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Steel to Make Coinage Comeback
March 13, 2008

Steel cents are in our future. The only thing is, they won't look like steel cents. This isn't as strange as it may sound. We already have zinc cents that don't look like zinc cents.

The steel concept is the same. The core will be coated or bonded to an outer layer of copper so the public will not be able to visually detect the difference.

At issue is timing. There are two bills in Congress. At a hearing on Tuesday the divisions became clear. One bill gave discretionary authority over coin composition to the Treasury secretary. The other essentially leaves that power in the hands of Congress unless an extensive round of consulting and public input occurs.

Which is Congress likely to go for? My money is on the one where it retains the most power. What they agree on though is the necessity of changing the cent's composition.

That brings us back to steel and timing. It will be around two years before the Mint can line up all of its ducks and suppliers. That seems slow, but that is what the Mint director said. We live in an Internet age where we figure if we can conceive of it, it will be done.

The Mint operates industrial plants and things don't move that quickly.

The new composition will save taxpayers money.

Any changes to the other denominations depend on which of the two pieces of legislation passes. Let's watch and see.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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