Not worth a plugged nickel and not worth a plug nickel are variations of an idiom that originated in the United States after the turn of the twentieth century. We will examine the definition of the phrase not worth a plugged nickel and the variant not worth a plug nickel, where these idioms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
The phrases not worth a plugged nickel and not worth a plug nickel describe something that is worthless, something that is valueless, something that is useless and perhaps contemptible. The expressions not worth a plugged nickel and not worth a plug nickel have their origin in a method of counterfeiting coins. In the early years of the United States, coins were struck at a mint in a crude fashion. A small disc consisting of silver was added to the center of the coin, in order to give it an higher intrinsic value. During the 1700s and 1800s, coin values depended upon the amount of precious metal from which they were made. In order to counterfeit coinage, a criminal punched out the precious metal, or the valuable silver disc, and replaced it with a base metal. These altered tokens carried a face value that was higher than the actual value of the coin. Finding a plugged nickel or plug nickel in circulation was common. It is interesting to know that the American nickel was not always valued at five cents. In the 1850s, the nickel was only worth one cent. In the 1860s, the value of the American nickel rose to three cents. In the 1870s the nickel coin achieved its current worth of five cents. The composition of a nickel coin is a nickel alloy, minted of copper and nickel. The word plugged to mean to bore out the center of a coin first appeared in the 1880s, and was variously applied to other denominations such as quarters and dimes. The earliest known use of the term plugged nickel appeared in 1908. While the terms plugged nickel and plug nickel are both considered correct, plugged nickel is an older expression. The comparison of worthless things to plugged nickels in the idioms not worth a plugged nickel and not worth a plug nickel continues to this day, even though coinage in circulation no longer carries an intrinsic value.
The beaver may be immortalized on the five-cent piece, but for many landowners, the buck-toothed rodent is not worth a plugged nickel. (The Western Producer)
“My educated guess — which is not worth a plugged nickel — is that King wanted a house parallel to the bluff rather than perpendicular to it (as the Wright house was) so he could have a lot better view out over St. Louis.” (The Belleville News-Democrat)
“As good as any one of us may think we are, we’re not worth a plugged nickel without God.” (The Macon Telegraph)
Capitol Hill’s selective indignation is not worth a plug nickel as long as politicians fail to rein in federal agents. (USA Today)
But I never thought in my lifetime that the good, decent, hardworking, churchgoing, family-loving, God-fearing people of the South would ever decide that truth was not worth a plug nickel. (The Huffington Post)