After six years of research and development into composition alternatives for circulating U.S. coinage, the U.S. Mint has not adopted any of the possible options studied thus far.
In the 2016 Biennial Report to Congress, the third submitted under provisions of The Coin Modernization, Oversight and Continuity Act of 2010, Mint officials indicate additional study and test strikes need to be pursued before any options can be approved.
The 2016 report was released July 12, seven months after its required submission to Congress in mid-December. The report didn’t make it to the Hill until early in 2017.
The research and development was triggered by the costs to produce and distribute the cent and 5-cent coin more than doubling their face value. While still over face value, overall costs have significantly dropped, primarily from lower metal costs.
Since submission of the 2014 report, the U.S. Mint has been evaluating five alloy options for the 5-cent denomination, with one of the options also tested for the dime and quarter dollar denominations.
The Mint ceased study of alternatives for the copper-plated zinc cent after submission of the 2014 report in which although a compositional alternative was available, would not reduce overall costs below face value.
Three of the five options offer possibilities for the 5-cent denomination, but additional testing is required to solidify their use in all phases of commerce. One of those options is copper, nickel and manganese; one copper, nickel and zinc; and one copper, nickel, zinc, and manganese.
The 5-cent denomination is currently a homogenous mix of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel, the same alloy that comprise the current outer layers for the dime, quarter and half dollar that are bonded to pure copper.
The Mint is also studying two alternatives that could co-circulate with existing coinage instead of replacing what’s already in circulation.
We’ll just have to wait and see what develops.