The U.S. Mint is committed to pursuing potential cost savings—whether it be from the use of less costly alternative materials or through production efficiencies. As part of that commitment to reduce costs, the Mint—along with a research and development consultant—undertook a very thorough R&D study to identify potential changes to the metallic composition of circulating coinage and methods of production.
The study took nearly two years, researching 80 metals on the periodic table of elements that may work—and which ones will not, establishing an R&D lab, and testing hundreds of test pieces composed of nearly 30 alloy formulations. The study involved working closely with many stakeholders—the vending industry being the primary one—to assess impacts of any potential alternatives.
The Mint has made significant progress and, at this time, has concluded that additional R&D is necessary before it can recommend any changes to the current coin composition. Going forward, the Mint will continue R&D and testing of potential alternative materials; conduct production-scale runs to validate supply chains, manufacturability, and costs; and further verify the estimated costs to stakeholders that are associated with the change.
Two reports are available on this page—the U.S. Mint’s report and the report provided by the consultant under contract to the Mint.
United States Mint Report: 2012 Biennial Report to the Congress on the Current Status of Coin Production Costs and Analysis of Alternative Content, December 2012 (PDF, 8 pages, 128 KB)