The Future of Money: The Nonsense Nickel

The Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint is telling me that I am holding in my hand what could be a future nickel. I don’t believe him.

Standing in the Mint’s research and development lab in central Philadelphia, I look down at a brown piece of metal that is the size of a nickel, but about the color and weight of a penny. I am immediately thrown off by both its light feel and dark hue. There is no way anyone would ever think this is a real, I keep thinking.

Since 2011, Mint officials in this lab have been looking into alternative metals for coins that could bring down the agency’s growing production costs. After spending $8.1 million on research, scientists discovered six potential metal alloys for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that could save the government between $30 and $40 million a year. The copper-plated zinc option for nickels that I have in my hand is just one of them. (Researchers here refer to it as the “nonsense nickel.”)

Omg. Apparently despite things like Square and the fact that we buy everything on the internet now, circulating coin production increased nearly 18% last year alone. We had to produce 6.6 billion more pennies! Penniless Canadians, you win this round.

Would you go for a brown nickel? I say if we can’t WAKE UP and ban pennies, the least we can do is make things cheaper.

Photo: ursonate