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Not a copper penny in me house.
November 19, 2006 9:26 PM   Subscribe

How much is a penny worth today? Oh, about $0.0105465. Of course, it costs more than that to produce them. Is the penny worth keeping? The old copper penny had bactericidal qualities. You could drop a copper penny in a glass of wine to discern its nature. They were the subject of various high-school chemistry experiments. According to some, they were excellent conductors of luck. And the new zinc pennies? Their melting point is lower, and they don't have the same ring to them. Some people like them, others like to eat them. What are they good for? Not much. The time has come to abolish the penny.
posted by sfenders (75 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Tell us how you really feel.
posted by rocketman at 9:38 PM on November 19, 2006


These abolish the penny folks keep saying that you can't buy anything for a single penny. Not true! I can still buy marbles for a penny apiece at the Historical Museum here in Bloomington, Indiana. One time, in the second grade, a kid brought a dollar on a field trip to the museum and he got to pick out a hundred marbles! Surely this penny is a powerful coin indeed!
posted by bookish at 9:44 PM on November 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


I dunno: "A nickel for your thoughts", "In for a dime, in for a pound", "A quarter saved is a quarter earned", "Millions for defense, but not one buck for tribute", et al. just won't have the same ring to them.
posted by cenoxo at 9:45 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm gunna guess it doesn't cost 100 dollars to make a 100 dollar bill, and I bet that disparity is plenty much to make up for pennies.
posted by Citizen Premier at 9:45 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


The fact that the penny costs more to make then it's worth doesn't mean it's not worth making, because it can be spent many times, each time contributing to the economy.

I mean obviously, gold coins originally cost more to produce then they were worth. One silver pound was £1 worth of silver, plus the cost to actually mint the coin.

The economic value was in having standard coins that everyone could use without weighing gold and silver for themselves all the time, not in making a "profit" off of the metal.

Indeed, the mint doesn't make a "profit" off of the penny any more then it makes a "profit" off of the $100 bill.

The actual cost of producing the penny should be balanced off of it's economic value rather then it's face value.

That said, I personally doubt it's economic value is that great at all, and is probably less then the face value anyway.

Still the fact that the cost of the materials are higher then the face value does not mean they should be gotten rid of.

They can also be made from other materials, such as steel like during WWII, aluminum, or even plastic.
posted by delmoi at 9:46 PM on November 19, 2006


Zinc pennies are still useful for high school chemistry experiments. I remember in mine, we dissolved all of the zinc out of a penny, leaving a hollow copper shell. Pretty cool.
posted by zsazsa at 9:50 PM on November 19, 2006


Want to make a difference, go to a proper $1 coin.

And if you really are worried about the cost of a penny, make it out of good, solid plastic. And then if you're really a nutcase who is worried about counterfeiting, you can put in fancy coloured security features.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:54 PM on November 19, 2006


They have economic multipliers in the roll-yer-pennies gizmos. Forty bucks for a plastic thingie to sort pennies and separate them from dimes and nickels. Think of the late night infomercials.
posted by Rumple at 9:54 PM on November 19, 2006


Abolishing the penny would be inflationary. Businesses would always round prices up. There is economic value in being able to price things more exactly. And the nickel would be next, then the dime, and Argentina here we come.

Well, that's a little overstated, but I don't like it.
posted by jam_pony at 10:00 PM on November 19, 2006


If you're still making notes out of paper, why bother modernising the coins?
posted by pompomtom at 10:01 PM on November 19, 2006



The fact that the penny costs more to make then it's worth doesn't mean it's not worth making, because it can be spent many times, each time contributing to the economy.

I mean obviously, gold coins originally cost more to produce then they were worth. One silver pound was £1 worth of silver, plus the cost to actually mint the coin.


Right, but at the time, if you melted the silver coin and sold its contents, you broke even before melting and selling costs. I don't know if processing pennies for scrap would be profitable today, but that day may be close, and unlike the example you cite, there exists no standard to preserve a rough parity.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:04 PM on November 19, 2006


jam_pony, your argument works just as well for the other side. You are basically arguing that more monetary accuracy is better, but obviously we have to draw the line somewhere. Nobody wants tenth and hundreths of pennies coined. So this limit to monetary accuracy is totally arbitrary and should be based on what is practical and useful. Thus the penny should be abolished. It's value is so small that people often throw them away when they are given them as change. So small that businesses, whose sole purpose is to make money, will actually put out "take a penny/leave a penny" dishes because pennies are more a source of nuisance than value.
posted by Farengast at 10:06 PM on November 19, 2006


Kwanstar, the situation you describe actually already happened. That's why pennies have a zinc core now. Before that pennies had 3 cents of copper in each one. And since pennies are not legal tender like other coins, it is actually legal to destroy or deface them. So not only could you melt down pennies for profit, but it was entirely legal to do so.
posted by Farengast at 10:12 PM on November 19, 2006


Previously.
posted by dreamsign at 10:13 PM on November 19, 2006


Abolishing the penny would be inflationary. Businesses would always round prices up.

Who says?

Australia abolished 1c and 2c pieces years ago. Businesses have to follow some pretty simple rules.

1. You round off the total at the cash register, not the price of each individual item. Things can still cost $1.99.
2. If the end digit is 1 or 2, 6 or 7, round down to the nearest 5c. If it's 3 or 4, 8 or 9, round up. It all evens out in the end.
3. If you're paying by credit card or such, no rounding occurs.
4. Cash registers are quite happy doing all this automatically.

It's done wonders for the weight of my wallet.
posted by Jimbob at 10:14 PM on November 19, 2006


All I know is, almost all transactions will be rounded up by a couple of pennies. Over the course of a year, I'm guessing I'll lose twenty or thirty bucks out of the deal.
posted by adipocere at 10:15 PM on November 19, 2006


I agree that the penny is stupid and useless and should go, but frankly, there are just more important issues to worry about. This is about 6 zillion on my list of priorities.
posted by kyrademon at 10:17 PM on November 19, 2006


"Not legal tender"? Really? So, does that mean that a business could refuse to accept payment in pennies, or a customer could refuse to accept change in pennies?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:20 PM on November 19, 2006


Australia has managed quite well without 1c and 2c coins for about 10 years now. All the merchants still charge $X.99 for things, they just add them all up at the register and round up for 3 or 4, down for 1 or 2 for cash transactions, and leave the number as is for electronic transactions.

Which raises the question of getting rid of cash entirely: I doubt that could happen, and I doubt it has . Even if the per-transaction tax was introduced and cash only drove the black (drugs, duplicate CDs etc) and grey (cash-in-hand work, secondhand goods etc) markets, the overall economy would still be strengthened by having these markets. Money moving around is economic activity, and cash is a faster way of moving money around, because it avoids the slowdowns--otherwise known as audit trails on the one hand, and haggling on the other (barter)--introduced by the alternatives.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:21 PM on November 19, 2006


Spaceman, that's exactly right. It is minted and endorsed by the government (obviously) but you can destroy them legally, and I'm not totally sure, but I think you can also refuse to accept them as payment for a debt etc. So if someone owes you money, you can refuse their pennies without breaking any laws. I'd certainly like to hear from someone who knows more about currency than me if this is actually true though.
posted by Farengast at 10:27 PM on November 19, 2006


Oh yeah, and refusing pennies given to you in change won't gain you anything. It's not like you can force them to write you a check. You can force them to round out the pennies, which is basically just giving them back the pennies they gave you. So yes, feel free to refuse pennies given to you as change. I don't think they'll argue.
posted by Farengast at 10:30 PM on November 19, 2006


Well, according to the internet, pennies are legal tender, businesses are not required to accept them, and they can be destroyed as long as fraud is not present.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:38 PM on November 19, 2006


Ah ok. So I was right about everything except what this state of being destroyable and refusable was called. I thought it was called "not legal tender" but perhaps it just doesn't have a name. Thanks, Kwanstar!
posted by Farengast at 10:40 PM on November 19, 2006


Simple solution: if you have a business, charge an amount that is a multiple of $0.05.

I used to play "pennies to the floor" every time I got them. Then my friend told me about how he was playing pennies to the floor and a homeless woman started picking them up right in front of him. That made us stop, but seriously, pennies are totally worthless.
posted by dminor at 10:40 PM on November 19, 2006


Simple solution: if you have a business, charge an amount that is a multiple of $0.05.

Which works great as long as you can legally absorb sales taxes.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:43 PM on November 19, 2006


I found one of these last week.
posted by Eideteker at 10:44 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


New Zealand just got rid of its 5 cent coins (after abolishing the penny years ago) and it just isn't a big deal. Prices are still displayed as $X.98 (or whatever) and rounding occurs at the end. As in Australia, rounding is not used for electonic transactions. If your total is $15.64 and you're paying with a credit card, you'll pay exactly $15.64. For cash transactioins, most retailers use a rounding system that's in the consumer's favour, rounding down to the nearest ten for totals ending in 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and rounding up for 6, 7, 8, and 9.

After living in Britain (with its 2p pieces--which I'm convinced are the most ridiculous coins ever), it's a delight to be rid of small, fiddly, useless change.
posted by lumiere at 10:58 PM on November 19, 2006


Australia and New Zealand are vastly superior to the US if only because they both abolished the penny. Seriously, after you spend a few weeks without pennies, you never want to see them again.
posted by mathowie at 11:06 PM on November 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


I remember as a kid wondering whether it was worthwhile to pick up a penny off the ground, and thinking that if doing so takes five seconds out of your day, then you'd effectively be earning at a rate of $7.20 an hour as you did it. So at the time, the answer was yes, if you didn't mind a lot of bending and stooping. And it's shocking to realize that the federal minimum wage is still far lower than that. Whereas Oregon's will pass it by five cents come January.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:14 PM on November 19, 2006


Addendum -- got it wrong; Oregon's passed it two years ago...
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:16 PM on November 19, 2006


Yeah, plastic pennies are exactly what we need! Useless currency actually made from oil.
posted by blasdelf at 11:17 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think we should get rid of all coinage in the US.

And then, I can enjoy all the people who said they wanted to get rid of the penny screaming bloody murder as the inflation ensues, just like it did after Decimal Day. Daily newspapers are $1. Vending machine gum is $1. If you pay cash at the pump, it's all about avoiding going over 50 cents.

Honestly, pennies are what keep companies like Coinstar in business.
posted by dw at 11:27 PM on November 19, 2006


Abolish the paper dollar cause Sacagawea is hott.
posted by Sir Mildred Pierce at 11:52 PM on November 19, 2006


Thanks, sfenders! When I began stocking quarters for laundry as a college student, I noticed that the oldest ones were always 1965, and the drop-off was perfectly sharp, as if no quarters were even minted before that year. I think I've still never seen one in circulation. Turns out that's because 1964 quarters contain enough silver to be worth over $2. Cool!
posted by aws17576 at 12:13 AM on November 20, 2006


As lumiere noted above, New Zealand recently got rid of the 5cent piece, making the 10 cent coin the lowest common denomination. So far the sky has not fallen in and life goes on just the same - except that the Dems now control Congress. Can't be all bad.
posted by vac2003 at 12:14 AM on November 20, 2006


Find a penny
Pick it up
All day long
You'll have a penny.
posted by bunglin jones at 12:25 AM on November 20, 2006


If you lose the pennies do you want to lose decimal pricing of stocks and options? Traders will love that. Bring back the big spreads and stick it to the retail investor, hooha!

"Trading costs (pdf), a key measure of market quality, have declined significantly for retail and institutional investors since the implementation of decimal pricing in 2001. Retail investors now pay less when they buy and receive more when they sell stock because of the substantially reduced spreads— the difference between the best quoted prices to buy or sell. GAO’s analysis of data from firms that analyze institutional investor trades indicated that trading costs for large investors have also declined, falling between 30 to 53 percent. Further, 87 percent of the 23 institutional investor firms we contacted reported that their trading costs had either declined or remained the same since decimal pricing began. Although trading is less costly, the move to the 1-cent tick has reduced market transparency."
posted by TweetleBeetleBattleBookie at 12:46 AM on November 20, 2006


On a business scale, while pennies still exist, set your registers to round up all totals to the nearest nickel but track the difference and contribute that amount to a charity. Post a notice to customers so they aren't surprised that they are making microcontributions to charity.

But on a government scale: just eliminate all metal and paper money. Make every transaction electronic.
posted by pracowity at 1:13 AM on November 20, 2006


K-Fed wants to save the penny.
posted by spiderskull at 1:34 AM on November 20, 2006


Abolishing pennies would mean that you had to round off all transactions. You could just work with multiples of five, but that's confusing. I suggest that instead we eliminate the penny, the nickel, and the quarter, reintroduce the 50 cent piece, and move onto a single decimal system. So you'd have $.1 pieces, $.5 pieces, and the next up would be dollars.

And no dollar coins, whatever you do. I absolutely hate coins because they're heavy and don't fit well in wallets. I understand the need for coins at the lower denominations, but I'd rather keep them away as much as possible.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:52 AM on November 20, 2006


1. You round off the total at the cash register, not the price of each individual item. Things can still cost $1.99.
2. If the end digit is 1 or 2, 6 or 7, round down to the nearest 5c. If it's 3 or 4, 8 or 9, round up. It all evens out in the end.
3. If you're paying by credit card or such, no rounding occurs.
4. Cash registers are quite happy doing all this automatically.


I don't understand the whining about "But prices will go up!" if we abolish the penny. It's pretty simple as JimBob stated above.

Screw the penny!
posted by zardoz at 1:59 AM on November 20, 2006


delmoi: You're close, but not *quite* right in a few paragraphs, so:

I mean obviously, gold coins originally cost more to produce then they were worth. One silver pound was £1 worth of silver, plus the cost to actually mint the coin.

Actually, the way this worked was with a Mint fee. One silver pound was worth EXACTLY one pound of silver, but to make raw silver INTO the coins, the Mint charged a few percent. You'd put in, say, 103 ounces of smelted silver, and get back 100 1-ounce coins. This was not meant as a profit center, it was simply to keep the Mint function self-supporting. The Mint paid its workers and bought its equipment with the extra coins that were generated.

The economic value was in having standard coins that everyone could use without weighing gold and silver for themselves all the time, not in making a "profit" off of the metal.

This is very true. Further, this kind of coin tends to keep value over time better than paper currency does. A Roman gold coin of one ounce (I'm sure they didn't use that actual measure, but work with me here) is still worth as much as a modern one ounce coin, if you disregard rarity value. In actual truth, they're worth a lot more, but they'll never be worth less.

Paper currencies virtually never outlast the government that produced them; Confederate Dollars are just about as spendable as Weimar Papiermarks. They both have some rarity value, but no inherent value whatsoever.

There's one very interesting exception. After the fall of Baghdad, when American dollars flooded the country, the currency of the old regime experienced a major renaissance. Simply by virtue of the fact that no more were being printed, it suddenly GAINED value after its producing government failed. This a very interesting development if you're into abstract ideas like currency. :)

Indeed, the mint doesn't make a "profit" off of the penny any more then it makes a "profit" off of the $100 bill.

This is untrue to an extraordinary degree. Look up the word 'segniorage'. The US loses money on the penny, but let me assure you most wholeheartedly that it profits handsomely from its essentially 100% segniorage on paper and electronic money.

If you can't find a good link (I'm seeing only very complex papers).... consider what happens if the Mint decreases the purity of its coins, up there in the first paragraph. If it's striking coins that are suddenly 10% copper and 90% gold, then it increases its profits by 10%. This lets the government print more money with less real input. This has been abused flagrantly in the past. The Old Copper Nose "gold" coin was an example... the gold plate over the copper coin was so thin that the nose would wear off quickly, and the copper would show through.

Historically, empires have tended to collapse after moving to a badly debased currency. The American Dollar is a remarkable example of 100% segniorage... the fundamental dollars are worth absolutely nothing. They're a politician's promise to pay nothing on demand. This is a lot of why our coins have gotten so much cheaper and flimsier over the last few years, covered with 'collectors editions' claims so you don't notice.

History has not been kind to other empires that have debased their currency, and I don't expect our outcome will be any happier. Fiat currency sends false signals to the economy in accordance with the wishes of the politicians, which very rarely have the actual benefit of the country in mind.

One strong argument against the penny: if the US makes pennies that worth more than the value of the penny, then speculators will buy them en masse, melt them down, and sell them into other markets. The larger the disparity in pricing, the more demand there will be, and the more it will cost the government, as coins disappear from circulation.

If we can't make pennies that are fairly close to face value, we will HAVE TO stop making them. If we don't, they will become a financial black hole that will suck ever-larger amounts of wealth from the government.
posted by Malor at 2:14 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


One silver pound was worth EXACTLY one pound of silver

I should have said, "one silver coin had exactly one pound's worth of silver in it."
posted by Malor at 2:15 AM on November 20, 2006


I still say the best use for pennies is smashing them.
posted by fixedgear at 2:21 AM on November 20, 2006


How much is a 1 yen coin worth? Since they are aluminum, seems like it might be more than a penny! :)
posted by MonkeyAround at 2:46 AM on November 20, 2006


  1. Get $1000 worth of pennies
  2. Melt down and sell the metals for $2064.45
  3. PROFIT!
It's like a reverse money factory.
posted by grouse at 3:03 AM on November 20, 2006


Easiest way to abolish the ton of shrapnel in your pocket? Include your sales tax in sticker prices. Yeah, I'm looking at you Canada, Japan, and USA; get with the program. Why have the majority suffer when those exempt can claim it back later?

The whole idea of $x.99 pricing was for security in the days of mechanical registers - the operator had to open the till to get change, so it was harder for them to pocket the customer's cash. It's less relevant now, and frankly moronic with sales tax on top.
posted by scruss at 3:33 AM on November 20, 2006


Yes, and if you think the penny is useless, how about the one yen coin? It's roughly 100 times less valuable.

Although I did open a bank account last week with one yen in it while I waited for the funds from my first check ...
posted by jeffmshaw at 3:44 AM on November 20, 2006


The whole idea of $x.99 pricing was for security in the days of mechanical registers

Or, really, to make the prices look much lower than they are.
posted by oaf at 3:54 AM on November 20, 2006


I'm suprised no one's mentioned "The Roentgen Standard".

Though pennies fall out of general circulation within a number of years, they're durable enough to recoup their minting costs before disappearing; the use of "E PLURIBUS UNUM" in currency wasn't merely to refer to the United States' heritage. It stressed the ubiquity of the government-backed money as a legitimate means of trade. As people are less likely to forge minted coins than paper money, pennies (and other "expensive" denominations, like State quarters and Sacagawea dollars) are still effective in daily balancing of transactions and finances, and can be as readily accepted as traveller's checks.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:37 AM on November 20, 2006


Easiest way to abolish the ton of shrapnel in your pocket? Include your sales tax in sticker prices. Yeah, I'm looking at you Canada, Japan, and USA; get with the program. Why have the majority suffer when those exempt can claim it back later?

In Japan, prices include the 5% consumption tax. I've never seen an establishment that does not.
posted by armage at 4:58 AM on November 20, 2006


I'm Britain (with its 2p pieces--which I'm convinced are the most ridiculous coins ever), it's a delight to be rid of small, fiddly, useless change.

Amen. 2p coins are a sick joke. I undestand 2£ and 50p coins being large, and the thick 1£ coins work, but for God's sake, drop the 2p.
posted by eriko at 5:47 AM on November 20, 2006


The round-up round down solution to the overwhelming uselessness of pennies makes sense, but as many people have already said, that just makes the nickel the new penny. 5 cents alone is already only moderately useful; it can buy you a single candy of the gummy sort... and that's the limit of the uses I can think of off the top of my head. If I wasn't such a (small-l) libertarian, I'd advocate a pure electronic economy, with no concrete currency in transactions. However, I have this fear of paper trails and government tracking of transactions that I can't seem to shake.
posted by tehloki at 7:08 AM on November 20, 2006


I don't see why the penny should be singled out. We should get rid of all coinage or none of it. Having to carry paper money around's not that great, either, and those fricking cards are a pain. Screw keyfobs, too.

Seriously, though, I can't think of a single non-inflationary reason to get rid of just the penny, while keeping nickels, dimes, and even quarters.
posted by Eideteker at 7:22 AM on November 20, 2006


Does anyone else throw pennies away?
posted by docpops at 7:25 AM on November 20, 2006


1 cent euro pieces are stupid, but many venders refuse to deal with them, which is nice. Its much worse in the states where everybody deals in pennies.

U.S. needs to eliminate pennies and nickels, while introducing 1 & 2 dollar coins.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:35 AM on November 20, 2006


Sure, we should start rounding to the nearest nickel, but when are we going to abandon the other useless denomination...the one dollar bill?
Bring on the two dollar bill- It's all about the Jeffersons, baby!
posted by Lord Kinbote at 7:39 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


But on a government scale: just eliminate all metal and paper money. Make every transaction electronic.
posted by pracowity at 1:13 AM PST on November 20


I understand it worked pretty well for our voting system.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:41 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Pennies in AUD or NZD are only worth half a US cent, so they're even more worthless.
posted by smackfu at 8:18 AM on November 20, 2006


Malor I did look it up and it's actually spelt seigniorage :)
posted by zeoslap at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2006


Want to make a difference, go to a proper $1 coin.

Dunno if you'd call them "proper," but new dollar coins are coming in February. They'll probably fail too unless they pull the dollar bill at the same time.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:26 AM on November 20, 2006


Those damn zinc pennies are poison. I thought my dog swallowed one, and he needed some $65 x-rays.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:00 AM on November 20, 2006


Dunno if you'd call them "proper," but new dollar coins are coming in February. They'll probably fail too unless they pull the dollar bill at the same time.
They're still too similar in size and weight to quarters. They should have given them a smaller diameter and greater thickness, and nevermind the vending machine lobby.

My feminist soul is also now offended that there are now no women at all on our currency anymore. (And no, the statue of liberty on the obverse does not count.) The problem with the Sacajawea dollar wasn't Sacajawea, it was the same problem as the previous dollar coin (size and weight too similar to other denominations), and the cheap coating on the coin (the "gold" rubbed right off).
posted by Karmakaze at 11:15 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dollar coins blow. They make your wallet heavy. The worst part about travelling is having to carry both a wallet and a change purse.
posted by dame at 12:01 PM on November 20, 2006


"But on a government scale: just eliminate all metal and paper money. Make every transaction electronic."

That's kind of what's going on at the above-consumer banking level anyway.

However, until we are all governed by a completely honest, trustworthy and transparent government, we should under no circumstances allow the abolishment of cash.

If your money is all digital, it can be erased.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:30 PM on November 20, 2006


Mmm, Pennywine.

“Dollar coins blow.”

Really?
*surreptitiously slips a Susan B. Anthony into pants*
posted by Smedleyman at 1:54 PM on November 20, 2006


Oh, c'mon now Smedley! :D
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:03 PM on November 20, 2006


However, until we are all governed by a completely honest, trustworthy and transparent government, we should under no circumstances allow the abolishment of cash.

In the event of the abolishment of federal cash, there exist strong cryptographic techniques which could replace it with printable tokens which maintain anonymity and prevent fraud., together with p2p databases that would prevent deletion.

Such a currency would actually be sounder than the fiat-twice-removed interest-bearing money we have today; it's the supply and demand of the situation that makes such a scheme infeasible now; remove the real cash option and suddenly cryptocash becomes a lot more attractive.

Natch, I predict with high confidence any cryptocash created by the government will have none of these nice features and will be susceptible to fraud, due to the conflicting interests of money holders and money issuers.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:08 PM on November 20, 2006


armage, didn't Japan used to have add-on sales tax? I'm pretty sure it did when I was there in 1990; I seem to remember footling small change.
posted by scruss at 3:34 PM on November 20, 2006


The last time that the US abolished a small denomination was the half cent, which perished in 1857. (I have a worn example of the 1856 half cent kicking around somewhere, but I think my 1840 quarter pfennig beats it for smallness of denomination.)

Anyway, using an online inflation calculator, I note that what cost $0.005 in 1857 would cost $0.1027 today. That means that getting rid of the half cent in 1857 would be about the same as getting rid of the penny, nickle and dime today.

I'd welcome that. The amount of time I spend monthly sorting these trivial coins doesn't return the minimum wage; I'm often tempted just to throw my change away, but I find myself constitutionally unable to do so.

I was hoping that the retirement of the penny might occur in 2009, the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth and the 100th anniversary of Victor D. Brenner's Lincoln Cent; but unfortunately it appears that we'll be getting a new penny in 2009, even though there is legislation pending that could abolish it instead.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:39 PM on November 20, 2006


Because I really care what some moron who writes opinion columns for the Crimson thinks...
posted by limeonaire at 7:01 PM on November 20, 2006


Dude, he lives in Greenough. Give him a break.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:22 PM on November 20, 2006


zeoslap said: "Malor I did look it up and it's actually spelt seigniorage :)"

Oops. Mea culpa. No wonder my searches weren't coming up with good links. Thanks!
posted by Malor at 3:48 AM on November 22, 2006


You know what? Screw it; I hate any currency that's not a power of ten. Screw nickels, quarters, fives, twenties, and fifties. Let's get rid of them all.
posted by Eideteker at 3:34 PM on November 26, 2006


The United States Mint has apparently decided to solve this problem by regulation, prohibiting the "melting and treatment", and the "unlicensed exportation" of pennies and nickels. This will presumably work for a few years until the profits to be had from melting down pennies to put the metals to more productive use are large enough to induce people to break the law, or to simply hoard pennies until they're worth something. According to coinflation.com, the penny is now worth 1.13 cents, up about 8% from the date of the original post less than a month ago. The seigniorage on the nickel is even more negative, with its metal priced at 140% of its face value. It won't be long before a $2 roll of nickels is worth $3.

US Mint press release: Prevailing prices of copper, nickel and zinc have caused the production costs of pennies and nickels to significantly exceed their respective face values. The United States Mint also has received a steady flow of inquiries from the public over the past several months concerning the metal value of these coins and whether it is legal to melt them.

"We are taking this action because the Nation needs its coinage for commerce," said Director Ed Moy. "We don't want to see our pennies and nickels melted down so a few individuals can take advantage of the American taxpayer. Replacing these coins would be an enormous cost to taxpayers."

Specifically, the new regulations prohibit, with certain exceptions, the melting or treatment of all one-cent and 5-cent coins. The regulations also prohibit the unlicensed exportation of these coins, except that travelers may take up to $5 in these coins out of the country, and individuals may ship up to $100 in these coins out of the country in any one shipment for legitimate coinage and numismatic purposes.

posted by sfenders at 8:05 PM on December 14, 2006


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