Stories tagged nickel

Aug
09
2007

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 Is the penny outdated?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.