Would You Reject A Brown Nickel? Asking For A Friend (The U.S. Mint)

First of all, we’re not really friends with the U.S. Mint because it’s not a person and besides, we’ve never met it and thus have no idea if it would even laugh at all our jokes or if it likes a nice glass of wine. Everyone likes money though — unless that money looks funny. Say, a brown nickel? Would that throw you off, would you reject it as a currency? Because the Mint would like to know.

Judging by the reaction of Fortune reporter Caroline Fairchild when she was confronted with a brown nickel at the Mint’s research and development lab, weird coins might not go over so well.

“I am immediately thrown off by both its light feel and dark hue,” she writes. “There is no way anyone would ever think this is a real, I keep thinking.”

Making it seem real is the goal of the Mint’s research, as officials keep trying to figure out alternative metals they can use to bring down the production costs at the agency..

Scientists have narrowed down the metals to six potential metal alloys for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that could trim $30 to $40 million off the government’s costs every year. That brown nickel — really a copper-plated zinc coin — is just experiment.

Before you’re confronted with a strange currency, the Mint is now starting a study this year to see if the look, feel, and color of coins actually matters much. You can’t see a bitcoin and yet people use it, so what’s the difference? Maybe not much in theory, but when confronted with weird coins, the Mint doesn’t want people to flip out and reject them.

“There could be a new metal that could work that would have transition costs, but it is really all about how people use their coins,” Deputy Director Richard Peterson explains. “What will people say when you feel what you felt [in that lab]? That’s what we need to go and figure out.”

We’ll give you a start, Mint. Just because we’re nice.

Is America ready for a brown nickel? [Fortune]

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  1. furiousd says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t regularly carried cash (or coins) since 2008. Whenever I hear of problems with the mint (starting with the inflated expense to produce pennies) I can’t help but think that they should phase them out like other countries have done. Maybe to the dime as the smallest for a transition period then eventually to a round-down system using just bills. Imagine the expense eliminated at not producing any coins at all, and to businesses not having to lug around and roll the coins they’ve taken as legal tender.

  2. C0Y0TY says:

    We’ll have to call it something else if it’s not made of nickel. Ha’ dime? Penty? 20th dollar?

  3. FusioptimaSX says:

    Doesn’t matter too me, I would like a simplified system using zeros and fives. All coins I get are direct to jar anyway, so it doesn’t matter. What’s funny is getting Canadian coins.