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Minting Coins Cost U.S. Taxpayers $436 Million: Chart of the Day

Recently struck pennies at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photographer:  Stephen Hilger/Bloomberg
Recently struck pennies at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photographer: Stephen Hilger/Bloomberg

Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Pennies and nickels have cost more than their face value to mint since 2006, resulting in a loss of at least $436 million to U.S. taxpayers.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows that in 2012, the penny cost almost 2 cents to make and the nickel more than 10 cents, according to the U.S. Mint’s annual report released in January. Those prices have almost doubled over the past seven years.

“If you look around in the budget, there aren’t a lot of places you can find savings where you don’t cut a program and you don’t raise anybody’s taxes and you can impact the deficit,” said Jim Kolbe, a former Arizona congressman who sponsored legislation to abolish the penny and dollar bill. “This is one where you can do that.”

Neither of Kolbe’s bills, introduced in 2001 and 2006, made it to a full congressional vote.

Re-evaluating production of the penny “is not going to be a huge savings for government, but any time we’re spending more money on something people don’t actually use, that’s an example of something we should probably change,” President Barack Obama said in a Feb. 14 virtual town-hall sponsored by Google Inc. “The penny is an example of something I need legislation for; and frankly, given all the big issues, we’re not able to get to it.”

American lawmakers seeking a model need not look beyond the Royal Canadian Mint, which stopped distributing pennies to financial institutions on Feb. 4, saving C$11 million ($11 million) annually. The last Canadian cent was minted in May.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ilan Kolet in Ottawa at ikolet@bloomberg.net; Max Raskin in New York at mraskin5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexandre Tanzi at atanzi@bloomberg.net.

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