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Investing in tens of thousands of dollars worth of nickels

Posted by John T. Reed on

A facebook reader recently said investing in U.S. nickels is impractical, merely a curiosity.

That inspired me to reconsider the amount of nickels I own. I bought more.

$50,000 worth of nickels

Suppose you have a net worth of $5 million and you want to put 1% of your assets into nickels. That would be $50,000. Is it practical?


Do you have any assets worth that much? I have a 2018 Lexus that cost twice that. Is it practical? Sure. Where do I keep it? In the garage.

Real estate

We also own a house and most of a condo worth many times $50,000. They are sitting on two parcels of real estate. We live in one and one of our son’s lives in the other—sort of watchmen.

What is the size and weight of $50,000 worth of nickels? I recommend $100 boxes. They contain 50 $2 rolls of nickels. The $100 boxes are 9.25" x 4.125" x 3.625". They weigh 22.2 pounds.

I know they also have $50 boxes which contain 25 rolls of nickels. I do not know what other size containers they may have. I think if you go bigger, you just get a wooden pallet of $100 boxes.

Zero cost to buy, zero cost to sell back

Today, at Wells Fargo, I asked what the charge was to convert them back into paper money or an account deposit entry. Zero. “Don’t you have to use a machine to count them?” Nope, but they have to be in rolls. “Do you weigh them?” I asked. No, she said.

Seems like they should. But the bottom line at Wells is there is no charge to buy the nickels other than 5¢. You can even buy them with a credit card. And there is also no charge at all to sell them back to Wells. And you are guaranteed to get the same price each way, no buy-sell spread like they have for foreign currency.

No commission, no buy-sell spread, no shipping charge, no insurance charge, no possibility of loss

Investors who think gold and silver are “practical,” but not nickels or pennies, pay a commission or get a poor price to compensate the gold or silver seller. If they get them shipped, they pay shipping charges and probably insure them during shipping. None of that with those “impractical” nickels.

News flash: A million dollars worth of nickels is worth the same as a million dollars worth of gold coins. Ditto, a million dollars worth of silver coins, or a million dollars worth of lead ingots or a million dollars worth of feathers.

True, the amount of space they occupy and the amount they weigh would be greater than a million dollars worth of gold and silver. But does that mean gold and silver are the only two practical assets on earth?

Advantages to lower-value-per-pound assets

In fact, there are advantages to nickels weighing 22.2 pounds per $100 of value. Can a thief grab your box of nickels when you are carrying it to your car and run away with it? Folks, I’m 71, but if you take my 22.2-pound box of nickels, I’ll run your ass down because no one can run very fast carrying such an awkward, heavy object.

Actually, the same is true of a 27-pound half bag of junk silver. It’s worth about $6,500 today.

Not counterfeited or robbed

Another advantage of pennies and nickels compared to gold or silver is that they are not counterfeited and generally not robbed. Basically, there is not enough incentive to do either. Too much trouble for way too little money.

More convenient denomination for barter

Another virtue of the relatively low value per pound of nickels, that they are a relatively convenient denomination in a barter situation. The scenario where you benefit from your gold or silver or nickel is barter during a monetary crisis (inflation or deflation). They do not give change in barter markets. So a one-ounce gold coin that is worth $1,350 is a tough one to spend when you can’t get change. What’re you going to buy that you don’t care about change? Three big flat screen TVs?

In such a crisis, a roll of $2 of nickels would have the purchasing power that $2 does today. It’s pretty portable, albeit heavier than a $2 bill. Somewhat reminiscent of a pocketful of Australian 50¢ pieces. You would not want to get hit in the head with one of those. They weigh 15.5 grams each, which is a little over half an ounce. A U.S. half dollar weighs 12.5 grams.

$50,000 the size of a twin-size bed

Back to the $50,000 batch of nickels, that would be 500 $100 boxes. Total weight would be 11,100 pounds—five and a half tons. Total size would be, if laid end to end 500 x 9.25" = 4,625 inches or 4,625 ÷ 12 = 385 feet—a little longer than a football field plus its two end zones.

How about we stack the boxes five high? That means the footprint of the stack would be 100 boxes. 10 boxes long by ten deep or 92.5 " x 36.25" or 7.7 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot nine inches high, about the size of a twin bed and inner spring on the floor rather than elevated on legs.

Basement, garage, miniwarehouse

But you say it weighs five and a half tons. Yeah, and my car and my wife’s weigh four tons combined. So put the nickels in the basement or garage, not the attic. The standard maximum load you are supposed to put on a house floor is 40 pounds per square foot. That is a wooden floor that has air under it, not concrete.

If you put three boxes of nickels side by side with the 4" side against the floor, then add another box across the top of the three with its 3 " side against the floor, you will approximately cover one square foot. The weight of that one layer would be 4 x 22.2 pounds or 88.8 pounds per square foot. Too much. Five layers high as I described above would be 5 x 88.8 = 444 pounds per square foot.
So garage, basement, or miniwarehouse.

Was that so hard? And that’s $50,000 worth of nickels.

Uniquely attractive store of value

What is so great about nickels? They can go up in melt value during inflation. See But they cannot go down in value in deflation (depression) because the words “five cents” are engraved on them. Their value is alway five cents or the melt value, whichever is greater. You can always sell them back to a bank for what you paid for them.
Just pennies and nickels? Why not also quarters, etc? Because pennies and nickels melt value are already a high percentage of their face value. Other coins here and around the world have a lower melt-value-to-face-value ratio.
Pennies and nickels are liquid hard assets. Name another asset that is a liquid hard asset. Name another asset that you can always sell back for what you paid for. Name another asset where you can win, in inflation, but you can’t lose in deflation. Name a period in history where you would have been sorry you bought nickels or lost money on them. Name another asset where you cannot find a historical period where that asset was very bad.

Prosecution rests.

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