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Plastic seems preferable as metal prices rise

Emily Crone

Just another reason to continue the shift from cash and coins to plastic: Some coins now cost more to produce than what they are actually worth.

According to an article on, it currently costs 1.26 cents to make a penny made of zinc and copper and 7.7 cents to make a nickel made of copper and nickel. At the end of 2007, the cost of making a penny was actually as high as 1.67 cents. Copper and nickel prices have tripled and zinc prices have quadrupled in the past five years, the article reports, and because of the lost money, Congress is working on legislation that may institute new coin composition. One option is to revive steel coins, which were used during World War II.

Rising coin costs result in the loss of big bucks. Last year alone, production of nickels and pennies cost taxpayers and the Treasury about $100 million. The article cites a statistic from the House Financial Services Committee, which says the Mint produced 7.4 billion pennies and 1.2 billion nickels in 2007. Fortunately, dimes, quarters and dollar coins cost less to make than their face value.

Sure, going cashless and coinless could affect some, such as waiters, street performers and panderers, but if it is going to cost more to produce coins than they are worth, is that really the most efficient use of our tax dollars during a time of war and economic strife?  Is it time to become a fully cashless society?

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