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Glossary of terms: Denomination

Refers to the different values of money. U.S. coins currently are made in the following six denominations: cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar.

What is the correct term for a one-cent coin?

The proper term is "one cent piece," but in common usage this coins is often referred to as a penny or cent. Many times, even the Treasury Department and the United States Mint use the term penny because that is what is normally referred to in general use by the public.

Are there any plans to remove the one-cent coin (more popularly known as the "penny”) from circulation?

 You may be interested to know that the penny is the most widely used denomination currently in circulation and it remains profitable to make. Significantly, it is Congress that determines the denominations of coins that the Mint must produce and put into circulation. Each penny costs .81 of a cent to make, but the United States Mint collects one cent for it. The profit goes to help fund the operation of the United States Mint and to help pay the public debt. In 2000, this profit added up to about $24 million. As the United States Mint produces the coins that Congress mandates, it does not have the authority to abolish a unit of currency. If directed to do so by legislation enacted by the Congress and signed by the President, the Treasury Department would again study phasing out the penny. Because the demand exists and the Federal Reserve Banks require inventories to meet the demand, the United States Mint is committed to producing the penny.

Why is the five-cent coin (the nickel) larger than the ten-cent coin (the dime)? What determines the sizes of our coins?

 Today, the sizes of United States coins can help you to tell them apart quickly, but have nothing to do with their values. Metal prices constantly fluctuate, so the values of circulating coins aren’t tied to metallic content. But back in 1793, when the first U.S. coins were produced, the United States Mint linked the sizes of coins to a particular metal standard—the silver dollar. Except for the copper penny, all coins were produced in proportionate metallic content to the dollar, and their sizes were regulated accordingly. The fifty-cent coin contained one-half as much silver as the dollar, the quarter had one-fourth as much, and the dime or ten-cent coin had one-tenth as much. The five-cent coin, or half-dime as it was called then, had only one-twentieth the silver. But it was so small that it was difficult for people to handle. So in 1866, United States Mint officials decided to make it larger by changing its content from silver and copper to a combination of copper and nickel.

What denominations of coins are no longer being produced?

There are quite a few denominations of coins that the United States Mint does not produce any longer for general circulation. They are the half-cent coin, the two-cent coin, the three-cent coin, the half-dime coin (although it was replaced by the five-cent coin), a twenty-cent coins, and the various denominations of gold coins. Although the Mint does produce a series of gold bullion coins, these are not intended for circulation. 

Last Updated: 6/15/2018 4:48 PM