2009 Steel Cents?

Update: There has been no progress on this legislation and the prices of base metals included in the current Lincoln Cent composition have declined. Although subsequent events have kept the potential for coin composition changes possible, nothing definitive has emerged.

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would require the US Mint to switch from a zinc and copper penny to a copper plated steel penny. The legislation now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to be met with objections from some lawmakers.

The driving force behind the legislation is the rising cost of base metals that makes the production of cents and nickels a money loser for the US Mint. According to latest figures, it costs 1.26 cents to make a penny and 7.7 cents to make a nickel. Switching to primarily steel based cents and nickels could potentially save US taxpayers $1 billion over the next ten years.

The US Mint Director Ed Moy has said that the legislation requires a change in composition in too short a time frame. Furthermore the price of steel could potentially increase with the other base metals.

Coin collectors will remember the brief time period when the Lincoln Cent was primarily composed of steel. This was in 1943 when war time needs for copper precipitated the change. At that time, the steel was coated with zinc to produce pennies that were grayish/silver in color. This time around the plan is to coat the steel with copper, so the coins retain their familiar copper color.

This legislation is definitely something to watch as the Lincoln Cent approaches its 100th birthday in 2009!