February 25, 2014 – The USA are searching for ways to reduce production costs of coins with low face values. In 2010 the US Mint was called to research in alternative materials and other ways to obtain this aim. Now the US Mint has been striking experimental 5-cent pieces in copper-plated zinc.
The material is the same as for the Lincoln cent in circulation and supplied by the mint’s lone vendor for plates of this material, Jarden Zinc Products of Greeneville.
Since its introduction in 1866 the 5-cents have been made of a copper-nickel alloy (with exception of a period during World War II). For the experimental strikes so-called nonsense dies were used, as the Mint has used throughout similar researches in the past, too. These dies show Martha Washington on the obverse and Mount Vernon on the reverse, and all the text is ‘nonsense’.
The production of 1- and 5-cent coins costs much more than their face value, and that is why research of cost reducing options focuses primarily on these two denominations. A copper-plated steel alternative for the Lincoln cent would have saved nothing and therefore was dropped.
You can read a detailed article on that topic on CoinWorld.
For additional information on the US Mint please go to the Mint’s website.