user_8029's Blog

18 Aug 2016

The Aluminum Cent

Young Numismatists Exchange | user_8029

As I have illustrated in other articles (“The Elimination of the Cent”, April 16th, 2016) the cent denomination is costlier to make than its face value of one cent. This means that the government loses money for each cent made. The United States Mint has experimented with other materials to make the cent out of to save money. The 1974 Aluminum Cent is one of these such pattern pieces. This cent has since been the subject of a controversial case and many discussions about the legality of certain coins, such as the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle and 1913 Liberty Head Nickel.

                In 1793, when the mint began experimenting with other materials for coinage of the cent, aluminum was one of these metals. The reason for this potential change was that the seigniorage of the cent was beginning to decline, meaning less profit for the government. Over a million of this were struck at the Philadelphia mint to test the effects of this metal on the dies, and all but a few were melted. A few dozen were distributed to government officials as samples, but were requested to be returned. However, a few never made it back into the hands of the mint. One was placed on display in the Smithsonian museum. Another example of this coin was dropped by a Congressman, and when attempted to be returned by US Capitol Police officer Albert Toven, who thought it was a dime, was told to keep it. This specific coin has never been attemted to be confiscated by the government, for unknown reasons.  It has also never showed up on the marketplace, so its value is unknown.

One supposedly unique specimen from the Denver Mint was discovered in 2013 and was about to be sold at a Heritage auction but was removed due to the United States government stating that the coin belonged to them, despite that they have no records of its mintage. The coin was returned to the United States Mint. This coin’s value is unknown, due to the fact that it has never been sold in auction settings. This was estimated to sell for an amount between $250,000 and two million dollars before confiscation by the United States Mint.

The 1794 Denver and Philadelphia cents are riddled in controversy and doubt. These coins hold a story of confiscation and an attempted, but utterly failed, regain of seigniorage by the government. These coins, which can only ever be seen at the Smithsonian, hold a tale unrivaled by many other modern coinage issues of any country.



Level 6

I like the cent. Good blog!


Level 6

I saw the 1974 aluminum cent at the Smithsonian. Too bad this idea didn't work out.


Level 5

Keep making the cent. I know the mint is trying different materials and there are many materials that are cheaper than copper. How about each cent made in a different material has a new design? Keep copper Lincoln cents for collector versions!


Level 7

I happen to like the cent. It's made of zink and only coated with copper. What would happen if we decided to get rid of this piece of history. Every mint makes them. Would jobs be lost ? I don't know. How about transporting them and loading them. Would that cost jobs? I don't know. Would items in the store cost 19.99. This I know they would not. The price would go up . More than likely go up a nickel. It won't go down. Everyone Is worried about a cash less society. Where do you start. At the bottom. There already talking about doing away with the nickel. There is a lot that would affect the economy. We're 19 trillon dollars in debt and some of the countries are asking to be paid in gold! Don't trust our dollar. Maybe we could pay them in cents! How about the thousands and thousands of collector's who penny roll? I enjoy it a couple of times a year. How about those varieties. No more. Some one found a 1955 double die about a moth ago. Wasn't in great shape he only got 23000 for it. So there are a lot of things to think about. You don't say on Monday get rid of the penny and shut the presses down on Tuesday. Just food for thought. Thanks for the blog and your information.


Level 6

Keep up the blog. Nice reading.

Pliny The Elder

Level 5

I like the penny. As worthless as it seems, it is a beautiful design. Especially the Lincoln years ones, with all the interesting reverses. I would not like to see them removed from circulation. I would miss them if they were gone. I might even cry. Don't make me cry. :)

I'd like to see the Mint not make cents for a year or two. Surely there's enough out there. What probably would happen though would be non-collectors start hoarding them, and it would be 1965 all over again. Every time I hear about some old guy who had dozens of trash cans filled with cents in his basement, I wonder exactly what the point was.


Level 5

I am in favor of elimination of the cent from commerce. Only make the cent for collectors in Proof Sets, Mint Sets, etc.


Level 7

The cent today is as we all know made of zink and coated with copper. Now I know zinc is cheap otherwise the mint would not use it. Thats why they switched. The coating of copper as you can tell is not that thick. There's more toning in the cents today. So I really don't see a reason for a change. Everyone is worried about how much it cost yet were 19 trillion in debt and it's not because of the cent. There will also be a domino effect. The nickel will be next and so on down the line. You want a cash less society you have to start somewhere. Think it over. Great blog thanks for sharing your thoughts.mike


Level 5

In my research I discovered that one of the reasons the Mint didn't go with the aluminum cent was because aluminum did not show up well on x-rays if someone was chocking on it. To me that seems like an odd excuse, but it's out there, and today we have copper plated zinc.

I think the aluminum cent was a good idea in 1974, and it's a good idea today. The Mint should consider it before eliminating the cent. Maybe also keep making copper cents for Proof Sets.

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