From the May 5 Numismatic News E-Newsletter:
Should all American circulating coins be made of steel?
Here are some answers sent from our e-newsletter readers to Editor Dave Harper.
I would like to answer this in two parts. First, I address the issue of coinage having intrinsic value. Second, I discuss the best circulating medium.
If the coins themselves do not have any intrinsic value (as is currently the case), then they should be legally redeemable for gold and/or silver.
And, if the coins have no intrinsic value, then the material they are made of should be judged by these standards:
There might need to be a trade-off between no. 1 and no 2. A more durable metal might be harder to strike up. Number 3 is easy, as just about every metal is recyclable (except iron, which rusts). For no. 4, it might be best to use slightly different alloys for the various denominations. This does not preclude using steel for all coins.
The last issue, beauty, is of direct and serious interest to us as collectors. My first reaction to the use of steel is “yuck.” But I suppose modern alloys and technologies can make silk purses out of sows’ ears.
C. David Eagle
Coins made of steel. Except for our gold and silver coinage, I feel the rest are worthless already. If you want to make them from steel, it is fine with me.
My name is Pat Henry, and I live in Kaiserslautern, Germany. My hobby is metal-detecting, and here in Germany we find coins from all eras. When a coin is lost and lays in the ground for years, the acid in the ground takes its toll on the coin. Silver, gold and bronze coins survive pretty good. The condition of copper coins depends on how long they lay in the ground and in what soil. Zinc and aluminum coins do not last very long. Copper-coated steel coins will corrode within five years. If coins are made out of steel, then probably after five years in the ground they will be come hard to identify and worthless. Future metal detectors will not have much left to find.
Patrick A. Henry
U.S. coins should not be made of steel. If they are made of steel, they will be magnetic and it will cause a major issue for the vending industry since the older coin mechanisms have a magnet to keep foreign coins from being accepted. Steel also rusts, which would cause problems with condition of coins. Look at all of the 1943 steel pennies that are rusted.
No! It’s bad enough that our cents since 1982 look terrible after a couple years. Don’t want a pocket full of 1943 wannabes.
I think it wouldn’t be that bad of an idea to have American coins made from low-grade stainless steel. If it was a low-grade stainless that stuck to a magnet but yet resisted rust, I think it would be good. They would last a long time, be cheaper to make and be able to be pulled out of bullion piles with a magnet.
The answer is no! We have a Constitution that illegally is not followed. The politicians swear to uphold it, but almost none do. Our Constitution states that gold and silver is our money, and nowhere does it say steel.
Duane A. Harris
No. Steel would not represent value.
No, no and no.
There should be some differentiation between the denominations.
This is a flip answer, and without depth as to machine acceptance and who would be producing the steel.
No, even with a copper or zinc coating it takes away from a coin’s details when it wears off. And then you have the rust issue if throw them in a fountain for a wish.
Bill da Silva
Yes, once the Mint figures out how to make them work in machines.
If all the American coins were made of steel, people would look at the coins in their hand and say, “Wow, this stuff really isn’t worth anything.”
Stainless steel is a great coinage metal as evidenced by Italy’s 1954-1995 50-lira and 1955-1992 100-lira coins, the earliest of which spent 40-plus years in circulation with little signs of wear and no significant damage (no corrosion, nicks or scratches). Coins made of other forms of steel, including nickel-plated steel, are easily damaged in circulation. For example, current Canadian 5-, 10- and 25-cent coins, made of nickel-plated steel, scratch very easily and, after just a couple of years in circulation, look terrible.
Since our current nickel costs close to, if not more than, 5 cents to mint and today very few vending machines, transit system fare machines, etc., accept nickels, I would replace the nickel with a stainless steel coin of the same diameter and thickness. If that switch works out, and I’m sure that it would, I would consider replacing the dime with a stainless steel coin a few years down the line, when the use of dimes in vending machines, transit system fare machines, etc., will be significantly reduced because of inflation. However, I would not change the metallic composition of the quarter because I expect its use in vending machines, transit system fair machines, etc., to continue for many more years.
However, under no circumstances would I consider any other form of steel for any of our coins.
No, and I don’t want the government to get rid of the penny, nickel and dollar bill. A dollar coin would be difficult to carry.
No steel coins! Money should be worth money. I do not like promise notes, either.
Is there anything cheaper than steel, besides plastic or glass? Coins of the realm represent the value of a nation. It’s bad enough that we are down to copper and zinc now; let’s not make our image worse. The Bible refers to this type of coinage as “dross,” near worthless in value.
I think it is time to use the gold from the Global Debt Facility and make money with some intrinsic value. It has been shown that gold and silver can be pressed very thin and encapsulated into bills called “Aurem.” I am sure that gold and silver coins could also be encapsulated inside a very hard, durable, transparent plastic-type material that would protect the metal from wearing away.
Let’s get on with it and make America great again.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• More than 600 issuing locations are represented in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1701-1800 .
• Order the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, General Issues to learn about circulating paper money from 14th century China to the mid 20th century.