Should we eliminate pennies?

Saying Goodbye To The Penny

The penny has been with us for a long, long time but its time is coming to an end. No longer is it being picked up for good luck. No longer is it being worn in a penny loafer. The penny is a forgotten relic and will be disappearing soon, much to the dismay of many, mainly the zinc industry (zinc makes up most of a penny, not copper). So, why is the penny disappearing? Find out.

Some people might not like it, but the penny is almost assured to be gone and gone soon. With inflation, over time the penny has become pretty much worthless. A found penny might be lucky but, its luck has almost run out. Here is why you will soon see the demise of the penny.

Why Get Rid Of The Penny?

There are plenty of reasons to get rid of the penny and the fact that it is almost worthless financially is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are the top reasons why your little copper friend will be gone soon.

  1. They make paying in cash painful. 
    Nobody likes paying in cash and getting a pocket full of change, especially when that change includes pennies. It would be far easier to round to the nearest nickel and have to deal with fewer coins in your pocket. It would speed up the process of paying with cash and would lead you to have far less coins to have to carry around. Pennies are so hard to transport in fact that US Military bases have stopped accepting them at oversea bases.
  2. They are costly to make.
    Did you know that it actually costs more money to make a penny than it is worth? Almost twice as much. It costs 1.7 cents to make a single penny. Now, you can say that the coin is reusable so you should expense the cost over time but pennies have a way of disappearing disproportionately. They are worth so little that pennies keep getting thrown away or just plain abandoned in jars or junk drawers. This means that the government must keep producing them which is a cost that does add up.
    Of course, another coin also cost more to produce than it is worth and that coin is the one next in line. The nickel costs a few cents more to make than it is worth. Does this kill the argument? No, it just means that the nickel is also soon to be the elimination list.
  3. They are environmentally unsound.
    Zinc, the material that makes up most of a penny can be bad for the environment. When it is mined, it is collected with other metals that can be toxic such as lead. These other metals can leach into the soil causing real environmental concerns. Zinc can actually be toxic by itself in high doses. I know that you though that pennies were made of copper, but that is just the outer shell and only represents a few percent of the metallic content.
  4. They are almost worthless.
    If you can not buy anything with a coin, is it worth keeping around? A penny can not buy anything. A handful of pennies, in fact, is almost worthless. Why keep something around that has practically no value. A hundred years ago, a penny was worth close to what a quarter is worth today but because of inflation, this is just not so anymore. Currently, the penny has the least value of any coin that has ever been in production. It is hardly worth even saving and if you need to find some money, there are better ways to do it.
  5. They are easy to get and hard to get rid of.
    If you pay cash with any frequency, you are going to get pennies. This is the easy part. The hard part is getting rid of those pennies. Try paying for anything with a bunch of pennies or even just a few to make exact change and see how many disgusting looks you get from those behind you. Because of this, most people do not try to use their pennies and instead toss them away and they will never be seen again.
  6. They cost time at checkout.
    It takes time to count ll those pennies and it is costing all of us. From the checker who has to count it to the person in line who has to wait. In addition, charities accepting cash donations have to waste considerable time counting a coin that will never amount to much money.
  7. It is not accepted everywhere.
    The penny has already been phased out in a few ways. Try using one at a vending machine and see what happens. A lot of tollways will not even process the coins. Do you have a center console in your car with a change holder? Note the absence of a spot for a penny.
  8. It has already been attempted.
    Legislation has continually been introduced to try to rid us of this coin. An Arizona Representative tried it with the Price Rounding Act in 1989, then another legislator tried with the Legal Tender Magnetization act in 2001 and again in 2006 with the COIN ACT (Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation).
  9. Everybody’s doing it.
    You have probably heard your kids say this as an excuse but in this case it’s true. A lot of countries have already outlawed the one cent coin. Australia ditched theirs in 1992 and Canada gave theirs the ax in 2013. Brazil stopped minting one cent coins in 2005 and even overseas US Military bases no longer accept them.

Historical Evidence For Removal

There is evidence to support the removal of a coin from circulation. It has been done in the past and will continue to be done in the future as a coin becomes no longer useful. The most famous of these coins perhaps might be the 1/2 cent or half cent.

1/2 Cent

The 1/2 cent is the smallest coin ever made by the US Government. It was last minted in 1857 and was a bit smaller than a quarter and made entirely of copper.

In addition to the half cent, other coins have come and gone over the years. There were once several three cent coins, half dimes, twenty cent pieces and a three dollar coin even. Coins come and go, as they lose their usefulness. No need to get sentimental about it.

Why Keep The Penny?

All this talk about getting rid of the penny, but are there any reasons to keep it? Sure, some people still support this coin and here is why.

  1. They represent millions in donations.
    Next time you are at a grocery store, convenience store or drive thru like McDonalds, take a look at the charity change jar. It probably contains a much needed 200 dollars or more in copper. They ask you to donate your change to charity and much of that change will be in the form of copper. Eliminate the penny and these charities stand to lose a lot of money.
  2. Pennies keep prices down.
    Think about what would happen if the penny went away. The first thing that store owners would do would be to change all of their prices which will lead to a lot of rounding. Which way do you think that they are going to round? Up of course, which will lead to price increases across the board.
  3. We are attached to them.
    Find a penny pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck. I am sure you have heard this and it is just one of the ways that we have grown attached to the penny. Combine that with all of those penny press machines, wishing wells and just the nostalgic feeling that we have for this worthless coin and it is easy to see why it is hard to let go.
Posted by

James Car is a finance, loan and budget expert based in the United States. After attending Brookhaven college, he went on to become a successful entrepreneur. He now enjoys writing articles that help people save and make the most of their money.