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Pennies, Nickels Worth Their Metal Under New House Bill

May 26, 2008 11:48 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
by Lindsey Chapman
Bill calls for pennies and nickels to be mostly steel, skirting higher copper and nickel prices to get the coins’ production cost back below their face value.

30-Second Summary

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Producing a penny cost 1.26 cents as of May 6, 2008; creating a nickel ran higher than 7.5 cents.

Because of the rise in copper and nickel prices, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that would make steel the main metal in the coins. The change is reminiscent of the steel pennies of World War II.

The present disparity between production costs, and the value of the penny in particular, has some people wondering whether minting pennies is necessary at all. “A modern penny simply isn’t worth enough to worry about,” writes The New Yorker.

Changing the composition of nickels is another matter though, because they’re used in vending machines, which distinguish real coins from fake ones based on weight and size. 

Regardless of the consequences, Rep. Luis Gutierrez says something must be done to address the issue. If the United States doesn’t change the metal content of its coins, making them will contribute “to our national debt by almost as much as the coin is worth,” Gutierrez cautions.     

Other coins are faring better than pennies and nickels. Dimes cost slightly more than 4 cents to mint. A quarter costs roughly 10 cents, while dollar coins run about 16 cents.

Headline Link: Changing the make-up of pennies, nickels

Background: Metal prices

Historical Context: Composition of the penny

Opinion & Analysis: The value of pennies

Related Topic: Theft of copper pipes

Reference: Producing money

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