You’d Be Shocked What a Coin Is Really Worth!

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We all know there are different denominations of U.S. coins, but have you ever considered their actual value? As in, the value of the metal they’re made of? You might assume that a coin’s value in metal is somewhat comparable to the coin’s denomination. But that’s not always the case. The actual metal value of everyday coins might surprise you. Obviously, one would never actually attempt to melt coins down for their metal value, because that’s very illegal, but have you ever wondered?

People frequently debate whether or not the one-cent coin or penny should even be in circulation due to its high manufacturing cost and modest value. The rising cost of copper is often cited as another reason to get rid of the penny. Luckily, the penny hasn’t been made with a considerable amount of copper for well over 30 years. Prior to 1982 pennies were composed of 95% copper. Today, circulated pennies from 1909 to 1982 are worth about 1.95 cents in copper. Any penny made after 1982 is 97.5% zinc. The total value of one of these mostly zinc pennies is only about half  of one cent. They do cost considerably more than one cent to produce, however. Last year, the cost to produce a penny was 1.83 cents.

At .048 cents, the nickel is the coin that comes closest to actually reflecting its metal value. At 75% copper and 25% zinc, the nickel is undoubtedly the most valuable coin in the U.S. when it comes to just metals. However, it costs a whopping 9.41 cents to produce one nickel, partially due to its thickness.

The metal value of a dime is surprising. Dimes are thin, so it’s logical that they’re less valuable. They are made of approximately 92% copper and 8% nickel. Even with the more valuable metal composition, the dime’s light weight makes it less valuable than a nickel. A dime’s current value in metal is only .017 cents! Altogether, the U.S. Mint reports that dimes cost 5.65 cents to produce.

The last coin we considered is the quarter. Quarters are the biggest coins in size, so one would think they’re the most valuable in metal. But that’s not the case. Though they’re composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, their light weight makes their metal value insignificant. A quarter’s value in metal is only .043 cents. And at 11.14 cents to produce, they’re a good value for the mint.

So next time you wonder what those coins in your pocket cost, now you have some frame of reference. Who knew the nickel was such a costly coin? And keep in mind that a coin’s total value is calculated based on a number of factors like rarity, condition and collectability. And metal prices change frequently, so the values in this article are only accurate at the day of this publishing. If you ever want to know the price of gold, silver, platinum or palladium, you can find live prices on our website at

West Seattle Coins specializes in gold buying and dealing in rare coins. We are a family-owned business that was established in 1979 in the West Seattle Junction. We also buy and sell gold, silver, diamonds, currency and jewelry. Visit us first for a free evaluation.

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