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U.S. Mint Says Pennies and Nickels, Already Too Expensive, Won’t Get Cheaper

(Brand-new pennies roll off the production line at the US Mint in Philadelphia.  Credit: Pat Loeb)

(Brand-new pennies roll off the production line at the US Mint in Philadelphia. Credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After two years of testing different materials, the US Mint has concluded that there’s no cheaper way to make pennies and nickels — even though the current process costs twice as much as the coins are worth.

(It costs more than two cents to make a penny; it costs more than 11 cents to make a nickel.)

The problem, says mint spokesman Tom Jurkowsky, is vending machines.  Sure there are cheaper metals than the zinc, copper, and nickel alloys the coins are currently made of, but they can’t hold the electromagnetic field that makes them work in coin-operated machines.

“(Vending machine manufacturers) would have to make changes to their machines,” he tells KYW Newsradio, “and the range of cost estimates is from a couple hundred million dollar all the way to over 3.5 billion.  So we… no pun intended, but we can’t be pennywise and pound foolish.”

Jurkowsky says the mint will keep researching new materials, to bring the cost of making pennies and nickels more in line with their worth.  But for now, those coins in your pocket will keep their familiar jingle.

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