I am Canadian and would like to know if you could possibly tell me what year(s) of nickels would be advisable for me to purchase. These would be for investment in the future as barter or monetary trade.
Thanking you for your informative blog site. Is there anything comparable in Canada that you are aware of ? I would be much obliged for the information. Thanking You - Patrick S.
JWR Replies: The situation with Canadian nickels is much more complicated than with U.S. nickels. Here is some background: In the States, just about the only commonly-circulating nickels (those minted 1946-to present) are 75% copper and 25% nickel. You might get lucky and find a rare "War Nickel." These are 35% silver, 56% copper, and 9% manganese five cent pieces that were minted between 1942 and 1945 in the U.S., when there was a wartime shortage of nickel. That would be a nice find, since they have a melt value of around $1.60 each, at present! And the 1913-1938 "Buffalo" nickels (75% copper and 25% nickel) bring a slight numismatic premium, even for common dates. So that would be another nice bonus. But both issues are so rare in common pocket change--or in what you'd get in rolls from the bank--that you are best off just buying rolls of nickels at face value and stacking them in .30 caliber ammo cans without even bothering to sort through them.
Now, as for Canada... You would have a lot of time-consuming manual sorting to do, since the composition of your five cent pieces varied widely in the past 90 years! Here is a summary:
1922 - 1942 Canadian Nickels were 99.9% nickel. Unless they are horribly worn, those all have some numismatic value.
1942 - 1943 Canadian Nickels were made of "Tombac" brass (88% copper, 12% zinc) and have a melt value of less than a penny. But they do have some numismatic value.
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 Coinflation.com 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 Coinflation.com 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 (The same as the U.S., nickel) and as of this writing are worth around $0.046 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.
FWIW, I predict that the U.S. Mint will follow Canada's lead and will begin minting stainless steel "nickels" in 2013. So here in the U.S., our window of opportunity to salt away rolls of real nickels without any sorting will soon close. Stack them deep, folks!