Thursday, February 22, 2018

$105M

The amount that the U.S. Mint (and ultimately, taxpayers) lost on the production of pennies and nickels in 2013. The cost of minting a penny now stands at 1.8 cents, nearly twice its face value. Nickels cost twice as much as dimes — 9.4 cents vs. 4.6 cents — despite being worth only half as much. The U.S. Treasury spends nearly two dollars for every dollar of nickels or pennies it pumps into the economy. In contrast, a dollar's worth of quarters or dimes costs the government less than 50 cents. Why are nickels and pennies so expensive to make? Minting costs are primarily driven by the price of the metals used to produce the coins — nickel and copper for the nickel, and copper and zinc for the penny. In an era of budgetary austerity, politicians are taking notice of the Mint's losses, the Washington Post reports. The least-controversial solution would be to simply change the metal makeup of the coins to make them less expensive. Canadian nickels, for example, are 95 percent steel, which makes them cheaper to produce than their American cousins. The other option would be to discontinue pennies and nickels — Canada ditched its pennies when their production cost approached 1.6 cents, below what U.S. pennies cost now. Past attempts to discontinue penny production have been thwarted by the zinc industry (pennies are 97.5 percent zinc) and Coinstar, which operates the change-redeeming kiosks often seen in grocery stores. — tbt*

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