SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The rising cost of metals has rekindled debate in Congress over whether the U.S. Mint can afford to keep manufacturing pennies.

It costs far more than one cent to make a penny, according to Ed Perry of Bay Farm Coins in Alameda.

“They say it’s a penny and a quarter or a penny and a half more to make a penny,” he said.

It turns out even the copper isn’t all that valuable.

“It is 99.2 percent zinc,” said Larry Bovo of the Silver Baron coin shop. What you see is actually copper plating.

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports About the Bay:

So an enterprising individual that wanted to avoid rolling the pennies and taking them to the bank wouldn’t get any extra income melting them down since, as Bovo pointed out, it’s illegal to deface money.

If the penny did go the way of the mil, a 1909 version minted without the little D on the back selling for 10s of thousands of dollars at Bovo’s shop might wind up being worth a whole lot more.

Proponents of keeping the penny see America’s least valuable coin as a hedge against inflation, since computing all prices in increments of five would probably lead to retailers rounding up instead of rounding down.

A debate that’s been going on for decades still hasn’t gotten very far.

You can hear Mike Sugerman’s About the Bay reports on Mondays at 6:40am, 7:40am and 8:40am on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  1. A. Mascsak says:

    What you fail to mention or compute is the sale tax effect. We wouldn’t be paying pennies in difference in sales tax. We would be paying nickles in difference for every transaction. Pennies need to stay.

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