Recently I stumbled across the news that’s it’s illegal to melt down nickels and pennies. In fact, it’s been a crime for half a decade now.

Had this law been in place back when I spent my summers working at the family steel business, I’d have been counted among the nation’s scofflaws.

More than the occasional lunch break was whiled away taking a cutting torch to various metal objects, including many a penny, watching as the heat turned coins first red, then yellow, then white. 

Soon they would bubble and boil, ball up and, if I did it long enough, disappear completely. All that would be left was usually a smudge of yellow where the penny had been.

However, when the US Mint implemented regulations in December 2006 prohibiting the melting of pennies and nickels, it wasn’t to keep bored youth from cheap entertainment. Instead, it was purportedly to prevent individuals from melting the coins en masse in order to realize their copper value.

In addition, the Mint’s rules also prohibited the unlicensed exportation of the coins, with the exception that travelers can take up to $5 in pennies and nickels out of the country.

To show that the Mint meant business, penalties of up to a fine of $10,000, five years’ imprisonment, or both, were mandated.

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