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More Coin Changes Coming – New Legislation Seeks Changes to Coin Alloys

We have been telling you about a wide array of changes coming in U.S. coins. First, we heard about the new Morgan and Peace dollars probably coming in 2021 to mark the centennial of the final Morgan dollar year and first Peace dollar year. Then we heard about a new change in the American Eagle reverse designs in 2021. These new coin issues next year will create great interest in old and new collectors and in precious metals in general, with new ads posted in the media, generating new customers and new national interest.

We also learned that the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation authorizing massive changes to circulating coinage to be implemented between 2022 and 2030. That bill, H.R. 1923, would authorize:

  • Circulating quarter dollars honoring women to be issued from 2022 through 2025.
  • Circulating coins in multiple denominations in 2026, celebrating America’s 250th birthday.
  • Award medals for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
  • Silver bullion coins with the same designs as all of the quarter dollars and half dollars authorized from 2022 through 2030, in the now standard 5-ounce size and in fractional sizes.

And now we learn that new alloys may be used in forthcoming coin mintages. This will also create new interest in the collector and investor communities since first-year issues are especially popular and their mintage totals are sometimes limited. On September 23, Senator Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH) introduced legislation seeking possible changes in the composition of United States circulating coins in S. 4663, the “Coin Metal Modification and Cost Savings Act of 2020.” The primary concern is to reduce production costs and limit shortages. “By tweaking the metal composition of our coins, the U.S. Mint could, in the short-term, create more coins amid a temporary shortage, and, in the long-term, save millions of dollars every year without any significant changes to the coins’ weight or appearance,” Senator Hassan said. 

The Senate will seek to commission a study and analysis to be conducted by the Mint, with input from industry stakeholders such as vending machine manufacturer, that would be affected by any composition changes. If passed, S. 4663 would amend Title 31 of the United States Code dedicated to Money and Finance, and grant the Treasury secretary discretion to make composition changes if a Mint study and analysis indicates such changes would result in cost savings, be seamless with the same diameters and weights as current coinage denominations, as well as, the same electromagnetic signature, and have minimal adverse impact on the public and machine manufacturers. The Mint’s study and analysis would have to determine the justifications for changing the compositions for any possible changes to be considered.

Coins under consideration for change are the copper-plated zinc Lincoln cent, copper-nickel Jefferson 5-cent coin, copper-nickel clad Roosevelt dime and copper-nickel clad America the Beautiful quarters. The cost savings will be greatest for the lower-denomination coins, since the 1-cent and 5-cent coins currently cost more than face value to produce. The Mint has come up with potential compositional alternatives that offer cost savings for most circulating coins, except for the cent. None of the currently known possibilities would bring the cent’s cost below face value, according to the most recent report. Possibilities determined by the Mint for the 5-cent, dime and quarter dollar denominations would incorporate manganese with varying percentages of copper and nickel in the alloy.  Other alternative metals include alloys of steel.

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