The modern five-cent piece was introduced in 1866, and was made of the same copper-nickel alloy that is used today. Its weight was set at exactly one gram per cent, and it therefore memorializes a moment in American history when the United States was thinking somewhat seriously about adopting the metric system. The nickel still weighs five grams—nearly as much as a quarter, and heavy enough that it is almost guaranteed to generate negative seigniorage, no matter what alloy it’s made from.
from Penny Dreadful in the New Yorker. This quote also amused me:
The study makes many references to the experience of New Zealanders. It also gets in several digs at foot-dragging Americans: “Canada does not have to follow their example. After all, American society is very conservative, particularly with its symbols (for example, the U.S. did not adopt the metric system and has not replaced the dollar bill with a dollar coin).” This sort of slur from an (alleged) ally probably isn’t worth going to war over, especially now that its money is sometimes worth more than ours. But we could still strike back, by doing Canada—and New Zealand—one better: we could get rid of dimes, too.