From the Dark Knight movie (2008):

A criminal called Joker comes to the Mob Bosses he's stolen from earlier. They're obviously mad at him and he adds more fuel to the fire saying that they're gonna lose all their money if the Batman doesn't die.

If we don't deal with this now, soon little Gambol here won't be able to get a nickel for his grandma

After that Gambol flies into a tantrum and tries to kill the Joker.

I wondered if "a nickel" meant 5 cents or could it mean something like "a bag of drugs". There's no other context I can give. We don't know if Gambol's grandmother is junky or if he's been giving her 5 cents per day. I' wondering if it's possible to say exact definition of "a nickel" in the context.

1 Answer 1


A nickel here has its ordinary sense, a 5¢ piece.

The Joker's line here depends on familiarity with the common similitude that "X is so greedy/crass/inhuman that he would sell his grandmother for a buck" (or some other low price). The Joker implies that Gambol is just such a person, but that conditions will decline to the point when Gambol won't be able to get even a nickel—crime won't pay any more, and the most despicable deals won't yield any profit.

  • When a nickel was a nickel, i.e. when you could actually buy something for five cents, what colour were they? The old 12-sided three-penny bits first struck in 1937 were of nickel-brass. They had a yellowish hue. But I believe that American servicemen used to refer to them as "nickels" - possibly because they were roughly of the same value. Probably a question for the History site.
    – WS2
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 20:53
  • 1
    @WS2: A nickel was nickel-colored. A dull silverish color. You've probably seen nickel-plated artifacts from time to time. Just imagine a coin that looks like that, and it's bigger than a dime or a penny but smaller than a quarter.
    – Robusto
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 21:08
  • That sense is only ordinary in some parts of the English speaking world, such as the US. As a non-American, I understand it as "some small valued coin". If I wasn't looking at a page such as this, I wouldn't be able to tell you which is larger, a dime or a nickel.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 7:48

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