pocket change than to spend at the store. Few coins around the world contain actual gold these days, with most made from a mixture of nickel, copper, zinc, steel, and aluminium. The famous American quarter, for example, is made of 91.67% copper, with the remainder forged from nickel. While its value is 25 cents in the store, its metallic content is worth just under three and a half cents. The United States nickel, worth 5 cents in the store, is actually made more from copper than nickel – the two metals share a 75/25 split. However, due to the rising price of copper, the metal value of the nickel coin surpassed its face value back in 2006 – causing penny-pinching Americans to start hoarding the coins in case the metal value should soar further.
Whilst it is strictly illegal (at the moment) to melt down American coinage, or to export them for melting, observing the changing ‘fortunes’ of coins from the States and around the world can be an instructive way of getting insights into the ways that variously value systems interact. This new visual guide offers some starting clues as to just how much some of those coins are worth right now.