Officials at the U.S. Mint have been looking into cheaper ways to make our smallest coins, Fortune reports, and the latest cost-saving proposition is a brown nickel made out of a copper alloy.
The coin would be the same size as an existing nickel, but the color and weight of a penny. Making a copper-plated nickel out of zinc is just one of six possible metal alloys for U.S. coins identified by the Mint.
The Mint has been researching cheaper ways to make pennies, nickels, and dimes because production costs for the cheapest coinage far outweighs the actual value of the coins. The penny and nickel have cost more than their face value for eight years, and in 2013 the Mint lost $105 million producing these two coins alone. The government has spent $8.1 million to research alternative metals that could save the Treasury $30 to $40 million per year.
Some say we shouldn’t even use pennies and nickels at all. Canada announced in 2012 that they would rid of their pennies, saving taxpayers $11 million a year. But American coin usage is still going strong; coin production increased 18% last year, and 62% of that growth was for the production of 6.6. billion pennies.
So who knows if a brown nickel is going to fly with the coin-toting American public?