Aug
09
2007

Changing our change: U.S. coins could be reformulated

Coining anew: Government officials are looking at changing the metal composition of pennies and nickels. The price of metals used to make the coins has skyrocketed this year, raising the cost to produce the coins higher than the actual value of the coin. (Flickr photo by jek in the box)
Coining anew: Government officials are looking at changing the metal composition of pennies and nickels. The price of metals used to make the coins has skyrocketed this year, raising the cost to produce the coins higher than the actual value of the coin. (Flickr photo by jek in the box)
We like to make jokes about the crazy things government does. Here’s one idea that makes a lot of sense…and cents.

Members of Congress are pushing a proposal for the U.S. mint to reconfigure the composition of pennies and nickels. Due to a recent spike in metal values, it actually costs more money to produce those coins than their actual face value.

Under the most recent metal prices, it costs 1.5 cents to make a penny and 8.2 cents to make a nickel. The metal content makeup of those coins are 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper for pennies and 75% copper and 25% nickel for nickels. Copper costs have risen 24 % since the start of this year.

One congressional committee estimates that making composition changes to the penny and nickel could save the government more than $100 million each year. Making metal composition changes to higher value coins could save an additional $400 million each year.

But right now, only the penny and nickel coins are being considered.

Because of the price spike for copper, the national mint recently has made it illegal to melt down coins to sell for their free-market worth. The mint is worried such melting-down action could lead to a shortage of pennies and nickels in our economy.

But there’s more to consider than just finding cheaper metals to put into the coins. Different metals have different properties that could make a substantial difference in the coin minting process. Also, many vending machines recognize natural magnetic signatures that are in the coin’s metals in order to accept them for payment.

What do you think about this money situation? Is the penny outdated? What kind of metal would you like to see coins made from? Share your views here with other Science Buzz readers.

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (4 votes)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I was thinking that a lead-coated uranium coin with my face on it would be nice. It would be about the size of a York Peppermint Patty. It would also be worth a lot - like seven dollars. So you'd have to balance the downside of its extreme weight and cancer causing properties, with the upside of having seven bucks in your pocket.

posted on Thu, 08/09/2007 - 3:31pm
bryan kennedy's picture

I actually think that we just need to get rid of the penny all together. Putting me in the same camp as these guys at the Citizens for Retiring the Penny and opposed to Americans for Common Cents. Isn't it kinda funny that there are public interest groups for each of these positions? I guess you can get polarized on any issue these days.

But hey, if we got rid of the penny maybe we would have enough dough for JGordon's Uranickle, Hepturanicer, or Glowing Lucky Buck...or whatever you might want to call it.

posted on Fri, 08/10/2007 - 11:04am
Maya S's picture
Maya S says:

Don't get rid of the penny. I like using them. They're lucky!

posted on Fri, 08/10/2007 - 12:24pm
becca's picture
becca says:

I do not belive in that stuff!

posted on Fri, 08/10/2007 - 1:58pm
Maryrose's picture
Maryrose says:

i think we shouldnt get rid of it because say ur at the store and u need 3 cents wat would u do???

posted on Mon, 08/13/2007 - 12:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Pennies are useless. What can you buy with a penny? Heck, what can you buy for under $5 these days

posted on Wed, 08/22/2007 - 4:29pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

haha i can buy almost one gallon of gas

posted on Wed, 12/12/2007 - 10:47am
Coin Happy's picture
Coin Happy says:

Let the government get rid of the penny. After a few years they will relax the rule about melting them down since they the mint will probably offer a slight premium over face for pre 1982 copper pennies so they can buy them back and melt them themselves and sell the metal. Then wait 10 years until the melt value of each copper penny is 10 cents and make some money.

posted on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 6:09am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it was a hard descision but i came up with pennys take up too much space

posted on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 9:55am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

rid ourselves of the penny

posted on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 11:46am
T-penny's picture
T-penny says:

Yes, the penny must fade into history.... if you need three pennies, than just give up a nickel. you'd probably leave the two pennies in the give-one-take-one jar anyways! This legislation could be spearheaded by businesses that refuse to accept pennies. Any known legal ramifications of this? I look forward to both the pros and cons of this argument. Cheers!

P.S. c'mon people, it's only a penny

P.P.S. practically worthless

posted on Tue, 08/28/2007 - 1:56am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think that we should keep the penny, because what would you do if the price of something was not divisible by 5? Think about that. You wouldn't be able to pay the exact amount, and the store clerk couldn't give you the right amount of change.

posted on Fri, 08/31/2007 - 2:43pm
Daniel R's picture
Daniel R says:

Beyond the cost of the raw materials, I would be interested to know what the actual cost of manufacturing these coins really is. How much energy, labor, and infrastructure is factored into the cost of manufacturing our currency? Like virtually all other products americans purchase today, I wonder...wouldn't it be cheaper to manufacture US currency in China? You know, just like our American Flags or "American Girls" dolls!

posted on Thu, 09/06/2007 - 12:42pm
wayne keefer's picture
wayne keefer says:

we should get rid of all the change since the cost of liveing is so high and the prices on everything are riseing out the roof there is no point to have change i mean if i have 1$ i can not buy any thing so why do i need a hand full of change or what i call trash. and i will need two hands of trash to buy one thing thats all i got to say on this trash.

posted on Sat, 09/29/2007 - 10:35am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

increase the cost of the penny

posted on Tue, 12/11/2007 - 8:14pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

just get rid of the penny and nickle and dime...just have quarters and bills

posted on Wed, 12/12/2007 - 10:46am
unocento's picture
unocento says:

one time, i tried to pick up a penny off the ground, but it was glued to the ground. i was very disapointed and started to cry. my momma told me that pennies were worthless and not to worry about it. i am still sad though. i love the penny. i have approximately 1,722 pennies in my piggy bank.

posted on Fri, 12/14/2007 - 2:26pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Last night, 60 Minutes ran a piece on the costliness of pennies. The head of the U.S. Mint admitted that it doesn't make sense to keep making pennies when they cost more than their worth. Currently, it's nearly two cents to make one penny. But the Mint still comes out way ahead when you factor in the cost of printing paper money. It costs about 6 cents to make a paper bill, whether it is a $1, $5, $20 or $100. And other good news for the penny, special commemerative pennies are being designed for production for next year, which will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Lincoln and the 100th anniversary of him being on a penny.

posted on Mon, 02/11/2008 - 5:15pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Make the penny worth six cents, and the nickel worth eight cents, then with a little mental anguish, the odd-lots could be worked out, and the math portion for eighth graders's NCLB scores would rise. The difficulty with this proposal is that "two bits" (a quarter) would be worth less than the penny when corrected for inflation. On the other side, it would still indeed be worth about one one-hundredth of an inflated value dollar
P.S.- I follow Strunk's "Elements of Style" (for 'graders's')

posted on Sat, 09/19/2009 - 6:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I don't even use money anymore, I use my debit card.
But, I think it would be wise to keep the penny. We need to be able to break a dollar into 100 equal units...Lets keep the representation straight. 1 penny represents 1...a nickel, 5 pennies. One is a good value. You gotta start with one.

posted on Tue, 05/25/2010 - 10:55am
Jenny Watson's picture
Jenny Watson says:

Because of the price spike for copper, the national mint recently has made it illegal to melt down coins to sell for their free-market worth. The mint is worried such melting-down action could lead to a shortage of pennies and nickels in our economy.

Military Challenge Coins

posted on Sat, 12/08/2012 - 4:09am

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