Letter Re: Accelerating Prices for Copper and Zinc–A U.S. Penny Now Costs 1.4 Cents

Just one more note regarding the rising cost of metals, especially copper in the market – I sent an earlier message regarding recycling cartridge brass (which contains copper) instead of stockpiling copper, but now the New York Times notes in a Saturday brief:

“Price of a Penny Could Exceed a Cent
– What happens if a penny is worth more than one cent? That is an issue the U.S. Mint could soon face if the price of metals keeps rising. The cost of the metal in a penny has climbed to almost one cent. Add in the cost of transporting the pennies, and the cost to the government of producing a penny is estimated at 1.4 cents.
The real problem could come if metals prices rise so high that it would be economical to melt down pennies for the metals they contain.
Appearances aside, pennies no longer contain much copper. In the middle of 1982, after copper prices rose to record levels, the mint started making pennies that consist mostly of zinc, with just a thin copper coating. But these days, zinc is newly popular. Rising industrial demand and speculation have sent the price rocketing. Since the end of 2003, zinc prices have tripled. Gold, by contrast, is up only about 50 percent.”

Will pennies disappear soon, or will they remain as a token of our graciousness to ‘give a penny, take a penny’? Regards, – Redclay

JWR Replies: If rapid inflation re-emerges (and I suspect that it will, soon), then those ubiquitous “give a penny, take a penny” bowls will likely be superceded by “give a dollar take a dollar” jars.