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Steeling money: Lawmakers hope to save billions with new pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters

Three members of the House have proposed legislation that would require common, everyday U.S. coins to be made from U.S. steel instead of imported copper, zinc and nickel.

The Cents and Sensibility Act, from Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), is aimed at saving money by ending the use of these imported minerals to make pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Those members say most of the minerals used to make these coins come from Canada, and are so costly that it costs more than 1 cent to mint a penny, and more than 5 cents to mint a nickel.

Three members want to make common U.S. coins out of steel, instead of more costly minerals that are becoming too expensive to import. Image: Shutterstock

The members cite a report from the U.S. Mint that said it costs 1.6 cents to make a penny, and 8.1 cents to make a nickel.

"This legislation is a common-sense solution to lower the cost of minting our coins," Stivers said Thursday. "Not only will it cost less to produce, but it will also allow us to use an American resource – steel – that can be manufactured right here in our backyard."

Members say this shift wouldn't alter the appearance of nickels, dimes and quarters. To keep pennies looking like pennies, the new steel versions would be dipped in copper.

Members said one study from Navigant Consulting believes the government would save $2 billion over 10 years in metal costs alone if it switched to steel nickels, dimes and quarters. That study didn't assess the possible savings that would accrue if steel were used to make pennies.

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