White House Offers Thoughts for Your Penny

The latest White House budget offers some hope and a clear comment on change.

Bloomberg News
The White House budget out Tuesday calls for a “comprehensive review” of U.S. currency production, including alternatives for the money-losing penny and nickel.

It costs 1.8 cents to make a penny and 9.4 cents to make a nickel, costing the federal government about $104.5 million last year, according to the U.S. Mint.

The Mint already is studying a change to the mix of metals it uses to make quarters, dimes and nickels, a study Congress mandated in 2010 to examine ways to save money. Materials could be altered for the first time in half a century or more, potentially changing the color and diminishing the weight of coins.

The budget goes bigger, directing the U.S. Treasury to “assess the future of currency,” noting that production and circulation of coins and paper money have changed little in recent decades despite the growth in use of credit cards, online payments and other electronic transactions.

For now, Treasury is only looking at possibilities.

“These studies will analyze alternative metals, the United States Mint facilities, and consumer behavior and pref­erences, and will result in the development of alternative options for the penny and the nickel,” the budget says.

So far, Mint research indicates that the nickel can be produced for about, well, five cents. But no matter what it does, the penny will likely cost more to make than its face value.

Could that mean the end of the penny? The budget doesn’t say.

Other countries have decided to do away with it, including Britain, Australia and Israel. Most recently, Canada stopped distribution of the coin in 2013.

The latest documents sidestepped the heated topic of replacing dollar bills with dollar coins.