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United States The Almighty Buck

Should the US Change Metal Coins? (networkworld.com) 702

coondoggie writes: It may be time for the United States to rethink how the smallest parts of its monetary system — the penny, nickel and dime – are made. According to a report this week from watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office, since 2006 the prices of metals used in coins have risen so much that the total production unit costs of the penny and nickel exceed their face value resulting in financial losses to the U.S. Mint.
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Should the US Change Metal Coins?

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  • Penny (Score:5, Informative)

    by itamblyn ( 867415 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @01:35AM (#51284375) Homepage
    We got rid of the penny here in Canada. It was no big deal. I've hardly noticed the difference.
    • Re:Penny (Score:5, Funny)

      by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @01:40AM (#51284391)
      That's because all those Canadian pennies are circulating here in the U.S.
    • Lobbyists (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There are various copper and zinc related interests who lobby against changing this.

      Nobody would actually miss the penny, though, I think, but enough lobbyists would make a fuss that it hasn't proven worth it yet.

      • When I was in the US military and stationed overseas, we used US money on base.
        Didn't have a single cent there at all. Too damned expensive to ship over.
        So if you bought stuff on base, the price was rounded to the nearest nickel. The stores didn't mind at all, especially since you'd see people picking up all kinds of extra stuff to get that total exactly right to round down.
        <sarcasm>Gee, buying more stuff just to save two cents. Yeah, the stores were really aghast...</sarcasm>
    • Re:Penny (Score:5, Informative)

      by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @02:03AM (#51284469) Journal
      Here in Norway we been removing less useful (meaning coins of little practical value) coins for years: - The 1 øre and 2 øre coins disappeared in '74 - The 5 øre and 25 øre coins were withdrawn in '84 - The 10 øre coin ended being legal tender in '92 - The 50 øre coin was withdrawn May 1st 2012. So while I can still recall putting a 5øre coin in my piggy-bank, there is now no coins circulating that is worth less than 1 Norwegian krone... but you know what? The wast majority of Norwegians pay by card anyhow, and the prices has not changed with the smaller coins going away. If you pay by card, you pay the exact amount. If you pay cash, it is rounded up or down to the nearest coin-value.
      For those curious; after the retirement of the 50 øre coin, a purchase of 9.49 kroner is rounded down to 9.00 while a purchase of 9.50 kroner is rounded up to 10.00 - unless you pay by card, in which case you pay the exact sum owed. Off course it helps that the VAT is already added to the price listed - what you see is what you pay, but there is no reason why it shouldn't work equally well in places this isn't done (something which always boggles me when I'm visiting the US btw).
      The US penny today is worth much less than the half-penny was when it was removed from circulation... yet for some reason people oppose removing the penny.
      • We did the same here in Australia, maybe in the 80s or early 90s. Removed the 1 and 2 cent copper coins. Around the same time we moved 1 and 2 dollar notes to coins. Didn't have a lot of effect, other than making the minimum bag of lollies 5c instead of 2c (Hey, I was a kid at the time!).

      • but you know what? The vast majority of Norwegians pay by card anyhow

        You know what? The vast majority of Norwegians can be tracked in real time by their card purchases.

        What an efficient cage.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          You know what? The vast majority of Norwegians can be tracked in real time by their card purchases. What an efficient cage.

          Yes, but for ~98% of the adult population tracking the cell phone is much more efficient. Compared to that, paying my groceries by card is completely insignificant. The only time it matters if I don't like the purchase being linked to me, not the tracking aspect.

    • Re:Penny (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ramze ( 640788 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @02:26AM (#51284547)

      Sorry... rational solutions to problems isn't our thing in the USA. I mean... first we'd stop making and circulating the penny, then we'd legalize medical marijuana, switch to the metric system, and finally embrace universal healthcare. That's just crazy talk!

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Seems like a good idea to get rid of everything less than a dollar, then make coins only and get rid of the paper notes.

      It would make it a lot harder for robbers and drug traffickers. Most people can use a card when shopping and keep the coins for small transactions.

    • I've heard it mentioned that the US tends to be a lot more conservative in terms of it's monetary designs and policies for psychological reasons. Stability and continuity gives a feeling of fiscal stability (although reducing our deficit would do a hell of a lot more in practice).

      Keep in mind that US dollars, unlike many other single country's currencies, are used as a de-facto standard in many places around the world, or at least *accepted* in many more places. Even the introduction of colors and other f

    • We got rid of the penny here in Canada. It was no big deal. I've hardly noticed the difference.

      Well, Australia got rid of their 1c & 2c coins in 1992. We don't miss them.... but be prepared for old people to whine about having to round up/ down for cash sales.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @01:39AM (#51284385)

    More dollar coins and add 2 dollar coins with cutting the 1 and 2 bills.

  • we're off the gold system, where metal coins were a store of value, linked to the market price of the metal in the coin. They're just representations of value, like glass beads or deer vertebras. it doesn't really matter how expensive they are, that doesn't affect their value. I'm not going to shed tears, considering all the ways that the US gov currently wastes money. Did you know that Donald J Trump has a full secret service retinue, bought and paid for by the taxpayers?

    • it doesn't really matter how expensive they are, that doesn't affect their value.

      It matters when it becomes worthwhile to melt them down.

  • Yes, it's time. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @01:55AM (#51284439) Journal

    Kill the penny.
    Kill the Nickel.
    Keep the dime - the smallest coin will now have the smallest value.
    Kill the quarter
    Create a new $0.50 piece a bit bigger than a dime, maybe a bit smaller than a penny.
    Create a new $1.00 piece about the size of a nickel, maybe slightly larger.
    Create a new $5.00 piece about the size of a quarter.

    To avoid confusion between new/old, change something mechanical - put a hole through the middle, or make them all octagonal or decagonal.

    If you're worried about cost, make the dime and half out of Aluminum. We've given up the concept of any actual value in our currency, so it's time to give up the artificial weight that made them feel like silver.

    Don't try to differentiate them by color. As the Sacajawea dollar taught us, after a few years in grubby fingers and rattling around in pockets, all coins start to have the same surface color.

    We end up with rationally sized coins, getting bigger as the value gets bigger. We get rid of the small valued paper money, which is also expensive to print/replace.

    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      There's already a $0.50 coin, I have a couple of them. I once got them as a change and I'm keeping them as a souvenir.
  • The penny should be made from aluminum like the yen is in Japan.

  • What do you even use a penny for? I'm asking this as a serious question.
    Last time I was in the USA, I ended up with a pocketful of pennies that were pretty much useless. Who uses a few pennies to make up the price when paying for something, as opposed to pulling out a couple of bills instead and getting some change.
    Even the nickel is debatable if it's worth keeping or not.

    More and more transactions are done electronically these days - so you can keep your $x.99 pricing if you want, and if it's an electronic

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      We use them to fool old folks into thinking they are making money by picking up pennies. Then when their back goes out from bending over to pick them up wham $12,000 hospital bill.

      Really thats about all they do at this point.

      • I did notice that, there were dropped pennies everywhere. My 6 year old daughter had a great time collecting them. I think she might have ended up with an extra 20-30c all up. Seems like no-one else even gave them a second thought.

  • Gee, it was my understanding that it has cost more to make a penny than it was worth for several decades - not just since 2006. Mind you, the new pennies (since 2011) have less copper than they used to (see http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/12/15/just-how-much-does-it-cost-to-make-a-penny/ ) ... but then again, when was the last time you saw a penny gumball machine anyway?
  • If smaller denominations are only useful for giving to the homeless then stop minting them!

    Less wealthy nations such as Timor Leste and El Salvador use the US Dollar as their currency. Withdraw them from circulation in the US and ship a containerful elsewhere.

  • At the beginning of the 20th century, we had cents, nickels, dimes, quarters, halves, and dollars. Then we had quarter-eagles ($2.50), half-eagles ($5), eagles ($10), and double eagles ($20). The purchasing power of a dollar then was about 30 times what it is today.

    So: ditch the cent and nickel. Keep the dime, half and dollar coins (making the half less bulky, please!), and bring back coins for $2.50, $5, $10, and $20. The dime will still be worth less than the 1900 cent, but this way we keep the nominal "d

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      And today it wouldn't be a problem to drop the printed money and only run coins. At least it would be more cumbersome for robbers and drug traffickers.

      • And today it wouldn't be a problem to drop the printed money and only run coins. At least it would be more cumbersome for robbers and drug traffickers.

        Well, that and a popular stripper's bottoms would look ... disturbing.

        • Making change with a vagina is a skill. Few strippers in the first world bother learning for $.25. Hence I am in favor of large value coins being in common circulation. We cannot allow a vaginal coin handling gap...

    • Interestingly, the dollar's purchasing power is about one-tenth what it was in 1949.

      A 1949 dime, made of silver is still worth about a dollar...
  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @02:19AM (#51284523)

    First ditch the small coins and then get rid of $1 notes and replace with a coin and add a $2 coin.

    Next swap over to plastic notes instead of paper notes. The plastic notes last much much longer and are much more difficult to forge.

  • Make nickels out of plastic, dimes out of soft felt, and quarters out of bone.

  • Our currency only has fiat value, so replacing the coins with base(r) metals is sensible. A program can be enacted by the govt. to buy up all of the existing coinage. Even poor immigrants don't care about pennies, so they should be eliminated. Nickels aren't in much better shape. Dimes are the smallest unit people care about, yet only slightly given how often I find them lying around unmolested. Quarters are the only way to pay in certain coin-op machines (e.g. laundromat washing machines), so they have val

  • It's a bit ironic to see this story when copper just fell below $2/lb. Old copper pennies are still worth more than face, but the current clad pennies are worth less than face again. We have a bear market in commodities the past few years to thank for this. I seem to recall that nickels had something like $0.07 of metal in them a few years ago, and now it's about $0.027 according to coinflation.com.

    Of course it's good to think about this, because it's only a matter of time before commodities go up in pri

  • A cashless society (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tokolosh ( 1256448 )

    A government's wet dream.

  • by clickety6 ( 141178 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @05:00AM (#51285017)
    Just replace the 1 cent coin was replaced with a 99 cent coin. Then it's worth as much as the metal and it replaces 99.99% of the need for having a 1 cent coin in the first place. ;)
  • by HideyoshiJP ( 1392619 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @05:55AM (#51285173)
    I'm curious why the face value being worth less than the face value is an issue. Doesn't the US Mint still own the metals? Doesn't it get used more than once? Can't they melt it down and make more pennies? Japan still makes a 1 yen coin, and doesn't have these issues. Maybe it's time to switch out copper for a less valuable metal.
    • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @07:17AM (#51285439) Journal

      1) Pennies are no longer made of copper; they're now copper plated zinc.

      2) The US Mint does not have it's own recycling forges and processing equipment; they purchase materials on the open market like everyone else.

      3) Yes, Japan still has yen, made of Aluminum. Everyone there hates them, too.

      There's no good reason to go to two decimal places on physical prices anymore. Make a new 50c piece (because the current one is to large/expensive to produce to be practical), stop producing pennies, nickels, and quarters. About the only people that would piss off would be the parking meter folks, and I'm very much in favor of pissing those people off.

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @10:43AM (#51286645)

    Canada has one of the best physical currency systems I've seen. No frigging pennies, transactions rounded to the nearest 5 cents. Means at *worst* you'll have a few pieces of useful silver jangling in your pocket vs a pile of worthless pennies.

    Dollar coins are actually useful in Canada. You can put dollar coins in meters, snack and soda machines, etc. vs trying to fold and iron a mangled paper bill to appease the finicky reader. You can actually USE dollar coins there to buy things without getting looked at like a asshole. You can walk into a bar and slap some coins down and buy a beer.

    The U.S. would do well if they could actually implement usage of $1 coins in automated kiosks. Very few people use dollar coins because you can't do anything with them here. Machines won't take them. Hell, people often won't take them, legal tender or not, because they aren't familiar with them and think they're getting a wooden nickel or something. If you could use them in machines, more people would use them, more people would see them and realize that they are legit, and then they could be used for lots of small transactions.

    And, as a an aside, plastic currency is awesome. Run your wallet through the washer accidentally, or fall out of the kayak on your trip? No problem. In the U.S., you can hold a legally acceptable but worn paper $5 in your hand and be unable to purchase anything from an automated kiosk because somebody ran it through the washer at some point and the reader can't make it out. I'd imagine it is harder to counterfit a plastic bill as well.

    This isn't rocket surgery. For a society based on the success of commerce I don't understand why the U.S. makes small transactions so awkward.

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