Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on another numismatic political topic -proposed legislation for U.S. coins in steel.
Legislation was introduced in Congress this week to make cents and nickels of plated steel planchets replacing existing compositions that are unsatisfactory. This is Band-Aid Legislation offered to cover the festering sore of low value coins costing more to manufacture than their face value. The U.S. Treasury lost $42 million last year because of the increased cost of metals -- copper and nickel -- that go into cent and nickel coin alloys.
Rep. Steve Stivers, who introduced bills H.R. 3693 and H.R. 3694, is overlooking two important factors. Plated steel would have tremendous problems of salvaging the scrap of blanking -- and the scraping of the coins themselves later on -- plus the fact one-cent and five-cent coins are no longer viable as a coinage denomination in a present-day economy, their economic value in commerce has long since expired.
Whenever a new composition is considered for striking coins, many factors need to be considered. True, as Rep Stivers contends, steel is an American resource (much of it in his native state Ohio) but steel is a bitch to strike (die wear is greatly increased!). That can be overcome with improved coining techniques. What is a larger problem, however, is separating steel from its coated components once it is plated. This would be required for the skeleton scrap from which blanks have been produced. Also for worn, damaged, recalled coins destined to be scrapped.
That is why this writer has given high marks to the Treasury Department for their choice of present-day copper coated zinc for cent composition. This merely needs to be melted to be reformulated into high value brass. A brilliant choice!
Copper and steel do not have have such a desired alloy and would become a scrapping nightmare. (A choice of two methods exist: one by electrolysis to deplate or reverse plating to remove the copper from the steel, or by pulverizing the the entire alloy and mechanical separation by magnetism of the iron. Both choices, however, are more expensive than the lower value metals that either process would yield.)
Sorry, Rep. Stivers, plated steel coins is a dumb idea. You are creating unintended consequences. Instead, abolish both coin denominations and let's round off every transaction to the nearest 10-cent value. Now that's intelligent! And let's adopt a total approach to our entire coinage specifications, not just try to put out the fire when a recent flame (high metal costs) erupts! Would you like to read my 42-page report "Future Coins"?
Here is this week's news item:
Legislation Seeks Steel Cents and Nickels
And here is what I have written about this problem earlier this year:
DICK JOHNSON: ALUMINIZED-STEEL NOT A VIABLE CENT ALLOY
THE BOOK BAZARRE
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