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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Further evidence that times are tough: It now costs more than a penny to make a penny. And the cost of a nickel is more than 7½ cents.
Prices for copper, zinc and nickel have some in Congress proposing steel-made pennies and nickels.
Surging prices for copper, zinc and nickel have some in Congress trying to bring back the steel-made pennies of World War II and maybe using steel for nickels, as well.
Copper and nickel prices have tripled since 2003 and the price of zinc has quadrupled, said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, whose subcommittee oversees the U.S. Mint.
Keeping the coin content means "contributing to our national debt by almost as much as the coin is worth," Gutierrez said.
A penny, which consists of 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper, cost 1.26 cents to make as of Tuesday. And a nickel -- 75 percent copper and the rest nickel -- cost 7.7 cents, based on current commodity prices, according to the Mint.
That's down from the end of 2007, when even higher metal prices drove the penny's cost to 1.67 cents, according to the Mint. The cost of making a nickel then was nearly a dime.