Silver nickels? Save your Nickels! What you Need to Know about nickels

by David Hathaway

Silver nickels and golden dimes – or what you find in your pocket change!

Are you doing due diligence with nickels? As many LRC readers know, nickels are the only real “money” being distributed by the U.S. Government at this point in time. The value of the metal in a nickel equals the fiat value assigned to it by the state.

This cannot be said about the currently produced pennies, dimes, quarters, or half dollars and certainly cannot be said about the paper money or the even more insidious and plentiful computer digit money that we are forced to use. Nickels are uniformly marked, impractical to counterfeit, and easily recognizable for their metallic content (75% copper, 25% nickel).

So, is it really that easy to get real money in exchange for the worthless stuff floating around? Yes, it still is. You walk into a bank, hand the teller a 20-dollar bill, and walk out with 10 rolls of nickels. There is no dealer markup. There is no sales tax. There are no shipping fees.

There is no capital gains tax or value added tax. It almost seems impossible in this day and age. It soon will be impossible. We are temporarily in an era with nickels that is analogous to the pre-1965 silver coinage period. Coin composition is slated to change during the 2013 fiscal year.

So, what are the issues that would preclude a person from taking advantage of the inevitable increase in the value of nickels when compared to the fiat dollar? Well, there is one small issue and one slightly bigger issue. The small issue is obtaining the nickels and the bigger issue is storage. Both issues can be resolved fairly easily for most people. First, let’s look at the smaller issue.

Silver nickels and golden dimes

You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot when obtaining nickels; not to mention your fellow hard-money brethren who are doing the same thing. Don’t go into a bank and make a grandiose gesture by asking to speak to the branch manager and discussing the bulk acquisition of $1000 or $10,000 worth of nickels.

I have read articles where people proudly describe the incredulous looks they get from the bank employees and the follow-up questions administered by the bank staff from such an action. These articles usually include a description of how they schooled the bank employees about how the customer was hoarding nickels as a hedge against inflation. Don’t have this conversation with the bank. You don’t want to be the source of new bank policy restricting the acquisition of coinage. Some banks may charge a percentage for obtaining coins but, most still don’t. With nickels it is still so easy.

You need to have a systematic outlook. What you do is always lay down a 20 dollar bill and ask for 20 dollars in nickels. No more. That’s all. Make this fit into your lunch break at work, your commute, your exercise routine, or your shopping routine. You can go to one, two, or three banks fairly quickly. Don’t get the coins using your debit card or a check. Keep it to a simple hand-to-hand cash transaction. You don’t want multiple computer entries showing up on your bank account at different bank branches 10 minutes apart.

It looks like you are doing something. Banks look for patterns and they will ask more questions. You aren’t doing anything wrong but, once again, you don’t want to make waves. You want to be able to continue getting your nickels. Giving out $20 in coins is no big deal to a major bank but, retailers that get coinage regularly usually do have to pay extra for the privilege.

Small account holders and even non-account holders are usually given “small” amounts of pre-rolled coinage in exchange for paper currency as a courtesy at no charge. You want to be in the small customer “courtesy” realm on this issue. Being in a slightly bigger town is a plus but, not essential.

If you happen to be on a lengthier shopping trip or road trip, you can get $20 worth of nickels ten times fairly quickly at ten different banks. Remember, you don’t want to be responsible for the issuance of new restrictive policies within your local banking world. Banks talk to each other. They go to conferences. If only a few guys in a town of a million people are trying to get large quantities of nickels on each transaction, the word will get out and policies will change.

You won’t believe how quickly you acquire nickels at this rate. You quickly get in and out of the bank since you are not doing account-related transactions. You get 400 nickels each time you hand over a 20-dollar bill. The transaction usually takes less than a minute. If you do this twice every day on your lunch break, you will have nickels coming out of your ears. Don’t try to do it at a quicker rate. You will end up causing problems.

The second issue, which is really the point of this article, is the storage of your nickels. One of the first rules for obtaining and storing metal as a hedge against inflation is to take possession of the metal yourself and to not trust someone else to store it for you.

A warehouse receipt can be next to worthless in a hyperinflationary environment and is subject to the same type of mishandling that has been seen in metal futures, ETFs, and other paper forms of metal. Nickels do present a challenge for storage but, the challenge is not insurmountable.

Silver nickels and golden dimes

Green military style ammo cans are a very tempting solution. They have one serious drawback. They look valuable. That wall of ammo cans in your basement really looks like a stash of something worth stealing. The larger size (generically called .50 caliber ammo cans) are too heavy when filled with nickels. The smaller size is easier to handle. They weigh about 35 pounds when filled.

They hold about 88 rolls. Each roll contains $2 face value of nickels. So, you are preserving about $176 face value of nickels in one ammo can. To get up into multiple thousands of dollars, you will have quite a wall of ammo cans. They get harder and harder to conceal. They won’t fit in a floor safe or that hollow brick like your gold coins do.

So, what’s the answer? After years of experimenting, I have found the perfect solution. Home Depot sells pre-cut 24-inch sections of thick walled 4-inch black ABS pipe. They also sell the 4 inch ABS end caps and ABS cement. This combination makes a perfect long-term burial solution. The ABS cement causes a reaction to occur that is the chemical equivalent of welding the plastic end caps on by chemically softening, melting, and then permanently binding the adjoining surfaces of the two plastic pipe fittings together. PVC pipe also works. The nickels will last for decades in pristine condition underground when stored in these pipes.

I had an occasion to dig up 10 pipes recently containing a total of 560 pounds of nickels that had been buried for three years. The store bar-code stickers hadn’t even come off the pipes yet. The pipes with the caps glued on with the ABS cement still looked brand new. Each of these pipes holds 122 rolls of nickels on average. The pipes weigh about 56 pounds when finished.

I have found that drilling a tiny hole with a small drill bit aids with pushing on the final cap since the glue makes the caps airtight and the air pressure makes it hard to push the second cap on. The air relief hole allows the cap to slide on easily before the cement binds the parts together permanently. The small hole can then be filled with ABS cement to make the pipe watertight. To get the nickels out, you will have to cut the pipe open with a saw.

After preparing multiple pipes, dig a trench. It will look like you are installing a water line or a sewage pipe. The 24″ X 4″ inch black pipes look like sections of sewer line. You can rent a trencher to make the process quicker and to reduce prying eyes. I have found that even sensitive metal detectors cannot detect the pipes when they are more than 12 inches deep. To be on the safe side, you can make your trench 18 to 24 inches deep. Even if they are buried less deep, they have the metal detector signature of a buried water pipe and won’t look like an attractive target to unearth.

Silver nickels

I will address one more point since I hear this all the time. How do you cash in the nickels for the metal value? You don’t in the short run. This is not a buy and turn over proposition. You don’t have to worry about the legalities of melting coins. People don’t have to melt down pre-1965 silver coins to get the metal value.

There will always be a market for the actual metal value in the coin. You don’t have to melt down gold coinage to get the metal value. Some day, when the effects of massive inflation are more evident, you will have your hedge against inflation and you will be able to sell your coins for their metallic value as you need to.

In the case of nickels, they won’t have to be assayed. They are marked and it is obvious what they are. Their metallic content is common knowledge. There is no down side with nickels. If nothing else, you have gotten your money out of computer digits and you are holding it in tangible form for the coming banking crisis. It just so happens that you got full value for yours in incorruptible metal form with a picture of one of the less offensive presidents stamped on the side.

David Hathaway is a former supervisory DEA Agent who homeschools his nine children. He enjoys writing about the injustices of the state. Copyright © 2012 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.


  1. axelsteve says:

    I live in an area with several indian casinos.I would but them there in 40 dollar increments and claim that they are for the nickel slots. I may also do the same at the local banks. Giving the appearance of a gambler is still legal and being a prepper is suspicious.

  2. Backwoods Prepper says:

    I believe if the SHTF and we end up seeing a new goverment paper money will be worthless but the coinage we have now will be adopted into the new monetary system. Unless its a debit type card. We save all coinage at home as a savings account. We have no bank savings account and we only deposit into our checking account what we will be writing out of it. I do have several hundred dollars here at home for emergency.

  3. Good info.

  4. Pete, the Windy City Viking says:

    I’ve been collecting and storing $2 rolls of nickels intermittenly over the last six months whenever I go to my credit union, local grocery store, etc. Note that some banks won’t give you rolls of nickels unless you’re a customer and some grocery chains will charge you for the privilege.

    If I don’t make a profit off of them in the future, I can always take my loot to Vegas for a fun weekend at the 5 cent slot machines…

  5. When I was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for people to have door stops.
    Not the kind of door stop that is on the wall behind the door, like many door have today, but a weighted object that was placed in front of the door when it was open, to keep it from blowing closed. With most homes and/or businesses having air conditioning today, the “old style” of door stop has all but disappeared.

    What does this have to do with nickels?
    I’m going to make a couple of Door Stops, that look “antique-ish” and fill them with nickels so they can be hidden in plain sight.

    I worry about people with metal detectors finding things outside.

  6. Cliff in Douglasville says:

    I would swear I read this same article somewhere else yesterday. I think it’s already been published.

    • PGCPrepper says:

      It was published earlier but it’s not entered in the non-fiction writing contest. Last paragraph in the article indicates a 2012 Copyright date with permission to reprint if author is credited.

  7. I don’t get the whole storing nickels thing. I know its pushed alot on the internet, but it makes no sense to me.

    Since the start of the save all nickels campaign the price of the base components of nickels, nickel and copper has declined from about 6 cents to about 5 cents, the value of the nickel. So what do we get for storing nickels, five cents value currently and who knows in the future, it could continue to decline for all we know.

    Copper which actually acounts for 75% of the content varies in price and can be expected to decline if there is some sort of industrial slow down as it is generally an industrial metal. The same can be said for nickel.

    Could it work out, sure, it might and it also might result in you having a boatload of nickels to throw at people.

    Perhaps I am simple minded, but I would prefer something that actually has a use that insures its value to me over a commodity whose value is set by markets.

    Oh and the required “You can’t eat nickels”.

    • Thomas,

      As for nickels losing value think about it… a nickel will always be worth a nickel, while that dollar in your wallet is worth less every week… If you go to the bank and get $20 in nickels in exchange for a $20 paper note then you still have $20. As for paper money vs metals well you know paper money is going to keep losing value. How could you possibly lose?

      • MD, if paper money is losing value then the nominal value of a nickel, five cents, is also losing value/worth less. So in case of inflation, if a $20 is diminished in value so that it can only buy you what a $10 buys you now, then the nominal value of a nickel would likely halve as well.

        In that case you would have to rely on the commodity value of the nickel to recoup the current value of the cash you put into it. There is no gaurantee that the commodity value will be any greater than the face value or will change at all from what is today. Now if you throw in the prospect of a serious meltdown where there may be no immediate value available for the commodity involved, crashing economy for example, and you would have a problem converting the commodity to something usable.

        I think usable commodities are a much better inflation hedge, but I am no expert. Re: the hedge…we all know that the devil’s greatest weakness is landscaping, so that works in its favor.

        • Thomas,

          The United States nickel is made up of 75% copper and 25% nickel. If you don’t think it’s worth it or that the metal value by weight will rise against the dollar then please go buy something else. Personally, I would rather have $1,000 in nickels stashed away than $1,000 of paper notes that I know are going to continue to lose value. A nickel will always be spendable at face value, and may even increase several times its value, while paper money has no intrinsic value.

          My advice is to get your other preps in order first, then invest in fine silver, junk silver and nickels just don’t go overboard with the nickels a thousand dollars face value is about right. It’s call covering all of your bases – but please if you don’t thinks storing nickels is a good idea then don’t as with everything else written it is a suggestion and not an order.

          • Fair enough. Reasonable people can disagree on all sorts of things and I am far from the expert. It doesn’t work for me, but neither do skinny jeans on men, Justin Beiber or the collected works of Sarah Jessica Parker and lots of people are tickled pink with all three.

          • MD,

            I think what he’s saying is the same thing I said yesterday. If our economy tanks then just because a Nickel is worth .05 cents today (either face or metal), it may very well not be worth squat after the country goes in the crapper.

            For instance.. lets say our inflation goes thru the roof… and now it takes $20 to buy what $10 used to buy. Nickels will also take a hit. Even though there is metal value in the coin, we cant melt them down for metal. Last I heard destroying US Currency was a crime. If we are in a SHTF scenerio then if you try to barter with nickels then folks are gonna look at them as a nickel.

            Maybe Im missing something here.

            • SW,

              If you don’t think it’s a good idea to store nickles for whatever reason then don’t do it… All I can do is provide information (great information btw) it’s up to you if you want to follow it or not.

              I’m going to get another $20 worth Monday…

            • M.D>:

              Well put. I think that is/should be our point here. Each one of us preps differently. Some see the value in certain items, others have different priorities.

              We share our opinions, and usually OUR reason for that decision. They we let others make their own decisions. Sort of like the opposite of what the government does.

          • worrisome says:

            We have a “Doubting Thomas”. Always good to have a different opinion……..makes us think. As for me I “think” I will keep saving nickels, I have been doing it for the last 4 years :)

        • Thomas T. Tinker says:

          Thomas: I think people are speaking to the intrinsic nature of the metal.. copper in most cases. I could be wrong. Unless the Federalies force us into a ‘cashless’ society, it is less, very less likely to ‘re.. issue’ its coinage. A growing number of latin American.. Eastern countries have a huge problem maintaining coinage in circulation due to it’s citizens smelting the coins for the metals. The humble Nickel is the last one we have that is worth it. recall the nickel and reissue it and we will just have another slug to pass off at the ‘reset’ rate of exchange. Surf around and get a handle on how many.. tons.. of Nickels are crossing our southern border and smelted for the same reason. Relative to the cost of the raw metal, Nickels are just as worthy a candidate for the pot as the.. tons.. of U.S. junk silver that is smelted every week right here in this country.

      • georgeislearning says:

        The melting of coinage is against the law and not something one should suggest. The saving of a nickel to hedge against inflation is the same as saving a dollar bill once you take out the fact you can’t or shouldn’t melt it down for metal. to each his own. I thank you for the article

        • georgeislearning,

          When did I say anything about melting it? And no saving a paper note (dollar bill) isn’t the same as saving a nickel one has value on it’s own the other is only paper.

          After the government mints new coins with different metal content (this should start in a year or two) the law against melting older coins the current run of coins may be lifted.

          Laws against melting doesn’t matter though, as once the value of the base metal starts to climb, a new investors’ market will emerge for those coins just like there currently is for junk silver coins.

          Even if it doesn’t, a nickel still worth 5 cents, so in the absolute worst case, you will break even…

          If you feel safe saving paper notes or want to invest in something else that’s great…

          • georgeislearning says:

            How does a nick;e have value other then as a nickle vs a dollar bill. They are one in the same unless you melt the nickel down.

            I never said I feel safe saving a dollar over a nickle. Since they are the same it wouldn’t matter either way. The only way a nickle has value if the dollar has no value is if you melt the nickel down.

            Personally I prefer to save silver, gold, ammo, guns, tools and items that actually have worth if the us dollar fails. The nickle is the same as a us dollar, unless you melt the nickle down.
            To each his own thank you for the response

            On a side note

            • georgeislearning,

              They are not the same… is a “junk silver” coin struck in 1964 or earlier only worth its face value? What makes those coins worth more… you guessed it, it’s the metal content of the coin.

              In the near future (one year maybe two) nickels will be composed with different (and cheaper) metals and the old nickels will be worth more

            • Thomas T. Tinker says:

              +100 The year the Nickel is minted as a slug…. everyone of them in circulation, minted before that, will evaporate from the market. Ya gotta make the disconnect with ‘Fiat Curenncy vs. metal backed… or metal content ‘MONEY’.

            • Only thing the paper dollar has going for it over coinage is that you can clean your backside with it. Be kinda hard with a nickel….lol.

              That being said I get rolls of nickels every trip to town.

              • It seems that most folks think that a economic collapse will be the end of everything forever and everyone will be crawling about on all fours rutting for grubs and eating tree bark – forever…

                Wrong, people want stability, order and they want an economic system and trade and they will turn to metals (as they always have) and will educate themselves as to it’s value in the market quickly…

                But anyway, the U.S. Mint will be diluting the composition of new production nickels within the next year or two at the most, and as has happened in the past in every case,the composition change caused the value of the original coin to skyrocket in price. I look for a nickel to be worth 10 – 25 cents each in the near future.

            • georgeislearning says:

              I guess I just didn’t understand. Some kind souls here pointed out that i needed to seperate my thought that coinage and fiat were differant. I didn’t get it. I searched reread searched some more and reread and rethought my positions on the subject. It now glares at me with the brightness of the sun. I thank you for continuing to poind into me your thoughts until I recieved it properly. I now get it. I am on board and will add nickels and pennies pre 82 to my storage. I thank you yet again for your information.

  8. Texanadian says:

    An interesting article. The poor man’s guide to precious metals.

  9. I’m curious why you didn’t get the pipe so that you could simply screw on the end caps – or a least one end of the pipe. The threaded end could still be sealed using plumbers putty or the equivalent. Doing this would make the containers re-useable – an important element when things HTF.

  10. Whoa, it was deja vu all over again for a minute there. Knew I’d read this before somewhere, somewhen. It’s not nice to befuddle me after a
    long insomniac night….lol.

  11. ….but a VERY good article!….and I for one will be following up with your advise…thanks for sharing.

  12. exile1981 says:

    In Canada the penny stops being circulated after February 4th and nickels are being discussed as the next coin to be removed from circulation. Any Canadian penny made prior to 1996 has more copper then the new ones and is actually worth about 2 cents in copper.

    I find this site useful for determining the melt value of coins

  13. I have read a lot about people storing nickles and i don’t completely get it.

    Some suggest doing it as a hedge against inflation. While I get that, why not just do it in gold coins which can always legally be melted down and are less cumbersome to maintain a large monetary value of.

    Others suggest doing it for trading in a SHTF situation. I don’t think this makes sense as it would depends on others’ perceived value of the nickel and if they dont know about metal, they might not value it as worth much at all. Similarly, something like 1/2 gram gold coins/bars make a lot more sense

    If I am horribly missing somethign, please educate me.

    • That’s pretty much what Im thinking. If you’re gonna hedge against inflation why not take that nickel and invest in either silver or gold. Everyone understands those two metals.

      To my knowlege… 1gram is the smallest gold you can buy and it will set you back around 67 bucks. 1/4 oz of silver (prolly the size of a nickel or dime) will set ya back around 9 bucks.

    • FarmerKin says:

      When you buy silver or gold coins, they all sell at a premium over the spot price. This means you get charged, basically an overhead fee for each coin. Remember, it costs money (time, effort & equipment) to make the coins. This fee makes it expensive to invest in small portions (1/2 oz., 1/4 oz.) of these metals. Look on, right now the fee is $2.69 per coin on 1 oz. silver American Eagles, and $76.99 if you want a 1 oz. gold American Eagle. Bars are a little better at $1.49 for 1 oz. silver and $34.99 on 1 oz. gold, where a 1 gram bar can run around $10-$12. BTW there are 31.15 grams in a troy ounce.

      Investing in nickels is just a scaled down version (poor man, if you like) of investing in silver and gold, and without the associated fee. You can simply save the coins that pass through your hands in normal exchange or be a little more aggressive by seeking them out at banks etc. And you can do it without anyone having any record of it. So no one is going to knock on your door to confiscate the X number of nickels you’ve been saving.

      Copper and nickel both have value as does silver and gold, just in different proportion.

      Did you know that during WWII, pennies were made of steel and nickels were made with 35% silver, because the copper and nickel were needed for the war effort? Those coins are now sought after by coin collectors. And yes, they fetch more than face value or melt value. So as you can see, it’s about more than melt value.

      The unknown here is how long it will take before these coins are appreciated. That requires patience, but so do most other investments.

      I don’t intend on storing large quantities of them, but I will not spend one that comes across my palm. I never make exact change, so as to intentionally receive change. You never know what you may find.

      And as others have said, if it’s not for you, that is fine. It is a lot of mass and weight to deal with. But for those who make the effort, it could turn out very well.

  14. Any long term barter system requires some type value assignment for services and goods. Normally this is worked out in the open market and a norm is established for the area/region. Gold and silver are advertised as instruments to hoard because of their value as a precious medal. What is not considered is that a majority of those that make it through the initial stages of the collapse are not going to have much in the way of gold and silver sitting around. Gold and silver are useless since they will not be enough in coin to help establish a trade system. Script is easily forged. I’ve read that coins will end up being the script used since they can not be easily forged in a collapsed society.

    • Dan,

      “Normally this is worked out in the open market and a norm is established for the area/region”

      I would expect this on a long term basis and not short term. Personally, I would value anything that has no tangible value (any coin) as near worthless for quite a while after such a situation. Early civilizations only used money (gold) for greater exchanges of goods and services. For anything smaller it was just barterer and trading.

      Also, the value of a nickel’s copper and nickel components are based on industrial and commercial use of the metals. in a SHTF situation, i doubt many people will be melting metal down to use for anything. Thus, intrinsic value drops to near nothing.

      I would expect it to take years and years in a SHTF situation for there to be a common coin value established and there is no reason to believe that anyone at the time will care about nickels.

      • John,
        Though I agree with you generally, I think the focus is not on a post collapse value but on a long decline type of situation where inflation is destroying the purchase power of money. If the value of the commodities involved go up along with inflation, copper and nickel prices go up, then your investment tracks with inflation and you have preserved the original money invested.


      • [quote]
        Also, the value of a nickel’s copper and nickel components are based on industrial and commercial use of the metals. in a SHTF situation, i doubt many people will be melting metal down to use for anything. Thus, intrinsic value drops to near nothing.

        I would expect it to take years and years in a SHTF situation for there to be a common coin value established and there is no reason to believe that anyone at the time will care about nickels.

        Thanks kinda my thinking. I guess I could see melting down the metals if you poured your own bullets. Since most bullets now days are copper jacketed… why not make a solid copper bullet. At least you’d have projectiles to reload your brass with.

      • Early civilizations used more bronze and silver than they did gold. Ancient coins have also been made out of many other substances. If you are looking to rebuild a civilized society than barter does not work and most barter systems that are started evolve quickly to a monetary type system. In a barter system there is no way to compensate for hired labor in a fair way. Barter has always been regulated for it to work. There has never been a true barter society.

        • The Romans used bronze for the vast majority of their coinage , such coins ( even the gold and silver ones ) were thin and small , roughly the size of the modern dime . Bronze , brass , or copper ………the metal value and content was generally irrelevant as the Empire dictated what it was worth in trade . The Romans practiced price fixing .

  15. Tactical G-Ma says:

    I guess it is worth considering.

  16. Here is what JWR has to say’…

    Mass Inflation Ahead — Save Your Nickels!
    By James Wesley, Rawles — Editor of

    Updated, December 15, 2012

    I’ve often mused about how fun it would be to have a time machine and travel back to the early 1960s, and go on a pre-inflation shopping spree. In that era, most used cars were less than $800, and a new-in-the box Colt .45 Automatic sold for $60. In particular, it would be great to go back and get a huge pile of rolls of then-circulating US silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars at face value. (With silver presently around $30 per ounce, the US 90% silver (1964 and earlier) coinage is selling wholesale at 22 times face value–that is $22,000 for a $1,000 face value bag.)

    The disappearance of 90% silver coins from circulation in the US in the mid-1960s beautifully illustrated Gresham’s Law: “Bad Money Drives Out Good.” People quickly realized that the debased copper sandwich coins were bogus, so anyone with half a brain saved every pre-’65 (90% silver) coin that they could find. (This resulted in a coin shortage from 1965 to 1967, while the mint frantically played catch up, producing millions of cupronickel “clad” coins. This production was so hurried that they even skipped putting mint marks on coins from 1965 to 1967.)

    Alas, there are no time machines. But what if I were to tell you that there is a similar, albeit smaller-scale opportunity? Consider the lowly US five cent piece–the “nickel.”

    Unlike US dimes and quarters, which stopped being made of 90% silver after 1964, the composition of a nickel has essentially been unchanged since the end of World War II. It is still a 5 gram coin that is an alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel. (An aside: Some 1942 to 1945 five cent coins were made with 35% silver, because nickel was badly-needed for wartime industrial use. Those “War Nickels” have long since been culled from circulation, by collectors.)

    According to, the 1946-2011 Nickel (with a 5 cent face value) had a base metal value of $0.0733 in February, 2011. That was 146.7% of its face value. Because of the global recession and the fact that both nickel and copper are primarily industrial metals, the melt value of a nickel declined to just $0.0498 in June, 2012. But I predict that as inflation resumes–most likely beginning in 2013–the base metal value of nickels will rise substantially, regardless of the weakness in the industrial economy.

    The Root of the Problem

    It is inevitable that any country that issues a continually-inflated fiat paper currency will run into the problem of their coinage eventually having its base metal value exceed its face value. When this happens, it is one of those embarrassing “emperor’s new clothes” moments. Unless a government takes the drastic step of lopping off a zero or two from their currency, this coinage problem is inevitable. In essence, we were robbed by our own government when silver coins were replaced with copper sandwich coins in the 1960s. I predict that essentially the same thing will soon to happen with nickels.

    Helicopter Ben Bernanke will inflate his way out of the current liquidity crisis. through artificial lowering of interest rates, massive injections of liquidity, and monetization of the Federal debt. That can only spell one thing: inflation, and plenty of it. Mass inflation will mean much higher commodities prices (at least from the perspective of the US currency.)

    Starting in 2009, I began warning my readers that a nickel debasement was coming. But since then, I’ve pleasantly surprised to see that the government moved at a snail’s pace, in implementing the change. In February, 2010 it was announced that the Obama administration had endorsed a change in the metal composition of pennies and nickels. And then, in November 2010, President Obama signed “The Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010”. Then, in late 2011 came news of the introduction of H.R. 3694 (the Saving Taxpayer Expenditures by Employing Less Imported Nickel ACT — aka the “STEEL Nickel Act”. It now appears likely that the STEEL Nickel Act the will be signed into law in 2012 and the U.S. mint will begin producing debased steel nickels in 2013.

    In January, 2012 this was reported: Mint begins trial strikes in composition tests. The good news is that the trials strikes are part of a two year study. (The contract runs through June 30, 2013.) So we may have some extra time to stockpile nickels before the debasement. Once this change is implemented, you will then have to manually sort the “old” from the “new” debased nickels! But for now, there is still an open window of opportunity, during which time SurvivalBlog readers can salt away countless rolls, bags, and boxes of nickels. I am grateful for the delay in the nickel debasement, but this window of opportunity is likely to close in 2013. Act accordingly.

    Within just a few years, the base metal value of a nickel is likely to exceed two times (“2X”) its face value. (10 cents each.) The nickel will then begin to disappear from circulation. (Gresham’s Law is unavoidable.) Unlike the mid-1960s experience, the missing nickels will not cause a crisis, since pennies will suffice for making small change, and most vending machines now use dimes as their smallest purchase increment. Meanwhile, most bridge tolls and toll roads have inflated so that tolls are in 10 or 25 cent increments. The demise of the nickel will hardly cause a ripple in the news.

    Unless the Treasury decides to drop the issuance of nickels entirely, the US Mint will within the next three years be forced to introduce a “new” nickel with a debased composition. It will possibly be stainless steel.

    Update: After a two-year study, testing 80 different alloys, the United States Mint’s findings on alternative metals were announced on December 14, 2012. In essence they’ve said: “We need more time.” Here is the key line from the report summary: “The Mint has made significant progress and, at this time, has concluded that additional R&D is necessary before it can recommend any changes to the current coin composition.” Here is a link to the full report.

    Based on the biennial R&D report, the U.S. Congress will probably either delay making changes to the penny and nickel, or they may just suspend further production. (Following Canada’s lead, with pennies.)

    I found the following in the contractor’s report:

    “Stainless steels, despite the having an electrical conductivity that is about half that of cupronickel, were recommended for testing for the 5-cent coin. The ideal stainless steel for coinage would be non-ferromagnetic (so it would not be mistaken for a steel slug), have low flow stress (i.e., result in low striking loads), have excellent corrosion resistance and be comprised to the greatest extent practical of elements that are not as expensive as nickel. Nickel and molybdenum contents should be low to reduce costs. Austenitic stainless steels (3xx series) are preferred because they are non-ferromagnetic and thereby are more likely to be accepted by a majority of fielded coin-processing equipment.”

    So I stand by my assertion that unless the denomination is dropped altogether, the cupronickel five cent piece will be replaced by a stainless steel token. It now appears that the 301, 302, 302HQ, or 304 stainless steel alloys are the most likely choices. Perhaps they’ll lean toward choosing 302HQ or 304, since they both include some nickel for Austenitizing. Hence, the bureaucrats could save some face and be able to claim that the new stainless steel slugs are still “nickels.” But they’ll still be just about worthless, compared to a real cupronickel nickel which contains more than five cents of base metal value. (See the details at the Coinflation web site.) The report cited a fully burden production cost (including base metal, tooling, labor and transportation) of 6.77 cents to produce each nickel out of stainless steel, but that is certainly an improvement over the current cost of 11.2 cents.

    Why Not Pennies?

    You may ask, why not accumulate 95% copper (pre-1982 mint date) pennies? They already seen a spike in their base metal value to 2.2 cents each. But unfortunately, pennies have two problems: confusion and bulk. They are confusing, because 95% copper pennies are now circulating side-by-side with 97.5% zinc pennies. They are also about four times as bulky (per dollar of face value) as nickels.

    With nickels you won’t have to spend time sorting out pre-1982 varieties. At present, visually date sorting pennies simply isn’t worth your time. Although Ryedale Coin makes an automated density-measuring penny sorting machine, it is still very time consuming, and unless you have a lot of pennies to sort, it would take a long time for the machine to pay for itself. As background: The pre-1982 pennies recently had a base metal value of about $0.0295 each.) Starting in mid-1982, the mint switched to 97.5% zinc pennies that are just flashed with copper. Those presently have a base metal value of only about $0.0067 each.

    Pennies are absurdly bulky and heavy to store. Nickels are also quite bulky, but are at least more manageable than pennies for a small investor’s storage. (Storing pennies would take a tremendous amount of space and constitute a huge weight per dollar invested.)

    The biggest advantage of nickels over pennies is that there is no date/composition confusion. At least for now, a nickel is a nickel. Even the newly-minted “large portrait” nickels have the same 75/25 cupronickel composition. But that is likely to change within just a couple of years. The US Mint cannot go on minting nickels at a loss much longer. My advice: start filling military surplus ammo cans with $2 (40 coin) rolls of nickels.

    The standard U.S. military surplus .30 caliber size can is the perfect size for rolls of nickels. They will hold $188 of rolled nickels per can. Any larger containers would be difficult to move easily. (Avoid back strain!) Cardboard boxes are relatively fragile, and lack a carry handle. But ammo cans are very sturdy, have an integral handle, and they are relatively cheap and plentiful. They are available at military surplus stores and gun shows.

    The current difference between a nickel’s base metal value and its face value is fairly small, but trust me, it will grow! Someday, when nickels are worth 4X to 8X their face value, your children will thank you for it. Consider it an investment in your children’s future.

    In December of 2006, the US congress passed a law making it illegal to bulk export or melt down pennies and nickels. But once the old composition pennies and nickels have been driven out of circulation, that is likely to change. In fact, a bill now before congress would remove pre-1982 pennies from the melting ban. In any case, once the base metal value exceeds face value by about 3X, an investor’s market will develop, regardless of whether or not melting is re-legalized. Count on it.

    What if Uncle Sam Decides to Drop a Zero?

    As previously noted in SurvivalBlog, inflation of the US dollar has been chronic, cumulative, and insidious. So much so that turns of phrase from old movies like “penny candy” and “its your nickel” (to describe the cost of a call on a pay phone) now seem quaint and outdated. When inflation goes on long enough, the number of digits required to express a price grows too large. (As has been seen with the Italian lira, the Zimbabwean dollar, and countless other currencies. One whitewash solution to chronic inflation that several other nations have chosen is dropping one, two, or even three zeros from their currency, in an overnight revaluation, with a mandatory paper currency exchange. The history of the past century has shown that when doing so, most governments re-issue only new paper currency, but leave the old coinage in circulation, at the same face value. This is because the sheer logistics of a coinage swap would be daunting. Typically, this leaves the holders of coinage as the unexpected beneficiaries of a 10X, 100X.or even 1,000X gain of the purchasing power of their coins. Governments just assume that most citizens just have a couple of pocketfuls of coins at any given time. So if a currency swap were to happen while you are sitting on a big pile of nickels, then you would make a handsome profit. To “cash in”, you could merely spend your saved nickels in the new currency regime.

    How To Build Your Pile of Nickels

    How can you amass a big pile-o-nickels? Obviously just saving the few that you normally receive as pocket change is insufficient. Here are some possibilities:

    1.) If you live in a state with nickel slot machine gambling (such as Nevada or New Jersey), or near an Indian tribal casino with nickel slots, go to a casino frequently and buy $50 in nickels at a time. Do your best to look like a gambler when doing so, by carrying a plastic change bucket with a few nickels in the bottom.

    2.) Obtain nickels in rolls from your friendly local bank teller. Most “retail” banks are already accustomed to handing over rolls of coins to private depositors because of collector demand for statehood commemorative quarters and the new presidential dollar coins. Ask for $20 or $30 of nickels in rolls each time that you visit to do your normal banking deposits or withdrawals. It is best to ask for new “wrapped” (fresh Federal Reserve Bank issue) rolls. This way, you might have the chance of getting rolls with valuable minting errors–such as “double die” strikes. These are usually noticed and publicized a few months after the fact, and can be quite valuable. You will also be assured that you are getting full 40 coin rolls. (Getting shorted with 38 or 39 coin rolls is possible with hand-rolled coins.) If the tellers ask why you want so many, you can honestly tell them: “I’m working on a collection for my children.” (You need not tell them how large a collection it is!)

    3.) If you live in or near an urban area and you operate a business, you can effectively “buy” rolled coinage at face value from your commercial bank. (They generally will not do any business with anyone unless they have an account.) It might be worth your while to on paper start a side business with “Vending Service” in its name, and have business cards and stationary printed up in that name. Have that “DBA” business entity name added to your commercial bank account. At a high-volume commercial bank you could conceivably buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of nickels on the pretense of stocking change for a vending business. Depending on your relationship with the bank, they may waive any fees if you ask for a few rolls of coins. Be advised, however, that if you ask for any significant quantity at one time, they will probably charge you a premium. (Down in the small print of your account contract, there is probably wording something like this: “Coin Issued – Per Roll: .03 Currency Issued – Per $ 100: .08” Before you cry “foul”, be aware that the Federal Reserve actually charges your bank a small premium when they obtain wrapped rolls of coins. (Most folks have held to the convenient fiction that a paper dollar was the same as a dollar in change. Obviously, it isn’t.) In effect, your commercial banker will just be passing along this cost to you. Unless they charge you a heavy fee, then don’t worry about it. Ten years from now, when a $2 roll of nickel is worth $16, you’ll be laughing about how you obtained $4,000 face value in nickels at just a small fraction over their face value.

    4.) If you know someone that has a machine vending business, offer to buy all of their excess nickels once every month or two, by offering a small premium.

    5.) If you operate a “mom and pop” retail business with a walk-in clientele, put up a small sign next to your cash register that reads: “WANTED: Rolls of nickels for my collection. I pay $2.25 per 40 coin ($2) roll, regardless of year!” Once the nickel shortage develops (as it inevitably will), you should raise you premium gradually, to keep a steady stream of coin rolls coming in.

    An Aside: Nickel Logistics

    Nickels are heavy! Storing and transporting them can be a challenge.

    In October, 2011, it was reported that Texas hedge fund manager Kyle Bass had invested $1 million to buy 20 million nickels. It was not reported where and how he had them stored. That is a lot of weight!

    Some SurvivalBlog readers and I have done some tests:

    $300 face value (150 rolls @$2 face value per roll) fits easily fit in a standard U.S. Postal Service Medium Flat Rate Box (This is the USPS “FRB1″, with dimensions 11″ x 8-1/2″ x 5-1/2″). Full of Nickels, it weighs about 68 pounds. They can be mailed from coast to coast for less than $25. Doing so will take a bit of reinforcement. Given enough wraps of strapping tape, a corrugated box will securely transport $300 worth of Nickels. At ULINE you can get a corrugated to fit inside the corrugated Medium Flat Rate Box, to reinforce it. It is item #S-4517. It measures 10″x8″x5”. These boxes presently cost 54 cents each in lots of 25.

    The standard US .30 caliber ammo can works perfectly for storing rolls of Nickels at home. Each can will hold $188 of nickels in rolls. You can stack the nickel rolls vertically (on end, standing up) four to a row across the width of the ammo can. (Think of it like stacking one shotgun shell on top of another.) Each of the two layers takes 11 rows of 4, plus one odd row of 3. That makes 47 rolls per layer equaling 94 rolls total. This makes for $188 of coins per can. I’ve read that others have fit as much as $192 in rolled nickels (96 rolls) in a .30 caliber can, by carefully positioning horizontal rows, but this takes a bit more time for precise positioning.

    The larger .50 caliber cans also work for storing nickels, but when full of coins they are too heavy to carry easily.

    If you buy more than a few hundred dollars worth of nickels, do not over-stress your house. Do not store them upstairs or in an attic. Storing the boxes or ammo cans on a concrete slab floor is ideal.


    I’ve already had some ridicule, with e-mails accusing me of “hoarding.” So be it. Let me preemptively state that I realize that money tied up in coins will not benefit from the interest that a bank deposit would earn. But foregoing interest is not a major concern. Why? Because I think that it is a fairly safe bet that commodity price inflation will outstrip the prevailing interest rates for at least the next five years. In five years, the circulating nickel as we now know it, will be history, and it will be treated with nearly the same reverence that we now give to pre-’65 silver coinage.

    We saw what happened when clad copper dimes, quarters and half dollars were introduced in 1965. We should learn from history. Something comparable will very likely soon to happen with nickels. You, as a reader, are now armed with that knowledge. You can and should benefit from it, before Uncle Sugar performs his next sleight of hand trick and starts passing off silver-plated steel tokens as “nickels”.

    Addendum: Canadian Nickels

    The situation with Canadian nickels is much more complicated than with U.S. nickels. You’ll have a lot of sorting to do, since the composition of those five cent pieces varied widely! Here is a summary:

    1922 – 1942 Canadian Nickels were 99.9% nickel.

    1942 – 1943 Canadian Nickels were made of “Tombac” brass (88% copper, 12% zinc) and have a melt value of less than a penny.

    1944 – 1945 Canadian Nickels were made of chrome-plated steel and have a melt value of less than a penny.

    1946 – 1950 12-sided Canadian Nickels were 99.9% nickel and according to are as of this writing worth $0.076 each

    1951 – 1954 Canadian Nickels were made of chrome-plated steel and have a melt value of less than a penny.

    1955 – 1962 12-sided Canadian Nickels were 99.9% nickel and according to are as of this writing worth $0.076 each

    1963 – 1981 Canadian Nickels were 99.9% nickel and as of this writing are worth $0.076 each

    1982 – 2001 Canadian Nickels were 75% copper, 25% nickel and as of this writing are worth $0.045 each

    2000 – present Canadian Nickels are 94.5% steel, 3.5% copper, and 2% nickel (the outer plating) and have a melt value of less than a penny.

    December, 2012 Update: Hopefully the Mint’s dawdling will give us another year or two to stack up our boxes of nickels. If you read the contractor’s report, you’ll see that one of the goals of the planned debasement is that is be “seamless”, meaning: “Differences and abilities to recognize or process incumbent coins and coins produced from alternative material candidates cannot be distinguished through normal coin processing.” That is bureaucratic doublespeak for “Let’s make our new worthless tokens look like real coins, even to vending machines.”

    To the citizenry at large, the real consequence of the debasement is this: The melt value of a stainless steel nickel will be less than half a cent. We will be robbed again folks, just like our parents were, in 1964. Let’s not lose sight of the real underlying crime: general currency inflation. There would be no need to debase coins except for continuing, insidious inflation.

    The goal of all government mints is to maintain seigniorage –which is making a profit on the coins that they produce. (Where their cost to produce each coin is less than its face value.) The U.S. Mint’s current champion of positive seigniorage is the much-maligned Sacagawea/Presidential “golden” dollar coin, which is a Manganese-Brass token with a base metal value of just 6.22 cents–just one cent more then the base metal value of a nickel. No wonder people instinctively hate them. (By the way, I consider putting a “gold” finish on those coins the most heinous bit of legerdemain in the history of the U.S. Mint.)

    Governments don’t put up with negative seigniorage for very long. Debasement of nickels and pennies is coming, but the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly. Let’s just be thankful that we’ll have a some more time to keep stacking up our nickels.

    – James Wesley, Rawles — Editor of

    Permission to forward, repost, or reprint this article is granted, but only in its entirely with attribution and links intact.

    Copyright 2009-2012. All Rights Reserved by James Wesley, Rawles –™ Permission to reprint, repost or forward this article in full is granted, but only if it is not edited or excerpted.

    About the Author:
    James Wesley, Rawles is a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and a noted author and lecturer on survival and preparedness topics. He is the author of “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse” and is the editor of–the very popular daily web journal for prepared individuals living in uncertain times.

  17. Rider of Rohan says:

    An interesting concept, but I wonder if burying nickels is really the way to go. Even if one were to trade for say, $5000 in nickels, even a 100% increase would only net you $5000 in additional funds. If you have the time and want to expend the effort, there’s nothing wrong with collecting nickels. But if you don’t live at your retreat, digging up nickels is likely to be low on your list of priorities if the SHTF and you need to exit Dodge quickly. Personally, I think lead would be the better metal investment right now. But if nickels interest you there’s nothing wrong with them, that’s for sure.

  18. Rider of Rohan says:

    Oh, yeah, I forgot to add, I’m buying hunting ammo right now as there will soon be a shortage because manufacturers will concentrate production on all the ammo that just sold out, i.e. .223, 7.62, .22lr, 9mm and .40 S&W.

  19. Instead of drilling the hole get a female adapter for the end and a male plug to screw into it. A little pipe dope for the seal and now you can open the stash without ruining the pipe. Good article.

  20. You know back in the late 60’s early 70’s my dad saved junk silver like most people. He traveled a lot for work and I remember two of the big coffee cans (about #10 size) full of quarters , one full of dimes and a small one pound can full of 50 cent peices and another full of $1 coins. Sure wish I had those now, but he must have sold them a few years ago.

    Now a lot of people are saying “you can’t eat nickels” and that they do not understand why anyone would save a worthless junk coin. Well I am sure a lot of people felt the same way about the junk silver coins back in the day not believing that silver would EVER be worth $30 an ounce!!!

    You know I am not going out and putting all my money in nickles!! I am buying gold , silver , junk silver when I can but you know what right now pre 1983 pennies are solid copper and worth more than 1 cent and nickels are worth more than 5 cents so it just makes common sense to save them as they will probably never be worth less than face value. I can easily save a roll of nickels every 7-10 days from just pocket change and I go thru all my coins and about 30% of the pennies I get are pre 1982 so I save them also. Just may start getting rolls of nickles as it is an easy way to put money back and spread out the risk. And I do know one thing if your house burns paper will burn but the metal coins will be there.

    As a final note whether gold, silver or any other coin will be useful or not in end of the world situation is all just specualation and NO ONE will know for sure what will be the accepted for trade or barter, so why not a small amount of money spread out choices and be ready for whatever will be used.

    • @george,
      Check your dates and metal content. If I’m not mistaken the metal content of pennies was changed mid-production 1982 meaning some 1982 are “Copper” and some are “Zinc”. Best to pass on the 1982’s and just put back the 1981 and earlier. I’ve been going through my pocket change for a couple of years and stashing back the old pennies and all nickels. I can keep the kids entertained for hours by simply picking up $10 worth of pennies and nickels at the bank every Friday for our “Garage Sale” on the weekend. I already have enough (never quantified) dimes and quarters.
      Just one way of doing things that seems to work for me.

      • P.S. Don’t take the 1982 and later pennies back to the same bank to turn them in. I use the coin counter at China-Mart, my local one no longer charges the 10% premium to exchange your coins for goods/paper.

        I always ask for change at stores in as many nickels as they can spare for my grand-kids collection. They usually will give out five or six without batting an eye.

  21. I like it! Its easy enough to round up a few rolls here and there from
    “Pocket money” . The idea being I won’t really notice a few bucks at a time being gone from my wallet knowing that technically, I am investing it, not spending it.
    Plus, unlike a ‘coffe can’ stash of paper cash, the rolls hiding in the closet under the stairs would be a pain to grab and blow on an impulse buy. Kinda like freezing your credit cards in a jug of ice ( you know, so you can get it when you really need it, it’s just not quickly handy). Cool idea, thanks.

  22. Forgot to mention, gotta mention that there will still be a need for small currency. If you want something small like a loaf of bread, would you really want to have only something gold ( how much is that an ounce now) or try to pay for it with a 30 dollar silver quarter and expect to get change? You will more likely be mugged!

    • Gold is around 1600 an ounce. Silver around 30 an ounce. You can also get fractional silver rounds. While more than a loaf of bread today a 1/4 ounce silver round will run you a bit less than 9 bucks. You can get a 1/10 ounce even cheaper if you’re willing to go that route.

      You can get a 1 gram gold bar for around 67 bucks for the larger purchases :)

  23. Saving coins any denomination: house burns …no safe- paper money burns, coins even if melted..still have value.
    2nd Amendment is on the chopping block. Sling shot with couple rolls of coins may just be alternative.
    Large percentage of things we purchase, should have alternate purposes or usage.
    When things get rough…the dollar collapses…coins will always have minimum face value, for trading and will be widely accepted. During the Great Depression, coins were preferred over paper money. WW II, people traded food ration stamps for coins and vice versa.
    This simple person has saved coins for over 40 years…not stopping now !

  24. No offense , but the pics look kinda like cultists ……….you know , like those freaky extremist mormons that were marrying off 12 yo girls to 40 yo guys in a hidden ” community ” in the 4 corners area of the southwest . They kinda looked like that ………………………question ? why aren’t the MEN doing the labor ?

  25. Thanks for the article.

    My father collected indian head nickels all of his life. When he passed away, I got some but the rest of his collection disappeared and we found out that it had been sold by the family troll. The collection sold for much more than the 5 cents a piece that he paid for them.

    My dad also told me that 1/2 dollar coins and quarters before 1965 were worth keeping also.

    Collecting nickels for the metals makes sense as a potential investment. For those of us with limited finances and storing them in waterproof pipe is a great idea. :)

  26. Prepping Wife. says:

    MD – Can you answer a quick question for me? I want to make sure that you can collect nickles from ANY date – I saw one reader on here say they will collect them pre- 1981 but if you are going to the bank you have no say in the years that you can when they hand you rolled coins. – Thanks!

  27. Thomas Thebeau says:

    Here is a question : in a SHTF senario could you just throw the nickels in a smelter and let them melt all together and when they cooled whould you be able to separate the two metals easily?

  28. I’m picturing the headlines 2000 years from now for any you don’t end up digging up …

    “American Hoard Discovered: American citizens in the early third century of the Republic began burying their material wealth during a turbulent financial period when the government was intentionally devaluing what was then known as fiat currency”

  29. I think that nickels will be iffy. May try $20 but my money is on silver for barter. Easy to check and can be traded in reasonable amounts.

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