Rick B.writes: My brother unearthed a buffalo nickel from a dig at a construction site. It is dated 1917, no mint mark, and is rather well worn. What is interesting is that it appears to be made of copper. I suggested that this is a discoloration due to being buried in the soil, but he insists the coin is copper. I suggested scratching the coin to reveal it’s true color, but then retracted my suggestion not wanting to devalue the coin. My question is this: Were there any buffalo nickels minted using copper?
Nickels are minted from an alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel, weigh 5 grams and have a diameter of 21.2 mm. The 25% nickel is enough to give this coin its silvery color. There are nickels that were minted in error on copper cent flans by mistake and these are popular with collectors. The error nickel would only weigh 3.11 grams and the diameter would be that of a copper cent, 19mm. Value: $35 and up. How did you determine that the coin was copper, considering that both metals would look similar having oxidized in the ground for a long period of time? Of course, you can check to see if you have a nickel struck on a copper cent blank simply by weighing the coin.