Nickel Swap for Half-Dime Clarified in Legislation

by Mike Unser on September 23, 2008 · 5 comments

Coin Legislation on Capital BuildingCongressman Frank Lucas introduced House Resolution 6942 Thursday that would swap today’s Jefferson Nickel with a circulating half-dime of old.

In an article Friday, details were scarce because the Government Printing Office had not yet published the bill’s text. That is no longer the case.

H.R. 6942 is officially entitled the ‘5 cent Restoration Act of 2008.’ Interestingly, it is at the top of the brevity scale when it comes to coin legislation with fewer than a dozen sentences. At the bill’s core are three lines that state its intent:


    (a) In General- Paragraph (5) of section 5112(a) of title 31, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

          `(5) a clad half-dime that is based on the size and shape of the half-dime or 5-cent coin produced in the 1870s.’.

    (b) Effective Date- The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply to coins issued after December 31, 2009.


H.R. 6942 is directed toward reducing minting costs. A Jefferson nickel is composed of 75% copper. When copper prices were at their highest in 2008, the cost to produce each was nearly 10 cents. A Liberty Seated half-dime from the 1870’s, as referred to as the model for a new 5-cent coin, is smaller than a Roosevelt dime, and weighs half as much. Compared to the Jefferson nickel, its total metallic cost would be substantially lower, or about 1/7 the price. The Mint could actually profit, once again, in minting a 5-cent coin.

There are several problems with the legislation at its current state that will prevent its passage this year, or ever:

  • Congress heads back home September 26 for the election season, making any proposed coin legislation an uphill battle this year.

  • The bill needs further clarification. As an example, half-dimes from the 1870’s were also made from 90% silver. H.R. 6942 does not specify the type of metals that would be used to make a new half-dime or give the US Mint the authority to make the decision.

  • The price of copper has dropped significantly. Since May, copper prices have fallen to such a degree that the melt value of the nickel is just under 5 cents. With that, there is less political pressure to make any changes. (This fact also likely places the Coin Modernization and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2008 – H.R. 5512 in a holding pattern.)

  • Resizing the nickel would have potential repercussions in the vending machine industry and with retail businesses.

  • Public education costs and efforts would also need to be considered in issuing a new circulating coin of a different size.

In short, and probably to the dismay of many coin collectors, it is unlikely H.R. 6942 will see the light of day this year, and debatable whether it will ever.

For any legislation to become law, it must pass both the House and the Senate, and get signed by the President.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim September 23, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Some of these people turn their brains off when they get to Washington and don’t bother to think again. Apparently this guy can’t put together more than a few sentences at a time which is why this stupid bill is so short and not thought out at all.

Richard September 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Frank Lucas need to get his head out of the MicroWave, its about half the size before he put in in. If the U S Mint was to make a half cent out of Zinc and Copper , the smaller coin size many would be lost and another enviromental condition. The current penny does not hold up in salt water beaches. I know I found my share metal detecting and maybe the government should have any Banking Office collect all damage coins pulled from circulation and replace with clean coins and sent back to the Treasury. I can’t afford to mail in damaged coins because they would cost to much to ship. I believe there would be a million dollars in damaged coins turned back in for cash. It hard to straighten out a coin thats been hit by a Lawn Mower blade. Coins should get the same privilege as mutilated currency

Brian "Goof" Young September 28, 2008 at 1:42 pm

I was really hoping the government would save us some money making steel 1 cent & 5 cent coins by 2010. What about a 9/10 of a cent coin for the pointless 9/10 cent per gallon the gas stations add to the price of a gallon of gas? That is so stupid now that gas is around $4/gal.

Jim September 29, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Nobody ever sells anything for a round figure. It’s always $n.95 or $n.99. Same thing with gas. I guess the marketers think there are dumb people out there who still don’t recognize the fact that all it takes is 5 cents, 1 cent, or 0.1 cent to round up to the next $ so that whatever it they’re buying is actually more expensive than what they think. The theory is lost on me. It’s just like showing you a buck and saying that’s all it costs but don’t mention that you still have to pay sales tax and so it really costs more than a buck.

Munze March 4, 2010 at 6:24 pm

We need to rethink the whole coinage system. While history means we’re probably stuck with the quarter instead of a 20¢ piece as used by most true decimal systems, there’s no reason we shouldn’t plug the gaps between the 1¢ and 5¢ coins with a functional 2¢ piece and ditto for $1 coins and $5 bills.

Why hang onto sizes and denominations that date back to the 19th century? Coins sizes no longer have to be proportional so a new 2-cent piece could be multi-sided and in between a cent and nickel in diameter. Likewise a $2 coin could be bimetallic on the order of the Canadian “twonie” (a very successful coin).

Leave a Comment