It seems that in recession times such as these, when politicians worry about falling off the Fiscal Cliff, belt tightening is something that every government agency must engage in.
I've seen news reports that even the Mint is now looking for ways to make the coins cheaper. You know that you have a problem when pennies cost two cents to make and nickels cost eleven cents.
This reminded me of several interesting tidbits. First of all, I once heard the reason why dimes, quarters and half-dollars are serrated, whereas pennies and nickels are not. Seems like in olden times, when coins were actually made of silver, people used to shave off little pieces of many coins and melt down the shavings. Serration put an end to that. Yet nickels and pennies were not made from silver.
What to do if someone tries to pay you with a shaved coin? That reminds me of a story in the Gemara Baba Kama 37A
חנן בישא תקע ליה לההוא גברא אתא לקמיה דרב הונא א"ל זיל הב ליה פלגא דזוזא הוה ליה זוזא מכא בעי למיתבה ליה מיניה פלגא דזוזא לא הוה משתקיל ליה תקע ליה אחרינא ויהביה נהליה
where Chanan Bisha hit someone and was fined by the court 1/2 Zuz. He paid with a Zuz that was not up to par and demanded change. The victim obviously was not interested in giving change. No problem, said Chanan. And he hit him again!
When touring the Mint many years ago, the guide noted at one point that the entire operation is not much different than a factory that makes washers (as in nuts, bolts and washers). The only difference is, he said, that here at the Mint " we always make money."