Congressman calls for change to nickels and pennies

19 December 2011

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20 December 2011 | Adam Leach

Ohio Republican congressman Steve Stivers has submitted two bills to Congress to reduce the cost of producing low denomination coins while increasing the use of US-made steel.

Stivers launched the Cents and Sensibility Act and the STEEL Nickel Act on Thursday. Should they be enacted, the two pieces of legislation will mean that both nickels (five cent coins) and pennies (one cent coins) cost less to produce than their actual monetary value. In addition, they would ensure greater usage of the domestically available steel. Currently, the US imports copper and zinc from Canada to manufacture the coins.

Announcing the bill, Stivers said: “This legislation is a common-sense solution to decrease the cost of minting pennies and nickels. Not only will it cost less, but steel is an American resource that we have and can manufacture right here in our backyard.”

Since 2006, price rises in the precious metals market have resulted in the cost of producing the two coins rising above their final monetary value. By substituting steel for copper, zinc and nickel the House Financial Services Committee forecasts that US taxpayers would see an overall saving of $433 million (£278.8 million) over the next 10 years. The committee’s figures for September 2010 put the production cost of a penny at 1.79 cents and a nickel  at 9.22 cents.

Despite the changes in the materials used to make the coins, the appearance would remain the same, with Abraham Lincoln adorning the penny and the face of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned on the nickel.

Representatives Tim Ryan (Democrat, Ohio) and Pat Tiberi (Republican, Ohio) co-sponsored the pieces of legislation.

The launch of the two pieces of legislation came just two days after vice-president Joe Biden announced that due to a lack of demand, it was halting routine production of the dollar coin. Biden said: “From now on, we're only going to make as many coins as collectors demand and we're going to charge a premium, so it doesn't cost us a dime to make those dollar coins.”

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