Given rising metal prices, the pennies and nickels in your pocket are worth more melted down than their face value — and that has...

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WASHINGTON — Given rising metal prices, the pennies and nickels in your pocket are worth more melted down than their face value — and that has the government worried.

U.S. Mint officials said Wednesday they were putting into place rules prohibiting the melting down of 1-cent and 5-cent coins. The rules also limit the number of coins that can be shipped out of the country.

“We are taking this action because the nation needs its coinage for commerce. We don’t want to see our pennies and nickels melted down so a few individuals can take advantage of the American taxpayer,” Mint Director Edmund Moy said in a statement.

Officials said they had received a number of inquiries from the public in recent months concerning the value of the metal in the coins and whether it was legal to melt them.

The new regulations prohibit the melting of 1-cent and 5-cent coins, with a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for people convicted of violating the rule.

Because of the prevailing prices of copper, zinc and nickel, the cost of producing pennies and nickels exceeds the face value of the coins.

A nickel is 25 percent nickel and 75 percent copper. The metal in one coin costs 6.99 cents for each 5-cent coin.

Modern pennies have 2.5 percent copper content with zinc making up the rest of the coin. The current copper and zinc in a penny are worth 1.12 cents.