Thursday, December 14, 2006

A new kind of numismatics

I used to collect coins -- still am in fact. I've been enjoying the State Quarters series (though I'm a little hesitant about the US President dollar coin series -- that will get a mite expensive).

But I heard on the radio this morning a story about coin collecting of a different sort -- collecting pennies and nickels and melting them for resale. Apparently, the cost of copper and zinc have risen so high as to make pennies and nickels worth far more than their face value. The story said that the mint has even passed a temporary rule restraining melting of these coins. I went out to the US Mint website (a pretty fascinating website -- they actually market our currency -- I'm not sure I understand why currency needs to be marketed -- isn't it something we all need? A little help from business gurus please) -- here's an excerpt from their press release:

The United States Mint has implemented regulations to limit the exportation, melting, or treatment of one-cent (penny) and 5-cent (nickel) United States coins, to safeguard against a potential shortage of these coins in circulation. The United States Mint is soliciting public comment on the interim rule, which is being published in the Federal Register.

Prevailing prices of copper, nickel and zinc have caused the production costs of pennies and nickels to significantly exceed their respective face values. The United States Mint also has received a steady flow of inquiries from the public over the past several months concerning the metal value of these coins and whether it is legal to melt them.

"We are taking this action because the Nation needs its coinage for commerce," said Director Ed Moy. "We don't want to see our pennies and nickels melted down so a few individuals can take advantage of the American taxpayer. Replacing these coins would be an enormous cost to taxpayers."

I'm pretty sure there is a simple solution here -- change the metal. During World War 2, pennies were made with steel rather than copper. I'm no metallurgist, but I see no reason we couldn't go to different metals. What do you all think.