US Coins

Costs continue to rise for circulating coins

While the U.S. Mint has researched alloy changes for the copper-plated zinc Lincoln cent, none of the options explored would bring the production and related costs below face value.

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The cost to produce and distribute all four denominations of U.S. circulating coin rose during Fiscal Year 2018. 

The statistics were released in April 2019, in the U.S. Mint’s latest biennial report to Congress on its research into alternative compositions for circulating coins. 


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During Fiscal Year 2018, the cost for producing and distributing a copper-plated zinc Lincoln cent was 2.06 cents; for the copper-nickel Jefferson 5-cent coin, 7.53 cents; for the copper-nickel clad Roosevelt dime, 3.73 cents; and for the copper-nickel clad America the Beautiful quarter dollars, 8.87 cents each.

During fiscal 2017 and 2016, each denomination cost as follows: cent, 1.82 cents (2017) and 1.50 cents (2016); 5-cent coin, 6.60 cents (2017) and 6.32 cents (2016); dime, 3.33 cents (2017) and 3.08 cents; and quarter dollar, 8.24 cents (2017) and 7.63 cents (2016).

No alternatives for cent

The U.S. Mint’s research and development experts have been working to develop alternative compositions to replace those currently in use. Part of the goal is to find cheaper compositions, including for the two lowest denominations, both of which have an intrinsic value higher than their face value, even before striking.

The cent is struck on a 99.2 percent zinc and 0.8 percent copper planchet plated with pure copper. The 5-cent coin’s planchet is a homogenous alloy of 75 percent copper, 25 percent nickel. Dime and quarter dollar planchets are composed of outer layers of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel bonded to a core of pure copper.

Mint officials identified no alternative composition that would reduce the cost of producing and distributing the Lincoln cent to less than face value. However, the government has been reluctant to stop producing the coin although many other nations have ceased production of their cent-equivalent coins.

The Mint struck more than 7.8 billion cents in calendar 2018 and 8.63 billion cents in calendar 2017.

Coin World will report on the full biennial report in the June 24 issue.

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