I just found out that it costs more than a penny to manufacture a penny. Specifically, it costs 1.62 cents to produce that 1 cent copper coin. And that's been the case for a while now! What the hell?
Why's it cost so much? Apparently, the penny is made from 2.5% copper and 97.5% zinc and those metals have gone up in price as of late. In fact, if you could melt the coin, you'd have materials totaling 1.62 cents—more than the cent that measly penny is worth. That's crazy! What's crazier is that it's been that way since 2006. Aren't useful things supposed to be greater than the sum of its parts? Shouldn't they have changed the metal mixture to something cheaper by now?
Apparently, the director of the Mint tried to make the penny cheaper to manufacture but Congress shut that initiative down. As it currently stands, the Treasury boss can "recommend changes in metal content or in the amount of coins produced" but only Congress can make the final decision.
So maybe it'll eventually become worth the money to make! Though really, I figured this loss in manufacturing would make for a good reason to kill off the penny (I mean, who likes pennies?). But with old school Congress calling the shots, I doubt that'd ever happen—no matter how useless and expensive pennies become. [Yahoo Finance]