Here is the site you need: http://www.coinflation.com/
Pennies are where the real money is right now. 1982 1/2 or older pennies are almost pure copper. The melt value of a copper penny is about 2.5 cents. The melt value of a nickle is about 1.04
The reason that nickels are valuable is because people think that nickle is about to go up in value like copper did and because the US is about to change or even discontinue the nickle. Also you can just go out and buy a block of nickles and then put them in your safe. Very little effort.
Pennies though are the real treasure trove as you can still get pre... ok I'll call then '82 pennies but the truth is that half way through 1982 is when they changed to zinc. But you will hear people say pre 82 when they mean copper pennies. So these coins are still very much in circulation, some of them quite old.
Every payday I go to the bank and get $100 in pennies. I ask for only customer rolled coins. That means coins that people have collected themselves and then turned into the bank thus guaranteeing that you won't get a whole box of fresh from the mint coins. In fact I've found that I get about 20%-25% pre '82 coins this way.
Sorting, so going through a bunch of pennies by hand sucks. You can weigh them and I did do this for a while but even that takes stupid amounts of time. There is a company that makes a professional coin sorter but it costs $500. But then I found THESE GUYS
. This is the same coin tester that is used in video games and vending machines. You put a sample coin in and then run coins through it. If the coin matches it kicks it out to the right if not, to the left. I bolted it to the top of a 5 gallon bucket, I then put a smaller 1 gallon bucket in that on one side. Good coins end up in the 1 gallon and the other coins end up loose in the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket.
I keep the pre '82 coins and everything else gets rolled and goes back to the bank. And no, I take them to a different bank so I don't ever end up getting my own coins back
Still this takes time, luckily for me I turned then into a game for my kids, they LOVE it. Then after the copper coins are sorted then spread them out on the table and go through them looking for wheat pennies or anything odd. I found one penny that was worth $42 dollars.
Why do this? Copper prices are just going up and up. If they kill off the penny they might be worth more as just collector pieces. And in a TEOTWAWKI situation all of the people collecting silver, much less gold are going to have an issue. Would you give a silver piece for a loaf of bread? No, back in the day, copper pieces were the common currency and would be again. And my parents thought playing D&D was a waste of time