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This Week's Letters (3/14/08)

A selection of letters to editor Dave Harper, from readers of the Numismatic News e-newsletter.
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From the March 14 Numismatic News E-Newsletter::

Q. Do you like the idea of using steel in the cent?

If you just replaced the zinc with steel and still retained copper for the outer surface I do not think anyone except a coin collector would really notice.
Some of the 1943 steel pennies I have in my collection do have rust spots on them so that may be a issue if there is no copper on the outer surface.

David Vick
Tampa, Fla.

The internal composition of the penny does not bother me. I would just like it to look the same on the outside as it always has been. Elimination of the penny would be nothing but a tax on the lower income population of our country. I am against any type of rounding sale pricing.

Tom Quinn
Texarkana, Texas

I don?t really look forward to handling steel pennies! As a banker of more than 40 years on the operations side (I don?t make loans!), I would rather see congress or somebody do away with the penny! Round everything up to the nearest nickel and be done with it! It is a great expense and a pain in the butt!

Steven C. Harmon
Clovis, N.M.

I?m a lifetime coin collector and I believe the Lincoln Cent should be made of an alloy that does?t rust or deteriorate like copper coated zinc.
No less than bronze should be the penny?s material, no less than Rome?s monetary base, no matter what the cost. Just my opinion.

Jesse M. Lewis
Levittown, N.Y.

Of course! Canada has done it for years. It?s time we made the cent economical for the U.S.A. The better to keep it around a little longer.

Robert Lorenz
Mc Kees Rocks, Pa.

I rarely respond to these requests but I have to now.
The fed is doing everything it can to devalue the dollar on world currency markets. The paper reserve notes are essentially paper with no value by themselves. At least the metal in the coins is worth something, or would have been.
Devaluing the currency has made commodity prices escalate. The penny costs 1.7 cents to make. But the nickel costs 10 cents. If I recall correctly, steel was used during the war years for a short time as well, but the government returned to using copper after the war ended.
Will that same scenario play out this time around?
I am against using steel in pennies. Now our currency will be completely worthless, even the coins.

Richard Marks
Shakopee, Minn.

I am opposed to the government changing to steel cent production.

Thomas R. McElroy
Jupiter, Fla.

I?m against any composition coin that starts to rust after only one or two days in moisture, ie. our cents from 1982 per the safety issue of children putting in their mouths or even swallowing them.

Craig Watanabe
Honolulu, Hawaii

I really believe we need to eliminate the cent as a coin for the U.S.A., it is basically useless. Just stop making it. However, if we can?t get our government to see the light then at least the have to have enough guts to vote for a cent coin that costs the government less than a cent to make. How can any government justify making a coin that cost more than it value?

J. Marasia
Destin, Fla.

Steel cents were a disaster in 1943 and would fare no better today. Even though copper was a ?critical war resource,? bronze cents were resumed after only a single year of the steelies.
But why waste the money on any cents? These should have been retired over 25 years ago.

John Wright
St. Joseph, Mich.

No. Bad idea. They rust and leave crud on stuff.

George A Conner
Rogersvill, Mo.

Steel cents would be nice change. The mint could do some type of commemorative cents similar to the state quarter program. Since it seems the U.S. will never drop the cent, they should consider a ?collectible? program. Talk about something that kids would love and bring them into the coin collecting community!

Ken Condiff
Newark, Del.

We have used steel cents before, why would it matter if we go back to them, after all does the cent coin have to have a lot of copper in them.

Don Young
Harrodsburg, Ky.

No, I don?t like the idea of using steel in the cents. Those in 1943 were terrible once they got into circulation. They rusted very quickly, and got to be a mess.

Griff Carnes
Kerrville, Texas

I don?t like the idea without having some questions answered. Steel rusts easily and is magnetic. Would this create some problems?

Blaine Coffey
Lees Summit, Mo.

Save the country some money and go to a 2-cent and/or 3-cent coin using the steel if necessary. It would also give the merchants something to think about, ?Hmm, shall I lower the price to $3.98 or $3.97?? It certainly wouldn?t make sense to raise the price to $4.02 or $4.03. Well, that?s my thought on the steel.

Kevin Brady-Jones
Eugene, Ore.

With gold going through $1,000 and oil at $110/bbl I really have a hard time understanding all of the hoorah about the 1 cent and 5-cent piece. Let?s face it, both are victims of the constant erosion of the dollar and have become almost useless in today?s transactions. A more important question, to me is, with the $200 billion plus whatever it takes to bail out the banking system announced by the Fed last Tuesday, how long is it going to be before the dime and the quarter meet the same fate?

 Ludy E. Langer
 Sacramento, Calif.

Absolutely not, I do not want our money looking like some third world inflation coinage. I would rather eliminate the cent completely and make our nickel the smallest denomination.

Malcolm Johnson
Vista, Calif.

What? No way!
It would be too heavy, discolor, maybe even rust! Why can?t we use aluminum for our cent like the rest of the world does? If not that, maybe a form of good quality plastic? Hey, let?s use old buttons. I have eight gallon jars of them!

Robert Beni
Phoenix, Ariz.

I?m all for the steel cent. In fact let's ?downsize? the one cent piece to something a bit smaller than the dime. A smaller cent will use less metal and also perhaps ?slow down? the wearing of holes in our pockets from carrying them around. The size of the cent doesn?t matter since we don?t use it in vending machines. Oops-I forgot all those coin counting machines. I think this topic is giving me a headache. On second thought, Mr. Moy and Congress should go ahead and do what they think is best--regardless of the solution folks (like myself) will find something to complain about!

R. S. ?Bart? Bartanowicz
Venice, Fla

If the Mint just gave the pennies away, businesses would still lose money handling them.
We have a gutless Congress that does not do what?s best for the country instead it works to satisfy the special interests. The cent is useless and worthless, it would take hundreds of them to buy a loaf of bread. The nickel is almost as useless. As late as the 1950s you could still buy a newspaper, a candy bar and make a phone call for a nickel. Today the only thing a nickel will buy you is a 5-cent postage stamp, which in itself is useless.

Eugene Haldas
Tallahassee, Fla.

You betcha. The steel cent has durability. The slugs they?re making now and passed off as pennies is a shame. Steel pennies would also revive young folks in collecting coins again. Bring on the steel pennies but don?t bring on another war like the last time they brought out steel pennies. LOL

Wayne Wood
Newington, N.H.

The idea of going to a steel cent makes me ill. Produce the cent in pre 1982 composition as a non-circulating legal tender issue made for col lectors. Keep the cent alive, but don?t go to steel.

Roger Moller
Bothell, Wash.

I feel that aluminum, not steel, should be used on the cent. And the coin should also be copper-colored (think 1957 Israel 10 Prutah, which was such a coin). I feel that using steel would wear down the dies faster and thus, undermine the cost to produce cents, and since aluminum is cheaper, would truly be cost effective.

Michael Doran
Greenup, IL

I think using steel in the cent is a fine idea. Our neighbors to the north have been doing so for their larger-denomination coins for years. Might as well do the same for the nickel while we?re at it.

Les Peters
South Riding, VA

Given the problem of corrosion, has evidenced by the 1943 steel cents, steel should not be used in future coinage. Aluminum is a good alternative. It is light weight, yet durable.

Bruce Frohman
Modesto California

It depends. It should continue to look like a cent composition makes no difference as long as it reliable. Haven?t the Canadians already been through this? Why reinvent the wheel? Personally I think they need to do await with the cent and nickel!

Dean Egner
Covington, GA

We need to eliminate the cent entirely. It?s outlived its usefulness.

Don DeLancey
Dallastown, Pa.

Since none of our currency is actually backed precious metal, the composition of any of our coins would be a moot point.

James Dracopoulos
San Antonio, Texas

Steel on cents is not a good idea ? we already saw the results in 1943, and it wasn?t satisfactory, especially with respect to zinc?s tendency to peel off the steel core and expose the coin to rust, and coin collectors don?t want rusted coins on their collections. Like director Moy (who seems to oppose steel according to the article), I believe more materials should be first researched before jumping to a conclusion. Personally I believe aluminum (copper-plated of course) would be a better choice ? this would also help distinguish US coinage from Euro coinage (which favors steel coins).

Leroy Vargas
Atlanta, Georgia

NO, We should have learned this lesson by past ?steel? cents, coated with Zinc ! What a disaster ! As long as the air was exposed to them , you could almost guarantee a useless rusty token and it?s resulting termination.
 Not being a Metalergist, or having knowledge of what alloys are the least expensive is not my field..
What do other countries use for their economical pocket change?
Would a 2 cent coin make a coin more affordable for it?s value ?
Thanks for the challenging question.

Kenyon Miers
Esperance, N. Y.

I have fond memories of the 1943 steel cents that I occasionally found in circulation in the 1960?s. Being in grade school at the time, I would ask the lunch lady for any that showed up in the till for milk purchases. Milk was 3 cents a carton at the time. I acquired quite a lot of them ranging in condition from almost uncirculated to rust encrusted good. Yes, I even saved the rusty ones. The well circulated examples were a dark gray in color and easily detected from the copper cents or other coins containing nickel or silver.
 The idea of producing new cents from steel would certainly work, as the past has demonstrated. The coins will corrode and develop rust if tossed in fountains or dropped in parking lots. I can?t say that I would appreciate a return to steel cents. The old ones were a novelty due to a shortage of copper during WWII. This base metal will not make a very attractive coin. It also has a ?third world? image, that our coinage has been reduced to junk metal. Aluminum wouldn?t be much better. It would be lighter, though.
 I guess that we will use whatever the government provides. It is sad to think that Lincoln?s 100th cent anniversary coin may be struck in steel. A copper plating would make it more normal looking than the zinc finish on the 1943 versions. Perhaps we should mint the cent one last year in 2009 and discontinue it thereafter. We could use the current zinc composition for the final production.
 Mr. Lincoln could be moved to the nickel in 2010. I believe that some pattern coinage already exists to illustrate this idea. Perhaps letting go of the cent wouldn?t be so difficult if we didn?t have to lose Lincoln?s portrait in the process. Lincoln would then be on the $5 note and the 5 Cent coin. It?s just an idea.

Joseph Fagg
Auburn, Washington