Nickel Swap for Half-Dime Clarified
By Mike Unser
Congressman Frank Lucas introduced House
Resolution 6942 Thursday that would swap today’s
Jefferson Nickel with a circulating half-dime of
In an article Friday, details were scarce
because the Government Printing Office had not
yet published the bill’s text. That is no longer
H.R. 6942 is officially entitled the ‘5 cent
Restoration Act of 2008.’ Interestingly, it is
at the top of the brevity scale when it comes to
coin legislation with fewer than a dozen
sentences. At the bill’s core are three lines
that state its intent:
(a) In General- Paragraph (5) of section 5112(a)
of title 31, United States Code, is amended to
read as follows:
`(5) a clad half-dime that is based on the size
and shape of the half-dime or 5-cent coin
produced in the 1870s.’.
(b) Effective Date- The amendment made by
subsection (a) shall apply to coins issued after
December 31, 2009.
H.R. 6942 is directed toward reducing minting
costs. A Jefferson nickel is composed of 75%
copper. When copper prices were at their highest
in 2008, the cost to produce each was nearly 10
cents. A Liberty Seated half-dime from the
1870’s, as referred to as the model for a new
5-cent coin, is smaller than a Roosevelt dime,
and weighs half as much. Compared to the
Jefferson nickel, its total metallic cost would
be substantially lower, or about 1/7 the price.
The Mint could actually profit, once again, in
minting a 5-cent coin.
There are several problems with the legislation
at its current state that will prevent its
passage this year, or ever:
Congress heads back home September 26 for the
election season, making any proposed coin
legislation an uphill battle this year.
The bill needs further clarification. As an
example, half-dimes from the 1870’s were also
made from 90% silver. H.R. 6942 does not specify
the type of metals that would be used to make a
new half-dime or give the US Mint the authority
to make the decision.
The price of copper has dropped significantly.
Since May, copper prices have fallen to such a
degree that the melt value of the nickel is just
under 5 cents. With that, there is less
political pressure to make any changes. (This
fact also likely places the Coin Modernization
and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2008 - H.R. 5512 in
a holding pattern.)
Resizing the nickel would have potential
repercussions in the vending machine industry
and with retail businesses.
Public education costs and efforts would also
need to be considered in issuing a new
circulating coin of a different size.
In short, and probably to the dismay of many
coin collectors, it is unlikely H.R. 6942 will
see the light of day this year, and debatable
whether it will ever.
For any legislation to become law, it must pass
both the House and the Senate, and get signed by