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Penny & Nickel in Steel?
May 07, 2008

Base Metal Prices Force the Issue

In U.S. numismatics the one cent piece (penny) and five cent piece (nickel) are the current hot buttons. High prices for the base metals, copper and nickel, used in their production have driven up manufacturing costs above the face value of these coins and hobby professionals, like friend and fellow blogger Dave Harper have been talking up the subject for some time now.

Costs always push these discussions out to the broader public and media however and this morning I noticed a story on CNN. Historically, in our field lots of collectors and professionals have been debating the need for the cent for many, many years. In general, we collectors do not want to see the cent dropped from coinage and at the U.S. Mint we have an ally in Director Edmund C. Moy, who has been wonderful at listening to collectors.

Still, paying more than face value to produce a penny or nickel is economically unsound. The suggestion that both coins be switched in content to steel is an interesting one. I am not sure how the public might react to such a change, but I can say that as a collector I, personally, would enjoy such a move. A metal change is the simplest way to move the type collector into action. Most numismatists would certainly make a point of adding a new steel cent or five cent to their collection. They might even take the opportunity to encourage kids to do the same, as collecting pennies and nickels has always been the lowest cost, smallest downside, easiest access channel into numismatics.

In addition a metal change would force U.S. collectors to take a better look at the long date runs of the Lincoln cent and Jefferson nickel. Generally only the highest grades garner interest currently, but if the composition of these types changes, perhaps markets would begin to mature and structure might develop for marginal differences in date and grade scarcity.

Consider taking a moment and expressing your opinion on this subject. Post a comment here, or stop over at NumisMaster, where several surveys, blog posts and articles have already been generating lively discussions among collectors.

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About the Author
Tom Michael has been Krause Publications primary market analyst on more than 80 world and United States coin catalogs produced over the last 20 years. He came to KP in 1987 with a bachelor of arts degree in history, a master of arts degree in economics and a history of coin collecting stretching back to the 1960s. He began collecting world coins as a child by asking friends and relatives to bring coins back from overseas trips, visiting flea markets and having his mother watch for foreign coins in her register at the local grocery store. Today he works with a dedicated base of over 200 contributors to provide accurate market values for the five-volume Standard Catalog of World Coins series, as well as many specialty catalogs, including Coins & Currency of the Middle East and the fifth edition of Unusual World Coins.

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