The best, and probably most inexpensive, way to hoard base metal coins is through circulating pocket change. If you live somewhere were the base metal value of circulating coins exceeds their monetary value you can simply keep these coins as you acquire them in change or go to your local bank and get rolls. An example would be the pre-1982 US penny. These coins are still abundant in circulation and their metal value exceeds their monetary value. Many people keep them as they come across them in pocket change or go to banks and get rolls to sort out the valuable copper cents and re-deposit the less valuable zinc ones.
Another way to obtain base metal coins is to purchase large quantities of foreign coins through dealers or Ebay. This method, though more exciting, can be tricky. First, keep in mind that the actual scrap value of base metal coins and the value of their metallic content are not the same thing. The scrap value of coins will almost always be less than the value of the total of their metallic content. Don’t let that stop you though! Base metal hoarders do what they do for the sheer thrill and for the day when inflation and demand for base metals drives prices up. At least that’s what we say to comfort ourselves when our spouses shake their heads at the two tons of coins sitting in the garage.
Second, there is always an unknown factor with these large lots of coins. Let’s illustrate this unknown with an example. A pound of 75/25 cupro-nickel coins at a hypothetical price of $3.00/lb for copper and $10.00/lb for nickel contains $4.75 in metal content. These large lots are almost never entirely cupro-nickel and rarely sell for such a low price. They will contain aluminum, zinc and stainless steel coins which are essentially worthless to the base metal coin hoarder, but they can be resold for collector value. They will also contain a large proportion of copper alloys such as bronzes and brasses. These would all have less value than a cupro-nickel coin on a pound per pound basis. There is also the chance of obtaining solid nickel, or even silver, coins which would increase the pound per pound value of the lot.
Here is what experience has taught us. We feel Ebay is the best source for large lots of base metal foreign coins. (We were not paid to say that) We think so because Ebay brings together the greatest diversity of sellers in one place, is easy to deal with, and offers buyers some protection against fraud.
As you scour auctions for lots you will have to balance two factors: 1) Quality; and 2) Price. These two factors can be mutually exclusive. We have purchased high quality lots at very low prices and low quality lots at high prices. We look for lots that contain a large proportion of older coins. Why? Because these lots have the potential of containing a few numismatic quality coins that can be re-auctioned off to help offset the total cost of the lot. We avoid lots of recently minted coins. Why? These lots are likely to have a high proportion of steel and aluminum coins which are not of much interest to a hoarder. It is always disappointing to get a “junk” lot, but it happens. As you purchase these lots you will learn to better judge their quality.
But be warned, there are plenty of unscrupulous sellers unloading junk on people. Don’t fall for gimmicks such as “estate”, “grandpa’s old coins,” “unsearched,” or “silver.” When we see a seller using those terms we just move on.
Also, prices can fluctuate wildly on Ebay from day to day for essentially the same lots from the same dealer. If there is a dealer you like, keep an eye on their auctions and pounce on a slow day. I have seen similar lots from the same seller selling for $4.00/lb one day and $8.00/lb the next. Be vigilant.