In a rare Sunday announcement, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner announced that beginning in 2013, the U.S. Mint will change the size and composition of U.S. coinage in an effort to the government additional money.

Beginning in 2013, all coins struck by the U.S. Mint will be made of a inox (stainless steel) and will have its diameter reduced in size by 25-percent. The thickness of the coins will not change. For colored coins, the one-cent coin will be plated with copper to maintain its traditional color. For the dollar coins, the inox planchettes will be treated with titanium nitride (TiN) to add hardness to the coin and give it a golden color. Titanium will be used as a coating on the silver-colored coins.

Titanium appears to be a good choice in that it is a strong metal and resistant to corrosion making ideal to protect the steel core. Since titanium has a high melting point (more than 3,000°F) and will give the new coins a unique electromechanical signature, it will make the new composition difficult to counterfeit.

New size and composition changes are expected to cut total production costs by 50-percent the first year and another 25-percent by 2014. Thus, the one-cent coin that now costs 2.1 cents to produce will cost the government 0.525 cents by 2014.

Treasury has no plans to demonetize the coins that are currently in circulation. It is expected that both old and new coins will circulate side by side allowing the market to adjust on its own.

It was also announced that 2012 will be the last year that the half-dollar would be struck. Since the last time half-dollars were sold to the Federal Reserve for circulation was in 2002, Treasury did not see the need to continue to use valuable resources producing a non-circulating coin. This will end the 49 year run for the coin honoring the last assassinated president. Spokesperson for the family, Cathleen Towson said that the family understood that the needs of the nation outweighs her father’s image on a coin. Towson said that her father would approve on behalf of the people.

These changes would make specifications the new U.S. coins as follows:

Denomination Cent Nickel Dime Quarter Dollar Presidential & Native American
Composition Copper Plated Inox
2.5% Cu
Balance Inox
Titanium Plated Inox
2.5% Ti
Balance Inox
Titanium Plated Inox
2.5% Ti
Balance Inox
Titanium Plated Inox
2.5% Ti
Balance Inox
Titanium Nitride Plated Inox
2.5% TiN
Balance Inox
Weight 1.875 g 3.750 g 1.701 g 8.505 g 6.075 g
Diameter 0.56 in.
14.29 mm
0.62 in.
15.91 mm
0.53 in.
13.43 mm
0.72 in.
18.20 mm
0.78 in.
19.88 mm
Thickness 1.55 mm 1.95 mm 1.35 mm 2.15 mm 2.00 mm
Edge Plain Plain Reeded Reeded Edge-Lettering
No. of Reeds N/A N/A 88 111 N/A

Geithner said that the new coins should “mollify the critics of the Mint’s production costs from both sides of the aisle.” He also announced that sample coins will be made available to the vending and other coin handling machine manufacturers so that they can properly program their machines to accept the new coins.

In a separate statement, Republican presidential candidate and congressman Ron Paul of Texas said that the announcement is a travesty thrust on the American people. Paul insisted that the Federal Reserve take control of the money manufacturing process, “stop messing around,” and convert the coins to silver and gold.

The announcement emphasized that none of the design features will change. Current running programs will continue. In 2013, the new America the Beautiful Quarters® Program will include:

  • White Mountain National Forest (NH)
  • Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (OH)
  • Great Basin National Park (NV)
  • Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (MD)
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial (SD)

Presidential Dollars will honor the following presidents:

  1. William McKinley (1897-1901)
  2. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
  3. William Howard Taft (1909-1913)
  4. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

The theme for the reverse of the 2013 Native American Dollar will be announced later this year.

Maybe Treasury has taken their mandate to find new alloys for circulating coinage too far. It may be foolish to think that the size changes would be in the best interest of the country. But stranger things have happened and it just might work!

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