Pure Nickel (periodic table symbol Ni) is one of the most useful and hardest metals that exists. Nickel is classified as an industrial or base metal, although it also has a long history as a monetary metal. Cheaper than silver, but higher priced than copper, nickel is essentially semi-precious since a significant value of nickel can be stored in a somewhat small space. Canada is a major nickel producer and the Canadian government considers nickel to be essentially a Canadian metal. Nickel alone is extremely hard and durable.
Used in coins extensively, most people think that the American nickel or 5 cent piece is made from nickel but that is only partially true. The US nickel has long actually been made from CuNi a mix of 75% Copper and 25% Nickel. The composition of the American nickel is expected to change soon since there is a provision in the 2011 federal budget allowing the Mint to change over to less expensive materials. The reason for the change is that the cost of the Nickel and Copper in the US nickel now exceeds the face value of 5 cents - and that is before the manufacturing costs incurred to mint the coins. The process of changing the material in a coin to a lesser value material while not changing the face value is referred to as debasement of the money.
Nickel is an important part of the US clad dime, quarter and essentially discontinued US half dollar. Canada still uses nickel to plate the Canadian steel core nickel, dime, and quarter. Canada's loonie includes some nickel, and the toonie has a pure nickel outer ring.
Rising Ni prices are driving nickel out of coins but nickel has many other uses. For example, Nickel is a key component of stainless steel, and therefore very important to many manufacturing enterprises and infrastructure projects.
Investors in physical copper, silver and gold may be interested in investing in physical pure Ni. Since the Royal Canadian Mint used pure nickel for many years, it is reletively easy to make physical nickel part of your savings or investment portfolio.
Here are several ways you can find pure nickel to own.
The most cost effective way to get into pure nickel is in coin form.
Canadian Nickels: Look through your pocket change for Canadian nickels dated up to 1981. These are (except for a few war years) made of .999 pure Ni. 100 Canadian Ni Nickels contain exactly 1 lb of pure Nickel metal. By the end of 2010 Canadian Ni nickels contained about 10 cents worth of pure nickel. The process of looking for coins like nickel nickels is called coin roll hunting. (US nickels are made from CuNi or CopperNickel containing only 25% nickel and 75% copper.)
Other Coins: Look for Canadian Dimes and Quarters dated to 1999. These coins are also pure nickel but as this article is written the metal value in Canadian nickel dimes and quarters is less then the face value. Still, it is good to collect these pure nickel coins because nickel may again make these coins worth more for metal value then the stated face value. At the worst you always have the face value of the coin to fall back on.
Various other countries use pure Ni to make coins. Check a coin guide that lists composition of the coins if you have access to international coins to search.
Nickel Bars: It is possible to buy pure nickel bars (much like silver bars) but manufactured bars lack a monetary face value, known weight guaranteed by the Canadian Government, and sell for more than the underlying metal because of the cost of manufacturing and distribution.
If you can't find nickel coins yourself, you could consider buying some pure nickel bullion. There are very few sources that can maintain a reliable supply, but the Copper Cave usually has Canadian Ni Nickels in stock.
Copyright JadeDragon 2010. Don't copy this article please.