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Let's debate merits of half dime idea

I had a conversation with Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma yesterday for Coin Chat Radio about his proposal for a half dime coin to replace the nickel.

His is a logic-driven argument in favor of the coin. It will be half the weight of the dime and cost less than face value to produce with its standard copper-nickel clad alloy that is already used in the dime, quarter and half dollar.

It is too early in the cycle to know what the vending machine industry thinks of this or what the Mint thinks. However, he says that he has talked with House Banking Committee Chairman Barney Frank about it. Frank has promised him hearings next year at the subcommittee level. It would be expected that the vending machine industry and the Mint would have prominent seats at the witness table.

Lucas admits he doesn’t really know how even his own constituents will react to such a coin, but for coin collectors, it opens the door to all sorts of wonderful conversations.

I had lunch with Fred Borgmann, a former colleague here at Krause, and his wife yesterday at the Crystal Cafe (where else?) and one of the topics of conversation was the half dime proposal.

Fred couldn’t see it. He thought a thorough reform of U.S. coin sizes was more logical. Simply to insert a smaller half dime into the mix would make two current coins smaller than the cent. He said if the cent were abolished, he supposed it would be OK, but he wasn’t enthusiastic about that course of action.

I imagine there will be all sorts of conversations like mine among collectors as this process unfolds. Inertia is always strong and if I had to place a bet on the outcome, I would bet on a nickel-plated steel coin of the same diameter of the current nickel. I took this position during a talk to the Sarasota Coin Club at the beginning of 2007.

With hearings sometime next year, there will be plenty of time for all sorts of ideas to be thrown into the mix.