plug nickel

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Alternative forms[edit]


Some early United States coins (minted in the 18th and 19th centuries) were made with a small silver disc added to the center of the coin in the planchet (blank metal) before striking. This was done to increase the value of the metal in the coin up to the coin's face value. A plug nickel or plugged nickel is a nickel (now a five-cent coin, but originally a one-cent coin and later a three-cent coin) where the "plug" (center disc) has been removed, thus decreasing the metal value of the coin. People would often examine their change after a cash transaction to ensure they did not receive such a coin.


plug nickel (plural plug nickels)

  1. (chiefly US, colloquial) A nearly worthless amount.
    • 1997 March 6, Neil Munro, "Putting a Price Tag on Privacy," (retrieved 28 Sep 2008):
      Others estimate that each consumer's data is virtually worthless to the consumer; "Most of [consumers'] information, on an open market, is not worth a plug nickel," said Bruce Belair, a Washington-based lawyer.
    • 2002 Feb. 19, "Opinion: State Must Fast-track MTA $ Plan," New York Daily News (retrieved 28 Sep 2008):
      The Senate can easily release these MTA bonds to the financial markets to stop subway fare hikes—and it won't cost the state a plug nickel.
    • 2006 April 24, Steve Schultze, "Dolphins in mural could be rescued," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (retrieved 28 Sep 2008):
      There's no additional money for saving the mural, he said. "I have no intention of spending another plug nickel on it."

Usage notes[edit]

  • Often used in negative constructions, especially "not worth a plug nickel."
  • The alternative form "plugged nickel" has been in use longer than "plug nickel", although "plug" has begun to supersede "plugged". Syntactically, a more correct term would be an "unplugged nickel" in reference to the fact that the "plug" (silver center disc) was removed, but this term is very rare.


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