Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nickeled and Dimed, part 1

As of 2012, it costs the U.S. Mint two cents to make one cent. Makes no cents to me. This figure does include the Mint’s fixed components for distribution and fabrication, estimated at $13 million in FY 2011. It also includes Mint overhead allocated to the penny, which was $17.7 million for 2011. Fixed costs and overhead would have to be absorbed by other circulating coins without the penny. The loss in profitability due to producing the one cent coin in the United States for the year of 2012 was $58,000,000. This was a slight decrease from 2011, the year before, which had a production loss of $60,200,000. Just think of how much we could have saved by having our penny minted in China.

Mean Eileen is ready to stoke up the burners and begin melting all the pennies we can gather.

If you think that’s crazy, meet Kyle Bass, who runs a hedge fund called Hayman Capital Management in Texas. Bass has reportedly horded a million dollars in nickels. (That’s 20 million coins). As of 2013, it costs eleven point two cents to produce a nickel. The value of a nickel as scrap medal is 6.8 cents.

Daily spot prices of copper and zinc, the Mint's two main metallic materials, have fluctuated in excess of 400 percent, and the price of nickel by 500 percent over the past 10 years. This contributes to volatile and negative margins on both the penny and nickel: recently, the penny has cost approximately 2.4 cents, and the nickel approximately 11.2 cents to produce.

It costs the United States Mint much less than 25 cents to make a quarter.
Now here’s your bottom dollar (actually about 5.5 billion of 'em).

According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, if America gets rid of its $1 bill and replaces it with a dollar coin, the U.S. will save $5.5 billion on printing costs over the next 30 years.
Do the math. Putting a dollar coin in your pocket could save us $183.3 million a year.

At the Federal Reserve in Baltimore, there is a storage facility where the coins are in plastics bags and cardboard boxes, stacked one on top of another, creating several aisles of presidential coinage worth millions of dollars. Passed by Congress in 2005, the Presidential $1 Coin Act ordered the mint to make millions of coins to honor every dead president, but not even Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., one of the co-sponsors of the original bill, uses the legal tender.

"Do you use these things? Do you have any of these things in your pocket?" Reed was asked by ABC News' Jonathan Karl while holding the dollar coins. The Senator said: “In fact I have a little jar in my car for the traffic meters."

Reed and other senators sent a letter to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Mint Acting Director Richard Peterson asking for help in improving the program while eliminating waste of taxpayer resources.

Meanwhile, the coins keep coming off the production lines, already more than a billion made and counting. The Fed's report estimates that they could have more than $2 billion in excess $1 coins by the time the program is expected to end five years from now.

No report on how much it costs to make one of those Presidential dollars.

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