US Coins

Leave clad composition of quarter intact

Leave the current copper-nickel clad composition of the quarter dollar alone.

That’s the consensus from representatives of vending machine, transit, armored carrier, and coin handling enterprises who attended the U.S. Mint’s second stakeholders meeting March 18 addressing research into alternative compositions for U.S. coins.

The March 18 meeting was closed to the news media.

Participants were especially adamant about leaving the composition of the quarter dollar untouched.

Jon Cameron, associate director for the U.S. Mint’s Office of Coin Studies, said in a March 24 telephone interview with Coin World that representatives of the enterprises that use or handle U.S. coins in their operations consider the quarter dollar the “workhorse” denomination.

The representatives don’t want to see a complete change to the composition or even a change in the “recipe” for the copper-nickel alloy.

They believe savings from any change of the composition in the quarter dollar would be negligible compared to the costs to the industry to make modifications to their equipment to accommodate the changes, Cameron said.

Currently, the quarter dollar is made of outer layers of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel bonded to a pure copper core. It is the same clad composition as is used for the Roosevelt dime, and the Kennedy half dollar, the latter of which has not been struck for general circulation since 2001, only for numismatic sales.

The United States Mint has been researching coin composition alternatives since passage of the Coin Modernization, Oversight, And Continuity Act of 2010.

The research was ordered in part to address the costs of making the cent and 5-cent coin. For years, both denominations have cost more to make than is recouped in their face values. 

Production costs for the dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar, in contrast, are each less than the face values for each of those three coins.

The Mint has reported its findings in biennial reports to Congress in December 2012 and December 2014.

The 2012 report focused on testing of 49 alternative alloys. The options were pared to six for the 2014 report.

In its alternative metals research, the U.S. Mint has been investigating both co-circulating and “seamless” options.

Cameron said ongoing testing of “seamless” options has stainless steel and different copper-nickel options at the top of the list. A seamless option would retain the current dimensions, weight and electromagnetic signature and require no retrofitting of equipment in commercial operations that use coins.

A seamless option would change the percentages of copper and nickel in the current copper-nickel clad alloy for dimes, quarter dollars and half dollars, and the 75 percent copper, 25 percent nickel homogenous alloy for the 5-cent coin. The seamless alloy would have an increased percentage of the more expensive nickel and a lower amount of copper.

The co-circulating option would change the weight and electromagnetic signature for coin validation and verification, but not the thickness or diameter.

Any compositional changes would require congressional approval. 

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