Coin Modernization and Taxpayer Saving Act

Steel PenniesLegislation to change the metallic composition of the penny and nickel to a less expensive copper-colored steel passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 8, 2008.

However, the plunge in base metal prices since could very well end the legislation’s chances of moving forward in the Senate.

The goal of the bill, which it titled Coin Modernization and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2008 – H.R. 5512, was directed toward saving money after high copper prices pushed production costs of the penny up to about 1.26 cents and the nickel to about 7.7 cents.

Since May, copper prices have fallen to where the melt value of a penny is now under a half cent and the nickel is just slightly higher than 5 cents — the U.S. Mint now makes money issuing pennies and almost breaks even with nickels.

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Stack of U.S. coinsOne of the pleasant side affects of the Coin Modernization and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2008, which would change the metallic composition of pennies and nickels to steel, is the revelation of current and past costs in minting coins.

Figures of coin production expenses are interesting in themselves, but charting their trends is another reminder of the volatility of metals within coins, like that of copper, zinc and nickel.

The cost of minting each penny and nickel today are:

  • Penny at 1.26 cents
  • Nickel at 7.7 cents

As a side note, the U.S. Mint also provided recent costs to mint the dime, which is 4 cents, the quarter at 10 cents and $1 coins at 16 cents each.

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Steel PenniesThe House debated on the legislation and finally voted yesterday to change the metallic composition of the penny and 5-cent nickel to a less expensive copper-colored steel.

Although the prices of copper, zinc and nickel metals in coins have declined in recent months, the penny and 5-cent nickel still cost more to make than what they’re worth—resulting in a reported loss of about $100 million every year, or $1 billion over a decade.

It now costs about 1.26 cents to make the penny and about 7.7 cents to make the nickel.

House bill “H.R. 5512, the Coin Modernization and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2008” would seek to change those manufacturing costs by using copper-colored steal, which could cut the cost of making pennies down to about 0.7 cents each. But its recent passage in the House is no guarantee it’ll make its way to the White House for signing.

H.R. 5512 must still go through the Senate and then the President, and not everyone is happy with the current legislation.

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The debate to change the metal composition of U.S. coinage was waged on the House floor Tuesday. With the surging prices of metals like zinc and copper, it now costs more than a penny to make a penny and about 7.7 cents to make a nickel. A new House bill entitled "H.R. 5512, the Coin […]

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The cost to manufacture pennies and nickels exceeds their face value. A newly introduced House bill would change the metal composition in coins to make them profitable again.

Pennies and Copper The newly introduced bill is not a new concept. A similar bill received attention late last year. The ‘Coin Modernization and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2007‘ failed to get through the gates when a mini firestorm erupted. Mostly because the bill contained more than what its name implied – a provision that would allow citizens to melt pennies.

That portion of the bill proved to be controversial. Why? The U.S. Treasury implemented a ban on melting 1-cent and 5-cent coins that went into effect just months earlier with a stated objective to save money.

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