Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Does Copper Bullion Make Cents?

I attended a coin show sponsored by the Cedar Rapids Coin Club last weekend. It appeared to be well attended by both dealers and visitors. Judging by the contents of the dealer's display cases I'd estimate that 95% of coin collectors are interested in Morgan Dollars. To be fair though, that's like saying most gamblers play slot machines because that is what you see most often in casinos. Visitors could find most coin types displayed somewhere or in notebooks. Currency and civil war tokens were well represented and there were more gold, world, and ancient coins than I remember in previous shows.

New to me however, was copper bullion. I've seen the videos of people hoarding pre-1982 US copper cents and I know the melt value of one 50-cent roll is currently $1.15. But, according to the US Mint:
"...the newly enacted final regulation prohibits, with certain exceptions, the exportation, melting or treatment of one-cent and five-cent coins...a fine of not more than $10,000, or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both, against a person who knowingly violates the regulation."
The fine and the threat of prison, or both, takes the fun right out of melting pennies, doesn't it? However, you might point out, there is speculation to be had in hoarding and selling rolls of pennies. Nothing illegal about that, is there? But there is the problem of finding pre-1982 copper pennies in quantity.

Smelters, sensing a new market, have filled the demand with copper bullion. The bullion market makes the metal easy to obtain in quantity, but with a value quoted in dollars per pound, you will need a lot of load-bearing storage space.

Some people still want copper cents because they expect an economic apocalypse of some kind. Personally, I'm not so pessimistic on the US economy to be hoarding copper, silver, or gold in any form. In fact, in an economic apocalypse, I'd expect copper in the form of insulated wire to be more useful than bullion. I'll be limiting my coin show speculations to Morgan Dollars.

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