According to Time's Moneyland, the White House' $3.8 trillion, 2,000-page budget that was sent to Congress last week is asking the Treasury Department to "change the composition of coins to more cost-effective materials."
Why? Because it currently costs the federal government 2.4 cents to make a penny and 11.2 cents for every nickel. The special formula for making U.S. coins has stayed the same for the last 30 years. Changing that recipe could save more than $100 million a year.
Since 1982, our copper-looking pennies have been merely coppery. In the 1970s, the price of copper soared, so President Richard Nixon proposed changing the penny's composition to a cheaper aluminum. The plan didn't go anywhere until the Reagan administration successfully changed the penny's make-up. Today, only 2.5% of a penny is copper (which makes up the coin's coating) while 97.5% is zinc. In fact, our nickels, which are 75% copper and 25% nickel, have more copper in them than pennies do.
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