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Mint reduces costs

It still costs the U.S. Mint more than face value to produce cents and nickels.

However, the gap between the face value of coins and the cost of producing them is narrowing aided by dropping prices of metals.

In the report for fiscal year 2015, the Mint says U.S. cents now cost 1.43 cents to produce.

In 2014, the cost was 1.66 cents. In 2013 the cost was 1.83 cents for each cent.

This year’s cost to produce a nickel is 7.44 cents.

In 2014, the cost was 8.09 cents. In 2013, the cost was 9.41 cents.

Running at a loss is not the most desirable situation, but the U.S. Mint says that because of reduced metals prices, the alternative compositions identified as possibilities in its 2014 report to Congress would not now actually save any money.

With that door shut, it is a good thing that revenue from other denominations rose rapidly in fiscal year 2015.

Quarter revenue rose by $240.3 million, a gain of 57.1 percent from the prior year.

The dime also kicked in a gain of $65 million in revenue, or a rise of 29.2 percent.

Over all, seigniorage, the profit the Mint earns from subtracting its costs from the total face value of coins produced, was over half a billion dollars. The $540.9 million figure, was a gain of 87.1 percent from the $289.1 million total in 2014.

The Mint transferred this amount and a bit more by sending $550 million to the Treasury.

What these changing numbers might mean for the future compositions of circulating coins we can only speculate about until the Mint files its next report to Congress in December.

Certainly the statement that there are no costs saving because of this year’s reductions in the prices of current coin metals implies little impetus for action.

However, as every collector knows, metals prices fluctuate in cycles.

High prices followed by low prices are eventually followed again by high prices.

Timing is everything.

There is no urgency now, but having options at hand for use in circulating coinage at some future date is not a bad thing.

And in any consideration of the future of coinage in the long term, the impact of electronic payments coinage demand will likely will loom larger and larger.

Perhaps we won't need any metals at all.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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