At the 2014 IPI Conference & Expo in Dallas, Jon Cameron, the U.S. Mint’s director, office of coin studies, discussed research the U.S. Treasury Department initiated on all circulating coins. Cameron told a packed Opening Session audience that Congress wished to identify ways to reduce coins’ production costs. Many might not know that each penny engraved with the 16th president’s likeness costs $0.0166 to make, or that each five-cent nickel costs $0.0809 to manufacture.
For the transportation industry and many other industries (vending, laundry) that rely on coin use, any alteration of the size, shape, weight, and electro-magnetic signature (EMS) of coins could require very expensive equipment alterations.
After extensive research and development on potential alternative metal compositions for circulating coins, the Mint’s Office of Coin Studies made the following recommendations to Congress:
- Continue large-scale testing to identify a metal mixture that could potentially serve as an alternative to current coins in circulation while reducing costs.
- Explore production improvements.
- Continue to keep stakeholders (IPI and other organizations) informed and engaged in R&D efforts.
- Initiate studies to understand consumer behavior regarding the use of coins in commerce.
In an age when the trust and transparency between government and business is often tested, it is very gratifying to see how open the U.S. Mint is to industry input. With an estimated cost to U.S. businesses calculated between $2.4 billion to $6 billion to accommodate new coins, the Mint’s efforts to include all stakeholders is welcome.