It Costs $134 Million To Make $80 Million In Pennies

60 Minutes went on to a field trip to the US Mint and found out that to make $80 million worth of pennies, it costs the government $134 million. And to make around $60 million in nickels costs $124 million. The US Mint says this is because the prices for nickel, zinc, and copper have shot up a lot in the past few years.

Guess it’s time to start making ’em out of plastic. Transcript, inside…

USMINT: They’re still warm can you feel it?

60MINUTES (VO): Every year, the US Mint turns out 8 billion shiny new pennies. Using high-tech presses that operate faster than the eye can see, stamping out Abe Lincoln on blank pieces of metal.

USMINT: We’re making four pennies per second. We’re making a couple million pennies per day.

60MINUTES (VO): And, says US Mint director Ed McMoy, despite inflation, despite their lowly status, 8 billion pennies still add up to-

USMINT: 80 million dollars. That’s real money.

60MINUTES (VO): Trouble is, to get 80 million in pennies, the government spends 134 million dollars. And, to produce 1.3 billion nickels, as the mint did last year, costs 124 million, even though the coins are worth only about half that much.

60MINUTES: It’s weird economics when it really comes down to it, isn’t it?

USMINT: Well, from our perspective at the United States Mint, it’s unsustainable. You can’t sustain losses on pennies and nickels and expect to be a viable organization that benefits the American people.

60MINUTES: How did we get in this fix?

USMINT: You know, coins are made out of metal, and worldwide demand for copper, nickle, and zinc have dramatically increased over the last three years. That’s what’s primarily driving up the costs of making the penny and nickel.