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Penny For Your Thoughts

February 25, 2013

Canada recently announced its intention to eliminate the penny, and President Obama has expressed an interest in doing so here. It seems like a good time to rerun this post from last year.


Yesterday one winked up at me from the gutter. I considered bending down and picking it up. After all, I’m as superstitious as the next guy, and as the saying goes: Find a penny pick it up, and it will bring to you good luck.  

 Although I’m tired of gathering them from under my couch cushions, I admit to having a soft spot for the penny, which has been part of our culture since the beginning. Our language is ripe with references to them: Penny wise and pound foolish; A penny saved is a penny earned. And the most popular: A penny for your thoughts… But with so much blathering about government spending, I’m amazed that no one is seriously talking about eliminating the penny, which costs just under two cents each to make. The value of the materials needed to make a penny is worth more than the face value of the coin.

When I was a kid growing up in the Bay Area, the main attraction at the San Francisco Zoo—an elephant—died. Children, including me, mailed in their pennies to buy a new one, later named Penny. When I went to the zoo I’d stand in front of that massive eating/pooping pachyderm and imagine the mountain of pennies it took to buy her. If pennies could buy an elephant, they must be worth something. Back then pennies were said to come from Heaven, but inflation has altered our lifestyle since 1955. I’ve a fondness for penny loafers and I like sucking on penny candy but I must reluctantly conclude that it’s time for the penny to join the two dollar bill in Monetary Heaven.

 A few days ago I was at the cashier’s line at our local grocery store and the cashier handed me my change—a penny. “No thanks,” I said. But as I started to walk away she got pushy about it. 

“Take your change, sir!” she insisted.

“I don’t want it.”

“Why not?” she asked. 

“It isn’t worth anything. What can I buy in this store with a penny?”

She hemmed and hawed, finally admitting, “Nothing.”

“If I tried to pay you with a few hundred of these things, would you take them?”

“The manager won’t let us.”

As I walked away I saw her toss the penny aside, like it might contaminate her cash register.

Here are three reasons I pulled off Wikipedia that support the elimination of pennies:

      #1  There has never been a coin circulated in the U.S. worth as little as the penny is worth today.

     #2 It takes the average U.S. wage earner about two seconds to earn one cent. Thus, dealing with pennies isn’t worthwhile.

     #3  Pennies are not accepted by all vending machines or many toll booths, and pennies are generally not accepted in bulk.

In 2008 a law was introduced in Congress that, if passed, would have resulted in the penny being made of steel instead of expensive copper, reducing production costs. The bill claimed that lowering the cost of minting pennies would save the U.S. more than $500,000,000. The bill was never passed, but consider how much money could be saved if pennies were eliminated altogether.  

So there’s my budget trimming idea—eliminate the penny and save billions! And what do I want for my brilliant idea to help put our financial house back in order? Not one red cent.

For fun, guess how many pennies are under your couch cushions right now and let me know how accurate you were. 


Interesting post Stephen.
By: John on February 25, 2013
when I find a penny on the street- I always think of my mom and look up to say "Thanks Mom!"
By: Kathe W. on February 25, 2013
Oh no! Then how can stores have one cent sales? How can we buy something for a ridiculous amount of money and the 2nd for a penny????? Oh well, I guess it's time all that friv must get tossed out in the name of common sense.
By: mindy on February 25, 2013
My sisters were talking about Canada's system now where you have to round up or down depending on the last integer and our question all was: why don't retailers just figure out prices (with taxes) so everything ends up coming out to 0 or 5? That should be a no-brainer and then pennies would be unnecessary. Of course all coins and paper would be unnecessary if everyone used debit/credit cards. Anyway, I'm old enough to remember that at the corner store we could still buy Tootsie Rolls and the like for a penny, not that I hardly ever wanted to. I mean if you had ten pennies you could buy candy cigarettes! Now those were cool.
By: PT Dilloway on February 25, 2013
Pennies are a pain in the butt. I just put them all into collection boxes & tins, although they aren't so easy to find these days. Obviously they don't want the pennies either. :D
By: LL COOL JOE on February 25, 2013
Any pennies under our couch cushions came from my #2 Son's pockets, and i'm not touching them! That said, my pennies are gathered in a coin jar with the other bits of metal we call money, and i use them when the sales tax comes out to seven cents or some such.
By: mimi on February 25, 2013
There are no pennies in our sofa cushions. Why do I know that? I just vacuumed them the other day. Love this post. Have a terrific day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on February 25, 2013
I would tell you how many pennies are under my couch cushion but unfortunately anything that makes it under the cushions never returns. I've lost 2 remotes and one pet to the couch monster! I would have to agree. It's actually common sense if you think about it. I mean really. if it costs more to make than it's worth then why bother? It's just too bad common sense doesn't exist in American government.
By: workingdan on February 25, 2013
I still pick up pennies whenever I see them. I know they are worthless, but it all adds up. I never refuse free money.
By: Michael Offutt on February 25, 2013
This is a super duper post. I think that it is a practical idea, that's my head talking, but I still have fond memories, as you so aptly pointed out, of a penny being worth something. And I don't mind adopting any pennies I view when out and about.....but the ones that get sucked up into the floor cleaner chap my heiny. So I guess I vote for off with Lincoln's head. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on February 25, 2013
I always glance at a penny, on the lookout for those from before 1959 when the U. S. govt. changed the design. Those old pennies are worth 2 or 3 times their face value! But seriously, if they got rid of the penny, most things would be a bit more expensive -- b/c no one would round down; they'd only round up.
By: Tom Sightings on February 25, 2013
You were ahead of your time.
By: Hilary on February 25, 2013
I doubt I would miss the actual penny but to cover the odd costs of everything, merchants would have to round things up to 5, 10, and zeroes. If your sales tax is 8.5 it would have to be 10 cents now. THEN you have to manufacture more nickels which cost 11 cents each to make. All and all doing away with the pennies save the government in some ways but cost the consumer in other ways. I say reintroduce penny candy at the checkouts and get those pennies spent. I think my grandsons would like little penny root beer barrels and wax lips.
By: Cheryl P. on February 25, 2013
I remember the time (I swear this is true) I used 25 pennies at the toll booth. I took the sign "No Pennies Please" at its word. Meaning, it DIDN'T say "No Pennies Dammit Or We'll Hunt You Down Like The Scumbag You Are." It said "Please." So I scooped a handful from my ashtray (remember those?) and tossed them in the basket. It did work, although I felt sorry for the long line of cars waiting behind me while the machine went "ka-chunk," "ka-chunk," "ka-chunk." Aw...eff 'em. I paid the toll.
By: Al Penwasser on February 25, 2013
Oh, by the way, LL COOL JOE? Pennies are only a pain in the butt if that's where you choose to store them. ;-)
By: Al Penwasser on February 25, 2013
I don't carry change, period. I usually pay for whatever I buy with a debit card, so I don't get change. Whenever I do I bring it home and put it in a big jar. Once a year I take the jar to one of those machines that counts it and give me it's value in a merchandise card from one of the participating companies. I usually get at least a $100 credit for Starbucks. But if pennies went away, it wouldn't hurt my feelings. S
By: scott park on February 25, 2013
I agree, it's long past due for the penny to retire. I never want them as change, either. If they have one of those leave a penny/need a penny trays, I always throug it in there. Even the coins I save at home, I have a jar for sliver only, because the penny takes up too much space and is worth so much less. As a single woman, though, I guessed I had no pennies in my couch cushions, and I was right. I never drop them in my pocked, only my purse, so they would actually have to leap out of my purse and onto my couch in order to fall between the cusions. Actually, if there were that talented, I would say keep them in circulation!
By: Kianwi on February 25, 2013
it makes too much sense for our government to consider it.
By: lime on February 25, 2013
I agree - pennies are a pain! Get rid of them! Every day, my husband comes home and empties his pockets of change and puts the stupid pennies in a dish. It's up to me to spend them, so I always lug around a heavy wallet and try to spend these pennies because I hate having them in containers all over the house.
By: Pixel Peeper on February 25, 2013
I rarely use cash for anything, let alone pennies. On the rare occasion I get pennies, I give them to my kids. So I definitely don't have a problem with getting rid of them.
By: Jeff Laws on February 25, 2013
What? No pennies? What will kids put on the railroad tracks for the train to flatten? What will they feed into those machines at tourist traps to crank and stretch them out into shiny commemorative souvenirs?
By: Val on February 25, 2013
ah yes, but then there is a special word, which admittedly i can't remember, for the piffling amount by which a price is short of a sensible amount So an item that should be priced £10 is actually £9.99 So if we got rid of the penny how would shops re-price? Plus - it is a unit of a larger amount, regardless of its actual value - a dollar is worth a hundred pennies and therefore it has to have something it is divisible by?
By: don\'t feed the pixies on February 26, 2013
One of my favorite sayings is, "Take care of your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves." It was said to me by a jerk of a boyfriend I'd just soon forget, but this stuck with me. I love the penny. There's something almost romantic about it. But I'm with you, if it will help our country's financial situation even a little bit to discontinue it, the so-be-it.
By: Daily Dose of Damn on February 26, 2013
You can send all your unwanted pennies to me by courier. In return, I shall purchase a new camera lens if the number of pennies are sufficient. I like the Canadian angle to this story. ;-)
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 26, 2013
When I get pennies in change, I always leave them in those little plastic boxes next to the cash register. I'm surprised at how many times that as you go to pay for something, a cashier will reach for the extra cent or two, thus eliminating your need for pennies in return and also depleting their excess penny supply-at least until the next customer.
By: Tom Cochrun on February 26, 2013
Not a penny, not even a crumb, under my couch cushions. They don't come off. It's a recliner couch. I never sit on it anyway. The dogs park themselves on it so they can rest comfortably while they keep an eye on the neighborhood. If we can save money by eliminating pennies, then by all means, the penny must go. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on February 26, 2013
This was an interesting post! I am now up to date on the penny movement. I still like them! :)
By: Michael Manning on February 26, 2013
The answer to pennies is charity collecting boxes. They have them here by the cash registers (not usually in supermarkets) and there are also boxes all over the place. If 1000 people give a penny each that's .... uh.... (long pause for calculation) .... IN other words, if enough people donate a little, it will add up at no effective cost to anyone Maybe I'll start a petition for everyone to keep charity collecting boxes at the till.
By: Jenny Woolf on February 28, 2013

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