As is generally known, U.S. silver coins, for practical purposes only the dime and quarter, were changed to a cupro-nickel alloy with the 1965 issue. There was nothing hugely unusual about this; in many other countries this step had already been taken while we had forestalled it longer by dint of our then enormous gold reserve and our then equally enormous trade trade surplus. In addition, a spike in the price of silver was beginning to result in a coin shortage which must have been significant when so many things like a magazine, haircut, or pack of smokes could still be bought for $.50 or less.
But the metal content is horrible! The white-metal front and back of the coins, which is actually 75% copper and 25% nickel, tarnishes to a dull greyish color, and the red copper rim is, in my opinion, the first step in our headlong journey into the bizarre and ridiculous when it comes to the tiny details of our daily lives. I understand it was done that way to ensure that the coins would have reasonably close electrical conductivity to the old ones. It makes some sense, since copper is as almost as good a conductor as silver. In other countries, ferrous metal alloys seem to have been chosen that were often magnetic. If other countries could adjust to magnetic coins, particularly in the area of vending machines, why couldn’t we have done that? Apart from the loss of the silver, did anyone object to how ugly the new composition was? Did the vending machine or armored transport industry refuse to deal with any other possible alloy?
As time has gone on, and other countries have changed their coins, ditched their unit notes, and got with the times, we have stuck slavishly to the old system. I imagine the following co?nversation between a Canadian and an American:
Canadian: Your coins are so ugly.
American: Your coins are magnetic. Like they’re not real.
Canadian: But at least I don’t need twenty coins to buy a beer.