May 26, 2010
Bucko's Bucks - Coins
In 2009, the U.S. Mint issued 3.2 billion pennies, worth $32.2 million. With manufacturing costs pegged at 1.6 cents apiece, the Federal government lost $19.8 million on the deal. In the same year, it also shipped 207 million nickels, at a loss of $2.2 million. By comparison, the Mint made $15 million off its sales of dimes, $132 million off its sales of quarters and a whopping $318.7 million off its sales of dollar coins.
The government makes money on every dime, quarter and dollar that is taken out of circulation. Quarters, for example, cost approximately 12 cents apiece to make, which means that the government pulls in about 13 cents every time one goes into a coin collection. The state quarters program, which wrapped up in 2008, inspired an estimated 147 million people to hoard quarters. The U.S. Mint issued 34.3 billion quarters in the program, yielding a profit of $6.3 billion.
Although the proposals to solve the cost problem range from plastic currency to industrial porcelain coins to (gasp!) dropping the penny, the most likely result of all this will be that the government will add a base metal -- probably aluminum -- to its pennies and nickels.
In the meantime, there's a quick solution to the Mint's problems: A commemorative dime series honoring either Franklin Delano Roosevelt or World War II would increase demand for -- and thus production of -- dimes.