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Melting Coins Now Illegal In the U.S. 778

Posted by kdawson
from the facing-meltdown dept.
A number of readers have noted the action by the U.S. Mint to outlaw the melting down or bulk export of coins. This has come about because the value of the precious metals contained in coins now exceeds their face value. The Mint would rather not have to replace pennies (at a cost of 1.73 cents per) or nickels (at 8.74 cents). The expectation is that Congress will mandate new compositions for some U.S. coins in 2007.
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Melting Coins Now Illegal In the U.S.

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  • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:00PM (#17240092) Homepage Journal

    If this keeps up, .002 cents really will [slashdot.org] = $.002

    (Sorry, but it had to be said...)

    • by abe ferlman (205607) <bgtrio.yahoo@com> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:04PM (#17240170) Homepage Journal
      If I had a nickel for every time I heard that one...
      • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:21PM (#17240590) Journal

        .05 cents? Let us know when you've reached 20 and maybe somebody will send you a penny for your thoughts. :-D

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I wonder what the feds think of this penny pressing site?

          pressedpenny.com [pressedpenny.com]

          What is the government definition of "bulk"?
    • How hard is it to realize that if it costs your more than 1 cent (or 5 cents) to make something worth 1 cent (or 5 cents), then don't make it. Basic enconomics Duh, if the pennies and nickels are worth more as materials than they are as currency then we SHOULD melt them down and use those materials for some better purpose and find some cheaper material to make our coins.
  • Paper? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wrought@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:02PM (#17240122) Homepage Journal
    Can I continue to light my cigars with hundreds?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thansal (999464)
      we all laugh, but I thought that destruciton of currency was ALREADY illegal. Serachign around tryign to see if I can find a link....
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:02PM (#17240146)
    They stopped making em out of copper before the 50's (I forget exactly when its finals week XD)

    they make them out of an electroplated nickel alloy now..

    Dare i say it shouldn't just be oil we should be concerned about running out?

    JUNK METAL coins are now worth more than their face value... I think this is a sign that asteroid mining could be feasible (the average nickel iron monster is worth several trillian.. not counting any incidental precious metals)
    • by pthisis (27352)
      I thought it was 1980 when they switched from copper to copper-clad zinc.
      • by pthisis (27352) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:10PM (#17240330) Homepage Journal
        Found it. 1982 they switched from 95% copper, 5% zinc to 97.6% zinc with 2.4% copper plating.

        The previous composition (95% copper/5% zinc) went back to 1962. 1864-1962 it was 95% copper/5% zinc/tin alloy, except in 1943 they were zinc-plated steel.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smellsofbikes (890263)
          They were steel in '43, and the so-called shell-casing bronze [wikipedia.org] in '44-'45, and the more standard bronze the rest of the run until 1982.

          By the way, if you stack some pre-'81 pennies alternating with post-'82 pennies and heat the whole mass over a bunsen burner, when the zinc melts the whole works fuses with a blue flash and you can pry big pretty pieces of brass out of the mass. It works much better if you melt the old ones, then drop the new ones into the melt, because the zinc dissolves before oxidizing, b
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by pthisis (27352)
            1968-1982 they used the 95% copper/5% zinc formulation which I think is the same as "shell casing bronze" (the earlier bronze had tin as well).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by damiangerous (218679)
      They stopped making em out of copper before the 50's (I forget exactly when its finals week XD)

      they make them out of an electroplated nickel alloy now..

      No to both of those, as it says in the article. They stopped making pennies out of copper in 1981 and they're now made of copper coated zinc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Mindwarp (15738)
      I think this is a sign that asteroid mining could be feasible (the average nickel iron monster is worth several trillian.. not counting any incidental precious metals)

      It could be worth significantly more than that if you threaten to smash it into somewhere important!

      One MILLION dollars! Muahahahaha! Muahahahahahaha!

      *ahem*
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gonarat (177568) *

      Pennies were 95% copper until they changed the composition to copper coated zinc in 1982 (I think the 1983 penny was the first year they actually made pennies with the new mix). Dimes, Quarters, Half-Dollars and (I think) Dollars were silver until 1964. That is why you don't normally see any dimes or quarters from before the '60s in your change.

    • by Phreakiture (547094) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:09PM (#17240312) Homepage

      They stopped making em out of copper before the 50's (I forget exactly when its finals week XD)

      I'll give you some slack for finals week, but you are off by three decades. Pennies were made of 95% copper until the mid 80's. Dimes, quarters, half-dollars and full-sized full dollars (i.e. not sacagawea-sized) were made of silver until 1963.

      (Yes, I am a coin collector)

      they make them out of an electroplated nickel alloy now..

      Zinc, actually, not nickel.

      Dare i say it shouldn't just be oil we should be concerned about running out?

      Well, not exactly a misplaced point, but we can recycle metals, hence the very problem the article was about. We can't recycle oil once it's been burnt.

    • by nelsonal (549144)
      That junk metal coins are now worth more than their face value is mostly the result of declining value of a dollar rather than the rarity of the metal contained within.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:03PM (#17240152)
    A worthless coin anyway.
  • by Bastard of Subhumani (827601) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:03PM (#17240154) Journal
    Dada21 will be along to spout something about precious metals, followed at 11 by a film.
  • by east coast (590680) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:03PM (#17240164)
    As much as I can understand why they do not want people melting down these coins, how much is the metal really worth in it's "raw" form unrefined?

    My second question is how much would it cost to refine these metals to make them worth the most? Copper prices are sky high right now but a lump of melted pennies probably wouldn't be able to be sold as a "copper" since there are a number of other metals involved. Is this something that can really be profitable?
    • by Phreakiture (547094) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:11PM (#17240358) Homepage

      As much as I can understand why they do not want people melting down these coins, how much is the metal really worth in it's "raw" form unrefined?

      About 1.7 cents for a current penny, about 2.3cents for a pre-1986 penny, about 7.5 cents for a nickel.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by djh101010 (656795) *
      My second question is how much would it cost to refine these metals to make them worth the most? Copper prices are sky high right now but a lump of melted pennies probably wouldn't be able to be sold as a "copper" since there are a number of other metals involved. Is this something that can really be profitable?

      That's a really great question. The deal is, at least for silver and gold coins - they are kept in their coin form but traded at or near melt value. There are several reasons for this. First, a
  • by jimfinity (849860) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:04PM (#17240188)
    It might just be more feasible to get rid of pennies altogether.

    here is an article i have found to be particularly illuminating.

    http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a981009a.html [straightdope.com]
    • by owlnation (858981)
      In Europe not all countries use the Bronze colored Euro Cent coins. Holland for example doesn't. In Germany where I live, the bronze coins are pretty much useless - I give mine to charity.
    • by hey! (33014) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:22PM (#17240626) Homepage Journal
      Why stop there?

      Why not get rid of nickles and dimes as well?

      And why we're at it, let's get rid of all paper currency, replacing it with coins in the following denominations: $1, $5, $20, $50. Then we can stop printing money to replace all those torn dollar bills.

      Think of the affect on crime. While you could carry a couple thousand dollars on your person if you really needed to, the drug kingpin who wants payment of a million in cash is going to need a forklift, not a suitcase. Similar issues of phyiscal inconvenience will deter counterfeiting.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Moofie (22272)
        Because creating an inconvenience for law-abiding citizens is OK, if it also inconveniences criminals.

        Or we could, I dunno, not do that.
      • by mfrank (649656) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:54PM (#17242688)
        You can't fold a dollar coin in half and stick it behind a G-string.
        • by couchslug (175151) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:48PM (#17243672)
          That will not be missed as alternative coin-reception techniques have been developed.
          "Juicies" in the Phillipines have perfected a very entertaining way of picking up stacked change from atop a San Miguel bottle. The more skillful can return the stack coin-by-coin.
          Shouts to any Nipa Hut or Fire Empire patrons in da house! :)
  • Devalue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:04PM (#17240198)
    I wonder how much of this is because of "increasing value of precious metals" and how much is "The devaluing of the American dollar" (I recognize that from the perspective of Americans this would be the same thing); if it is based on the dollars value, why wouldn't you attempt to correct the problem with the dollar (by not running a 1/2 trillion dollar deficit) rather than finding cheaper materials?
    • Re:Devalue (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skreems (598317) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:08PM (#17240280) Homepage
      Ah, but that assumes that the government actually cares about the deficit, and would rather pay down the national debt than blow untold billions of dollars on pork barrel spending for their own states.
    • by Qzukk (229616)
      Well, ideally they'd do both: combat inflation while saving money.

      But this is government we're talking about, when has a government actually done either?
    • This isn't a problem of the American dollar devaluing (inflating) relative to some real standard. This is a problem of copper being increasingly more valuable relative to other commodities.
      Phone companies around the world are having problems with people cutting down their lines to steal the copper.

      The US had a previous round of making it illegal to melt down coins - for a number of years in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the US was on a bimetallic standard, with both gold and silver exchangable at a fixed

  • My question (Score:5, Funny)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:05PM (#17240204) Journal
    Since they only penalty is a fine, can you pay the fine out of the money you made selling the metal from the melted down coins?
  • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:06PM (#17240234)
    And deprecate the coins equivalent to the penny and have the lowest monetary unit be 5 cents (it's obviously possible to make a coin for under 5 cents since a penny costs 1.75 cents to make). Also, encourage the use of $1 coins and create $2, $5 and possibly $10 coins as well (keep the $10 bills at least though). That way, it'll be easier for automated machines to give change. When I go to NJ from NYC, there's few things more annoying than the river of $1 coins that the ticket machine vomits as change when you put a $20 in to buy a $10.25 ticket!

    And for folks who'll ask, replacing cash with electronic transactions isn't the answer. I for one like the anonymity of cash and the fact that I'm carrying a physical object of known value that can handle some pretty heavy abuse before becoming worthless.

    -b.

  • by stry_cat (558859) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:07PM (#17240250) Journal
    How can the US Mint make something illegal, only Congress has the power to pass laws. Someone please explain.
  • by TheWoozle (984500) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:07PM (#17240258)
    I'm too busy straining the gold out of seawater and reclaiming the platinum out of old catalytic converters to mess with melting down pennies and nickels...
  • Pennies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:07PM (#17240264) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps it's time to start seriously thinking about withdrawing the penny from circulation. You can't buy anything with a penny anymore. You only really use them for two reasons:

    1. Stores like the $X.99 price point, because it subtly makes people think they're paying $X rather than $X+1. $X.95 is also popular, and could work with only nickels.
    2. Sales tax is based on percentage, so even if you have a round price like $1.00, you may end up with something like $1.07.

    OK, 3 reasons if you're paying for gas with cash. But note that gas stations already advertise prices to the thousandth of a dollar -- as far as I know, the US has never actually minted a mil -- and they already get rounded up to the nearest penny. I'm sure gas stations would be quite happy to round to the nearest nickel instead.

    Of course, given how many transactions are electronic these days, withdrawing the penny wouldn't necessarily alter credit or debit transactions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CrazyTalk (662055)
      Not entirely true - there WERE mills:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mill_(currency) [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NereusRen (811533)

      OK, 3 reasons if you're paying for gas with cash. But note that gas stations already advertise prices to the thousandth of a dollar -- as far as I know, the US has never actually minted a mil -- and they already get rounded up to the nearest penny. I'm sure gas stations would be quite happy to round to the nearest nickel instead.

      Since I got a Prius, I have been keeping a record of my gas purchases. It turns out the two gas stations I go to often (a Holiday and a BP) compute the total price based on their th

  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:08PM (#17240270) Homepage Journal
    Take them out of circulation, and then the Mint can do whatever they like with the alloys. Or if they're smart, they'll use alloys for a $1 coin and stop making the $1 bill.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by petabyte (238821)
      Well, the Mint doesn't do anything with $1 bill or any bill for that matter. That would be the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The Mint does the coins and Bureau of Engraving and Printing does the paper.

      That said, I'm pretty much supportive of nuking the penny, making $1 a coin, and creating a $5 coin (but keeping the bill). But thats just my $2.
  • How much is the gold in a one pound, or two pound coin worth? Enough to make it worthwhile?
  • I'll bet there's nothing keeping you from placing all those pennies on railroad tracks and having a train stomp those suckers flat.

    And stop linking New York Times, you [expletive deleted]s. I don't want to fucking register nor do I want to have to take the goddamn time to go to bugmenot.com [bugmenot.com] to get a NY Times uid & pwd. Here's some links that don't require registration to read: here [usatoday.com] , here [denverpost.com] , here [cnn.com] , and here [nwsource.com] . Anyway, now that they said don't melt those coins, guess what they are going to do? Melt
  • by Speare (84249) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:12PM (#17240364) Homepage Journal

    Under what authority can the US Mint create new law? The US Mint, the Secret Service and the Treasury are all in the enforcement, not the legislative branch.

    Some AC said it was illegal to mutilate or deface paper money. Uh, no, it's not. It's also not illegal to cut up a US coin in some artistic fashion and sell it for a higher amount; this is done all the time. In terms of defacement, you can't stick a picture of Kennedy on a quarter and try to redeem it as a half-dollar, and the same goes for gluing a "20" on the corner of a one-dollar bill. That's simple fraud, in this case called counterfeiting.

    • by qweqazfoo (765286) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:27PM (#17240764)
      Ever heard of Administrative Law? Most of the laws in this country are made by federal and state executive agencies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Administrative_Law [wikipedia.org]

      And to blow your mind even further, the judicial branch makes law too! It's called common law. The federal judiciary and 49 of the 50 states operate under common law. If you don't like it, you have to move to Louisiana or France.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by poot_rootbeer (188613)
        Most of the laws in this country are made by federal and state executive agencies.

        Okay, but federal executive agencies can only make laws pertaining to those areas in which the legislative branch has delegated to them the authority to make laws.

        The Federal Communications Commission, for example, could not establish a law increasing the penalty for possession of marijuana -- it is not in their jurisdiction.

        The question, then, is whether the Department of the Treasury is authorized by Congress to prevent citi
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=42 6715 [google.com]

      These folks sure act like it's been illegal for a while now. In terms of cutting up a US coin and sell it for more, it's illegal, but not often enforced. Just like Speed Limit laws where it's illegal to drive faster then a particular speed, but is flaunted regularly.

      Kirby

  • They could always do a reverse split on the dollar 1:10... Then everybody would convert their existing dollars for New Dimes, and pennies would more.

    Other than being completely impractical, it's the perfect plan!
  • I know it would be incredibly difficult to do in these modern days, but I'd love to see dollars revalued as 10 "new dollars" (or even more... 50/1, 100/1?). Inflation has devalued money so that anything under a dollar has so little value. The original dollar back in 1790 was a pretty good chunk of change. Even back in the early 20th century, a dollar was worth 10 or 20 dollars today. What's it even mean to be a millionaire these days? It's not a trivial amount of money, but you could barely live off it.
  • Copper Penny: $0.01

    Copper Washer: $0.10

    Making a copper washer by poking a hole in a copper penny: $10,000.00 fine

    That about it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by corsec67 (627446)
      Realizing pennies aren't (any more) made out of copper: Priceless

      For everything else, life takes VISA(tm)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by fahrbot-bot (874524)
        For everything else, life takes VISA(tm).

        Or, rather: For everything else, there's MasterCard.
        Watch some TV dude! :-)

  • by ronanbear (924575) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:31PM (#17240850)
    Making melting down the coins illegal is one of those things that will just give petty criminals ideas.

    They should just add some sulphur to the coins. It makes them more machinable (not much use for stamped coins though) and utterly destroys their value for recycling.

    Maybe the real reason they're doing this is that they've added RFID chips to coins and they don't want people destroying lots of them.
  • Canadian cents (Score:3, Informative)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:38PM (#17241018) Homepage Journal
    Time to start melting Canadian cents for all your copper-reclaimation needs -- 98% copper until 1996 [wikipedia.org].
  • by rlp (11898) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:47PM (#17241244)
    I always thought that the mint should make all coins out of radioactive waste. It would solve the problem of nuclear waste disposal. It would encourage consumers to spend money - quickly. This would help the economy. And it would definitely discourage hoarding of currency.
  • by drix (4602) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:37PM (#17249164) Homepage
    In case you're wondering like me why this wasn't already against the law, I looked it up and the relevant section of US code [findlaw.com] appears to apply only to bills and banknotes. I guess this also explains why those tourist-trap penny presses are also still around.

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