Since 1982, when penny composition was shifted to a mix of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper, the mixture of metals that goes into pennies and nickels has remained steady. Believe it or not, the U.S. Treasury today spends ¢2.4 for every penny, and ¢11.2 for every nickel that it produces.
In 2011, the U.S. Treasury produced 4.3 billion pennies and 914 million nickels. For you non-math majors, that means we lost over $116 million just to produce pennies and nickels last year alone. The Treasury stopped using copper in pennies because of it’s increased value and utility, but nickels are still made of 75% copper and only 25% nickel.