Treasury Chief Seeks Power
By Numismatic News
President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget proposal
has taken a page from the President George Bush
Treasury in once again asking Congress to give
the Treasury Secretary the discretionary
authority to change the compositions of U.S.
Congress didn’t bite on this delegation of
authority the first time around. This proposal,
though buried in a document that runs thousands
of pages, may not make it this time, either, but
the soaring cost of coin production keeps
pushing the issue forward.
High costs of copper, zinc and nickel have made
the production of cents and nickel coins another
source of red ink for the Treasury.
The figures cited in the budget document are 1.8
cents to produce a cent and 9 cents to produce a
nickel, though the recently released annual
report of the U.S. Mint shows those figures have
come down some. But the coins still cost more to
make than their face values.
A savings of $150 million a year is forecast,
though there is no indication of what
alternative compositions would be used to
generate those savings.
What is said specifically is:
“The Secretary shall prescribe the weight and
the composition of the dollar, half-dollar,
quarter-dollar, dime, 5-cent, and one-cent
coins. In addition, the Secretary shall consider
such factors that the Secretary deems, in the
Secretary’s sole discretion, to be appropriate.”
A Treasury official said of the proposal, “The
passage of the FY 2011 Budget will begin the
process for the United States Mint to determine
the most cost-effective coin materials based on
factors the Secretary determines to be
appropriate – the materials or composition of
materials has not been decided at this point.
These factors include, but are not limited to,
the physical, chemical, metallurgical and
technical characteristics of the coins, as well
as any other factors necessary to ensure the
coins’ utility and integrity. The Mint will
undertake research and development on materials
composition in a transparent manner, and include
time for public comment and collaboration with
In prior periods where composition changes were
required, the Treasury simply requested the
Congress to mandate the changes after
considering recommendations from the Treasury.
The new authority, if granted, would sideline
the Congress completely.