Penny wise
April 4, 2008 10:33 AM   Subscribe

The problem with pennies.
posted by veedubya (98 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I participated in a debate league when I was an undergraduate. A member of the Harvard team constantly ran "get rid of pennies" as a debate case. He claimed that he had never lost.
posted by prefpara at 10:41 AM on April 4, 2008


I... I... so totally misread that title.
posted by loquacious at 10:43 AM on April 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


A voter at Sen. Barack Obama's town hall meeting in Greensburg, Pa., yesterday asked whether he would consider eliminating the penny.

"We have been trying to eliminate the penny for quite some time -- it always comes back," Obama said. "I need to find out who is lobbying to keep the penny."

Somebody in the crowd pointed the finger at Illinois, the home of Abraham Lincoln.

"Oh, you think it’s Illinois? You’re blaming us?" he asked before turning serious. "I will seriously consider eliminating the penny as long as we find another place for Lincoln to land."


(source)
posted by Rhaomi at 10:44 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Breaking stride to pick up a penny, if it takes more than 6.15 seconds, pays less than the federal minimum wage.
posted by marxchivist at 10:45 AM on April 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


*goes to rifle through the closet to find all the old pennies*
posted by ninjew at 10:47 AM on April 4, 2008


Breaking stride to pick up a penny, if it takes more than 6.15 seconds, pays less than the federal minimum wage.

I saw that too, but if it takes more that 6.15 seconds for you to pick up a penny, I suspect you are going to be doing anything more useful with that time.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:47 AM on April 4, 2008


Also under debate in Canada
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:48 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


...another place for Lincoln to land.

I propose the five dollar bill.
posted by DU at 10:50 AM on April 4, 2008 [13 favorites]


I used to collect Lincoln cents. My heart aches over the possibility that some d-bag melted down a 1909 S VDB for a lousy 2.5 cents.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:51 AM on April 4, 2008


I... I... so totally misread that title.
posted by loquacious


What? You feel enlarging them is the solution?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:02 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


> Breaking stride to pick up a penny, if it takes more than 6.15 seconds, pays less than the federal minimum wage.

Once I tried to explain to a friend why I didn't bother picking up pennies, nickles or dimes, and what I said was "I'm not gonna bend over for less than a quarter." And if I had a quarter for every time that particular line was quoted back to me....
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:03 AM on April 4, 2008 [11 favorites]


I propose that we adopt the Ha' Penny, and that its face be engraved with only lincoln's hat.
posted by shmegegge at 11:03 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


So this 100 pound container of pennies is worth something? Or nothing?
posted by maxwelton at 11:04 AM on April 4, 2008


Since there seems to be a glut of pennies, couldn't they just keep them circulation but stop minting new ones?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:10 AM on April 4, 2008


I don't pick up pennies because they are valuable. I pick up pennies because I am obsessive compulsive.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:14 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


So this 100 pound container of pennies is worth something?

100 lbs of pennies would apparently be worth ~ $260 in materials, but have a face value of ~ $150.
posted by zennie at 11:17 AM on April 4, 2008


Or something. :)
posted by zennie at 11:17 AM on April 4, 2008


People, in my experience, are weird about the money they handle. Back in the early '00s, when the new 10s and 20s came out, I regularly had customers refuse the "funny money" in their change at the register.

Just last week there was a guy in front of me at a register who wouldn't take one of the new five dollar bills because it was "ugly." He demanded "real money" from the cashier.

I wonder how these folks would react if the government took away their pennies and nickels.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 11:18 AM on April 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


"So this 100 pound container of pennies is worth something? Or nothing?"

Well, what's it made out of?
posted by Eideteker at 11:18 AM on April 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


As of right now, I have a nightstand that is virtually covered in pennies. I can't really do anything with them, because vending machines (the final destination for almost all of my loose change) don't take pennies.

My pennies, then, are effectively worthless. As the article says, they are worth more as Zinc slurry than as currency. I was surprised to hear the same about nickels as well.
posted by Avenger at 11:18 AM on April 4, 2008


I can think of nothing more hopeful than the smell of a handful of pennies, tamed and tiered in their pink paper sleeves, taken proudly by a boy of seven or so, to exchange for a cold bottle of Orange Nesbit's late on a Saturday.
posted by Dizzy at 11:21 AM on April 4, 2008 [8 favorites]


This is a little silly. The cost of manufacturing the penny has little to do with its face value.

(Or, another way, if the gov't is "losing" $50 million a year on making pennies, I bet they're making up for it on the $100 bills)
posted by meta_eli at 11:25 AM on April 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


While we are redesigning coinage, we should put holes the center. Reduces the choking hazard.
posted by DU at 11:25 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


They are useful, just not as currency...

Fishing rod makers such as myself use post-1996 pennies as a standard weight for calculating the stiffness of rod blanks. We fill plastic bags with pennies and hang them from the end of of the rod with the butt parallel to the ground. Keep adding pennies until you reach a deflection equal to 1/3 the length of the rod, count the number of pennies, and refer to the conversion table. It's called the "Common Cents" system. I swear I'm not making this up...

http://www.common-cents.info/
posted by Patapsco Mike at 11:31 AM on April 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


If it means that crazy ol' lady in the cashier line in front of me spends a little less crazy time counting out her change to pay for her purchase, I am all for getting rid of them.
posted by giantfist at 11:33 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


If it means that crazy ol' lady in the cashier line in front of me spends a little less crazy time counting out her change to pay for her purchase, I am all for getting rid of them.
What, so she can spend more time accumulating cats?
posted by Floydd at 11:37 AM on April 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Coinstar waives their fee on Amazon gift cards. If you order from them as often as I tend to, it's well worth a trip to the grocery store with a penny jar in tow once in a while.
posted by inthe80s at 11:38 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


this "debate" always comes up every few years, always with the same hollow points and scare tactic arguments.

In other news, I just took a whole bunch of coins to the bank and got almost $20. They are worth something, and it keeps us from rounding up to the nickel.

If it weren't the penny, these people would be complaining about the cost of a nickel. There are already those who'd see the $1 bill eliminated as well.

Where would it end?

I remember in my travels to England, for example, having an extremely heavy purse because of all the £1 coins I'd amass, not to mention all the smaller denominations, including two pence, which if you have one pence coins, is rather redundant.

We have a system that works now. So they tinker with the metals a little bit.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:41 AM on April 4, 2008


I don't pick up pennies because they are valuable. I pick up pennies because I am obsessive-compulsive.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:14 AM on April 4 [+] [!]


Fixed.
posted by basicchannel at 11:43 AM on April 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


Nooo, not my Ass Pennies! All those years, for nothing!
posted by oats at 11:46 AM on April 4, 2008 [8 favorites]


I went to New Zealand last year. Previously, they had abolished the penny, and it was a huge improvement - 5c was the smallest coin. When I got back last year, they'd decided that it was so good they had abolished the 5c too, now 10c is the smallest coin, and suddenly coins are useful again! Like back when we were kids.

The I got back to the USA, and getting pennies every time you buy anything is driving me nuts. And then I need 50c to buy a newspaper, reach in my pocket or wallet and grab a huge gob of coins, and there isn't even 50c in that load, because of all the stupid pennies!

KILL THE PENNY!

In other news, I plan to melt down my pennies for zinc. I'm then going to use the zinc to make a salt-water battery. It will be the first time that pennies are useful since that time I used 50c of wrapped pennies as a sinker weight.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:48 AM on April 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Coinstar waives their fee on Amazon gift cards

And if you've got a Commerce Bank nearby, they'll count and color up your change for free. Fuck Coinstar. 9%? Really?
posted by uncleozzy at 11:48 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The nickel today is not what it was fifteen years ago. Do you know what this country needs today?…A seven-cent nickel. Yessiree, we’ve been using the five-cent nickel in this country since 1492. Now that’s pretty near a hundred years’ daylight saving. Now, why not give the seven-cent nickel a chance? If that works out, next year we could have an eight-cent nickel. Think what that would mean. You could go to a newsstand, buy a three-cent newspaper and get the same nickel back again. One nickel carefully used would last a family a lifetime!*
posted by Floydd at 11:49 AM on April 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is that a roll of pennies in your pocket, or...
posted by dawson at 11:52 AM on April 4, 2008


I pick up pennies- I probably find at least one penny almost every day, and that's even on days when my walking is limited from house to subway, subway to office, and back. I'm glad people hate pennies- more money for me. Every time I pick up a penny, I celebrate the fact that I am now one penny richer than I was before I picked it up.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:54 AM on April 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


If only everyone would follow Australia's lead: No pennies, no tips, tax included in prices, indestructible plastic bills, some of which feature people indigenous to the continent.

I also enjoy the BYOs.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:56 AM on April 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


Also, I don't what the current incarnation of TIA (Total Information Awareness) is called, but the secret database kept on every American is going to be a very detailed one on me, because getting my pockets sagged down with useless pennies every time I buy something is pushing me towards using plastic to buy everything.

So my exact location and travel is now on record several times a day, every day. Yay for pennies and databases.

Speaking of which, it's time for me to go buy lunch. Big Brother knows where :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:56 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every time I pick up a penny, I celebrate the fact that I am now one penny richer than I was before I picked it up.

At a guess, you'd need to pick up 500,000 pennies to pay for the medical attention your back and spine will need from picking up 20,000 pennies. So you're potentially both losing money and damaging your health.

You need to be picking up quarters instead.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:02 PM on April 4, 2008


You need to be picking up quarters instead.

I pick those up, too! But I rarely find them. I find lots of pennies, a decent amount of dimes, and few nickels and quarters. I can't imagine why bending over to pick them up would hurt my back- I do the same sort of bends in classes at the gym and the teacher calls it exercise, so what's the difference?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:06 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: "If only everyone would follow Australia's lead: No pennies, no tips, tax included in prices, indestructible plastic bills, some of which feature people indigenous to the continent.

I also enjoy the BYOs.
"

Yeah, I used to work at a casino where we often dealt with foreign currency, and I freakin' love me some Aussie cash. They have little windows!
posted by booticon at 12:13 PM on April 4, 2008


I use cash fairly often, and yet I don't have more than a few dollars' worth of pennies lying around anywhere, in proportion with other change. Do I avoid the incredible buildup of pennies you're all talking about because I bother to spend them? Or am I just poor?
posted by zennie at 12:18 PM on April 4, 2008


And then I need 50c to buy a newspaper, reach in my pocket or wallet and grab a huge gob of coins, and there isn't even 50c in that load, because of all the stupid pennies!

I always notice the opposite problem when I'm traveling somewhere with dollar (or pound or euro) coins. That suddenly my worthless pocket of change is worth something, and if I don't work at spending it, I'm out of cash.
posted by smackfu at 12:24 PM on April 4, 2008


it keeps us from rounding up to the nickel

Not to pick on you, but I don't think this argument holds water. There's a reason we have prices ending in .99: it's the powerful psychological idea that we're paying 7 dollars rather than 8 dollars on an item marked 7.99. I seriously doubt merchants are going to happily lose this marketing ploy, so all that stuff you see marked at .99 is actually going to drop down to .95. If anyone can explain to me how this is bad for the consumer, I'll happily listen, but every time I mention this to people I just get blank looks and the tired "you know they'll round up" rhetoric.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:28 PM on April 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


On the way through the BART turnstile yesterday, someone dropped some coins. It looked like a little old lady. I reached down to pick up the coin nearest me, nearly causing a trainwreck of people behind me. As I resumed forward motion, I set her penny down on the turnstile card-reader thing, saying "here's your penny." I can't be positive in my memory, but I think she left it there. There was definitely an aura of "wow, why did you bother?" And it turned out not to be a little old lady but a little 21-year-old hipster with a portfolio case, probably on her way to the art school right there.
posted by salvia at 12:29 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I came up with a use for all the unwanted coinage as a plot device in a story I was working on a while back, it had street kids in a decaying America using a weapon that they called the 'slot machine' or a 'slotter', the idea was that because ammunition was rare and expensive, they had turned to a ready at hand commodity to fire from their improvised guns: coins. And more specifically pennies. I figured they would be perfect because they were cheap, consistent in size and shape, and available everywhere. (The name of the gun was based on the idea that you pulled the lever and change came out.)

Unfortunately, Mythbusters eventually came along and effectively debunked my idea of realistically using a penny as a projectile.
posted by quin at 12:54 PM on April 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


so all that stuff you see marked at .99 is actually going to drop down to .95

Agreed. And if we get rid of the nickel, too, it'll go down to .90. To make sure of this, it would be a Good Thing if Congress, when abolishing the penny, abolished pricing in anything except multiples of .05 or .10, depending what the smallest surviving denomination is -- including gasoline prices, which have been set to steal $.009 over the perceived price per gallon for nearly 100 years.
posted by beagle at 12:55 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


all that stuff you see marked at .99 is actually going to drop down to .95.
Nah, it will stay marked at .99, and rounded up at the register, post-total (so if you buy 10 of them, you'll pay $9.90, but if you buy 2 it will be 1.98 rounded to $2.)
posted by fings at 1:05 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hate cash in general. If I could get away with using my debit card everywhere, I totally would.
Although maybe I'm just bitter because the smallest amount I can withdraw from the ATMs around here is $20. =(

One of the only worthwhile (to me) uses I've found for pennies is that when I was digging through a pile last year, I found one that was my birth year, and then another that was my wife's. I kept them because I thought it was kinda cute to have those two like that.

I don't know where either one of those two pennies are anymore.
posted by agress at 1:06 PM on April 4, 2008


so all that stuff you see marked at .99 is actually going to drop down to .95

Agreed. And if we get rid of the nickel, too, it'll go down to .90.


And if we got rid of the dime, it'll go down to .75. Eliminate the quarter and prices will drop to the nearest dollar. Then, finally, we get rid of the dollar and everything is free!

All part of my very cunning plan....
posted by Floydd at 1:07 PM on April 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


The problem with getting rid of the nickel as well is it makes getting change for a quarter impossible. In order to work, you'd also have to either get rid of the dime as well, or get rid of the quarter, perhaps adding a $0.20 piece in it's place.

Or (from reading the article), get rid of the penny and the nickel, and bring back the half-dime.
posted by fings at 1:08 PM on April 4, 2008


I seriously doubt merchants are going to happily lose this marketing ploy, so all that stuff you see marked at .99 is actually going to drop down to .95.

And what is the state with a 4% sales tax supposed to do? Or 6%?

When I see a (now illegal) penny-melting millionaire, then I'll cross over to the penny-abolishing side. Until then, I'll remember leaner times in my life when I brought a jar of coins to Coinstar in order to be able to get a few gallons of gas.
posted by recoveringsophist at 1:11 PM on April 4, 2008


dawson: Is that a roll of pennies in your pocket, or...
... are you seriously under-endowed, ha ha ha amirite?! Roll of pennies, I mean seriously! Look, I'm no size queen, but I'm not gonna bend over for less than a roll of quarters.
posted by hincandenza at 1:17 PM on April 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


Just try to have four pennies on you when you leave the house to start your day.
posted by growli at 1:20 PM on April 4, 2008


Ass Pennies.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:30 PM on April 4, 2008


And what is the state with a 4% sales tax supposed to do? Or 6%?

Same thing they do now. After you total out the purchase, you take the percentage, and then they round to the nearest amount. Those fractions of cents, you lose them. No one seems to care right now, why will they suddenly care when it's always going to be less then four cents total on any purchase from a nickel bubble gum ball to your entire grocery cart full of food, to your big screen tv all the way up to your brand new car?
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:32 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


If it weren't the penny, these people would be complaining about the cost of a nickel.

The article in the FPP spends some time on the nickel as well. Measured by the ratio of commodity value to the currency's face value, the nickel is a worse offender than the penny. Congressman Lucas is quoted in the article on nickels:
“I think we need to assess stepping back from the nickel, the five-cent piece, and consider readopting the traditional five-cent coin, the old half-dime.” Lucas’s version would be smaller in diameter than a dime, and weigh half as much—not light enough to blow away in a strong breeze, though almost.
it keeps us from rounding up to the nickel.

Would prices need to be changed at merchant whose customers mostly use cards? Round up or down for cash customers and change nothing for those with cards.

Anyway, thinking about my own cash-spending habits, I wouldn't really care if local restaurants, delis and bodegas rounded up. If it's a tiny bump to their profitability, I'm happy with it. Most chain restaurants operate quicker when you use cards anyway.
posted by mullacc at 1:34 PM on April 4, 2008


To make sure of this, it would be a Good Thing if Congress, when abolishing the penny, abolished pricing in anything except multiples of .05 or .10

I see sales tax hasn't entered in your grand scheme of things. In New York City, it is 8.375%. Would the business eat it just to round down to the nearest 10¢? Highly doubtful.

Unless we adopt a VAT sometime soon along with your ingenious plan, it just wouldn't work to keep eliminating coins willy-nilly.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:37 PM on April 4, 2008


The article in the FPP spends some time on the nickel as well.

I know. I read it. Hence the comment.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:38 PM on April 4, 2008


"We have been trying to eliminate the penny for quite some time -- it always comes back," Obama said. "I need to find out who is lobbying to keep the penny."

The bill was actively opposed by Americans for Common Cents, a lobbying organization that had been founded specifically to defeat the legislation. A.C.C.’s main funding came from Jarden Zinc Products, which is one of the nation’s largest producers of zinc, and which has supplied the U.S. Mint with penny planchets since 1982.

I love that for every inanity there is a lobby, and for every lobby, there is someone with a lot of money. Pennies not withstanding.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:40 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think what people are missing is the concept of the "cent" isn't going anywhere. It'll still exist in computers, bank accounts and electronic transactions, we just won't have a coin for it. Like we don't have one for half cents right now. Your interest payments, your taxes, stocks, bonds, even your weekly paychecks: all these things use half cents, but you never handle them. Just because a "cent" doesn't have a physical implementation doesn't mean it goes away, it just means you, the end level consumer buying your candy bar with cash, don't have to deal with it. All the finincial computers in the world will still compute them and all their tiny fractions, but you won't for any of your daily transactions.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:45 PM on April 4, 2008


Nah, it will stay marked at .99, and rounded up at the register,

Ok you people. That's enough guessing. Here is how it really works, as done in real life in real countries that have ditched the penny for real and joyfully operate without it in real life.

- Price totals are rounded down. Always.
- But this is rarely necessary, because most stores price their stock in multiples of real coins, eg $19.99 becomes $19.95

Ie, you only really see .99 prices at places where shoppers normally buy ten or more items (supermarkets, gas stations that sell by the litre, etc), and as always, the total is rounded down before you pay. It just makes sense for them to not price in coinage values because you are buying so many items that they make more money rounding down the total than they would rounding down each individual low-value item before totaling them.

It's a great system. No brains required - it just works. And it sure beats dealing with pennies any day.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:47 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Same thing they do now.

Fair enough.

The one thing that bugs me is that buying two $5.95 widgets at 7% sales tax will cost a nickel more purchased separately than together under this proposed system. Sure, it's only a nickel, and one day the nickel will be as worthless as a penny, but items under, say, six dollars (arbitrary number) should cost the same bought separately or together. And, yes, I'm aware of shipping discounts.
posted by recoveringsophist at 1:54 PM on April 4, 2008


There's an easy fix to all of this.

Devalue the dollar by 10-1. Ten old pennies are worth one new penny.

Suddenly, pennies are useful and mintable without losing money, and dollars are valuable enough to keep printing them on paper.

And just think of it -- you could get a beer for a quarter again!
posted by eriko at 2:01 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


If it weren't the penny, these people would be complaining about the cost of a nickel. There are already those who'd see the $1 bill eliminated as well.

Where would it end?


Personally, I'm all for eliminating both pennies and nickels. I can't decide If I'd prefer dimes, half dollars (or maybe 1/5 dollars instead), and dollars (oh yeah, get rid of paper dollars too. But let's make the coins a bit smaller, okay?), or 1/8 dollars (bits), quarters, maybe half dollars, and dollars. I wouldn't mind two dollar coins either. That would help if they don't make dollars smaller. It won't be as fun as in canada, where they call them two-nies, though. The $1 coins have loons, so are loonies, hence two dollar coins being two-nies.

Anyhows, I'm against denominations of money I can't buy a damn thing with. And I don't care if it's more complicated than that.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 2:01 PM on April 4, 2008


Do I avoid the incredible buildup of pennies you're all talking about because I bother to spend them? Or am I just poor?

I try, because I'm used to paying with coins, but because of the moronic practice in this state of the pricetag not displaying the amount of money you have to give the store to acquire the item, I don't generally know the exact change I'll need until the purchases have been rung up at the register and the percentage adjustments applied then (instead of applied when putting the price tags out), and at that point, finding exact change is just pissing off people because it holds up the line longer than getting the purchases+change-from-a-twenty does.

If however, my wallet contained a cash register till, with all the coins laid out and separated by value so I could just whip out the ones I needed like the checkout people can, then... hey... new product idea! :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:08 PM on April 4, 2008


Marxchivist writes "Breaking stride to pick up a penny, if it takes more than 6.15 seconds, pays less than the federal minimum wage."

OTOH, not picking up the penny pays zero, which is 100% less than minimum wage.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:09 PM on April 4, 2008


And I don't know why I failed to mention this only tangentially related gripe, but I'm tired of all the damn canuck coins I come across. I live in Minnesota, so it's fairly frequent. The banks won't exchange them. It would cost them too much to send back to Canada. They'd lose money on em. And of course the change machines recognize them as fake wannabe currency, when it's you they're taking money from. But damned if I haven't gotten rolls of change from the bank, with Queen Elizabeth staring straight at me, right on the end of the roll.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 2:15 PM on April 4, 2008


> In other news, I just took a whole bunch of coins to the bank and got almost $20. They are worth something, and it keeps us from rounding up to the nickel.

Yeah, but you could also eliminate rounding to the nearest nickel by making it illegal to do so; i.e. you could just specify a standard method of rounding for all transactions carried out in dollars and cents.

I think it's kind of a silly objection because I suspect pretty quickly you'd just see prices rounded off to the 5¢ mark. If retailers wanted to keep the "not quite $x!" price point for small items, they'd probably just go to "$(x-1).95" rather than .99.

There are lots of financial calculations -- every time you buy gas, for an obvious example -- that are calculated out to tenths or hundredths of a cent, but yet we don't actually have physical coinage corresponding to that. The amount just gets rounded when it does occur, without a bit of thought going into it.

The other thing to consider is how much money you'd lose due to rounding versus how much you're losing simply through misplaced/lost change, and on the lost interest on the change sitting around your house. It may be a nice feeling to gather up pounds of pennies and haul them all in, but if it's enough money to make it worth the trip it's probably enough money to wish you'd had it in an interest-bearing account for a few years (or decades, in the case of some coin-hordes I've seen).

When it gets to the point where people don't even bother bending down to pick up a coin off the street, it's time for that coin to go.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:26 PM on April 4, 2008


They're not pennies. They're cents. A penny is an English coin.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 2:35 PM on April 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Living on a boat, every night I just toss these "1 cent" coins over the side into the salt water.

As I figure it, there's about fifteen dollars worth or so just from the past year. And I tell you, I couldn't buy the feeling I get getting rid of the little bastards this way for fifteen dollars.
posted by humannaire at 3:14 PM on April 4, 2008


I have been hoarding pennies since November 20, 2006. I now have over 7 kilograms of pennies.
posted by sfenders at 3:15 PM on April 4, 2008


A friend told me years ago that she always picked up pennies, because that shows respect for money and wealth, therefore welcoming it into your life.

And dammit, ever since she told me that, and even though I am not a superstitious person, I have just enough of an OCD streak in me to have to pick up every coin I see.
posted by chowflap at 3:30 PM on April 4, 2008


I love that for every inanity there is a lobby, and for every lobby, there is someone with a lot of money.

Of course there is. The ink-and-paper lobby is the reason why we haven't gotten rid of dollar bills, despite the fact that our dollar is worth far less than the Canadian dollar was in 1989, when their $1 bill was withdrawn.

Price totals are rounded down. Always.

They aren't in New Zealand. They're rounded to the nearest ten (formerly five) cents. Non-cash transactions are still down to the penny.
posted by oaf at 3:45 PM on April 4, 2008


When it gets to the point where people don't even bother bending down to pick up a coin off the street, it's time for that coin to go.

I pick them up, as do several others here. Seems like it's a good enough percent. I also don't lose change. The only negative thing about the penny to me is that vending machines and buses don't accept them.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:19 PM on April 4, 2008


The only negative thing about the penny to me is that…buses don't accept them.

New Jersey Transit begs to differ.
posted by oaf at 4:28 PM on April 4, 2008


Do I avoid the incredible buildup of pennies you're all talking about because I bother to spend them? Or am I just poor?

If you figure that prices have an evenly distributed distribution of cents due to sales tax, and you never ever use your pocket change, you can get a pretty good idea of what change you'll have in your pocket at the end of the day.

33% quarters
17% dimes
8% nickels
42% pennies
posted by smackfu at 4:31 PM on April 4, 2008


One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies.

I want some of Della's two cent coins.
posted by Tube at 6:00 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


flings: The problem with getting rid of the nickel as well is it makes getting change for a quarter impossible. In order to work, you'd also have to either get rid of the dime as well, or get rid of the quarter, perhaps adding a $0.20 piece in it's place.

No to axing the dime, yes to the quarter, no to a $0.20 piece. If we get rid of the penny and nickel, the real solution is to move to coinage and bills in the same ratios we have now, which means multiplying everything by 10, and requiring that all pricing is in multiples of 10 cents (gasoline included). This means our coins would be: 10 cents, 50 cents, one dollar, $2.50, $5.00 and $10.00 (all multiples by 10 of the current coins), and the bills would be $10, $50, $20, $100, $200, $500 and $1000. (Except, I'd skip the last two). No $1 and $5 bills.

This ought to be done overnight. Just multiply everything by 10 and be done with it. By the way, $1 and $5 coins would save vasts amounts of money now spent printing bills that don't last nearly as long as coins do.
posted by beagle at 6:29 PM on April 4, 2008


The pro-penny economist in the article pointed out that the clerks don't have anything better to do with their time than make change. Yet he failed to acknowledge the customer's time and productivity, and the lines created by making change. I think the argument comes down to why do we need to provide people with a metal token to fill in the little holes for their small cash purchases? We don't need them to use cash, and they don't seem to want the hassle of this service at convenience stores. (The only people who count their nickels and dimes are probably millionaires anyway). I would argue that the public only needs to offer the economy a simple coin service for machines and approximate change making. The nickel loses this battle with the penny, leaving us with only dimes and quarters and coin dollars. Nothing needs to cost a nickel for a single purchase anymore, because like the author said, it isn't worth minimum wage in ringing it up.
posted by Brian B. at 7:26 PM on April 4, 2008


The problem with getting rid of the nickel as well is it makes getting change for a quarter impossible.

Whose problem? Let the customer offer exact change with the change they have available, or let the store give them a coupon in return, printed on the receipt.
posted by Brian B. at 7:33 PM on April 4, 2008


smelly penny.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:40 PM on April 4, 2008


let the store give them a coupon in return, printed on the receipt.

Or -- hey, how about a token worth five cents of store credit? Maybe there could even be a universal token that could be cashed in anywhere in the country! And maybe it could have a picture of Thomas Jefferson on it!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:43 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe there could even be a universal token that could be cashed in anywhere in the country! And maybe it could have a picture of Thomas Jefferson on it!

No need. Coupons are common and receipts will always be available. No service oriented store would give just a nickel coupon for keeping 5 hard cents of someone's money. I would expect that such a coupon would have incentive value, worth the customer's attention.
posted by Brian B. at 7:55 PM on April 4, 2008


There's an easy fix to all of this.
Devalue the dollar by 10-1. Ten old pennies are worth one new penny.


I went to law school, not business school; can some MBA tell me why this is or isn't a good idea?
posted by yhbc at 7:56 PM on April 4, 2008


I went to law school, not business school; can some MBA tell me why this is or isn't a good idea?

Money requires confidence from the public because it's not real to begin with. Therefore bad idea.
posted by Brian B. at 8:12 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would expect that such a coupon would have incentive value, worth the customer's attention.

So, five cents worth of porn?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:13 PM on April 4, 2008


Yeah, I did think (all on my own!) of the "confidence in money" issue, which I can understand as "hell, we don't want to have to tell everyone in the country their money is worth a tenth of what it was the day before - they'll all think they're broke, and they'll hate us!" - but is that the only reason?
posted by yhbc at 8:17 PM on April 4, 2008


but is that the only reason?

I'm not even sure it is possible without hyperinflation first, then issuing something new.

So, five cents worth of porn?

Or maybe the extra change would be contributed to something of the donor's choice.
posted by Brian B. at 8:42 PM on April 4, 2008


If we didn't have pennies, we would buy wishes with what, exactly? I mean, I guess you could throw a quarter in the fountain, but that's really kind of gauche and you're totally not going to get your wish because you're a show off. Same with picking them up. If you pick up a penny, you have good luck, whereas if you pick up a nickel*, you have five cents - all well and good if you want to buy a soda, but which do you need worse, soda or luck?

I have this thing about pennies. They're the currency of superstition, and I kind of dig that about them. Plus they're the underdog coin, so unjustly maligned and misunderstood. If they were abolished, I would miss them like I miss tan M&M's, and I miss tan M&M's a LOT.

*Nickels are BASTARDS and can fuck right off.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:57 PM on April 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


-harlequin-: Here is how it really works, as done in real life in real countries that have ditched the penny for real and joyfully operate without it in real life.

- Price totals are rounded down. Always.
- But this is rarely necessary, because most stores price their stock in multiples of real coins, eg $19.99 becomes $19.95


O Rly?
(Warning: obnoxious flash-based catalogue. Remember the days when we though catalogues as PDFs sucked? Long gone...)
posted by Pinback at 10:44 PM on April 4, 2008


They aren't in New Zealand. They're rounded to the nearest ten (formerly five) cents. Non-cash transactions are still down to the penny.

Interesting. I wonder if getting rid of coinage would spur people to move faster towards electronic payment systems. I'd be curious to see if Visa/Mastercard are lobbying for this sort of thing in the US.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:28 PM on April 4, 2008


I wonder if getting rid of coinage would spur people to move faster towards electronic payment systems. I'd be curious to see if Visa/Mastercard are lobbying for this sort of thing in the US.

They might. I can't see small retailers doing it though unless the card companies reduce their fees significantly.

A lot of mom & pop stores try to get away with declaring a minimum card purchase policy (even though it's illegal here), just because of fees.

Another note of opposition would likely come from privacy activists. Greater paper trails would be inevitable if such a thing occurred.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:20 AM on April 5, 2008


It always surprises me to watch the US speculating about the dire consequences of ditching the penny. Most countries got rid of them long ago.
In Australia, your purchases are totaled at the register. If the amount ends in 6 or seven, it is rounded down, if it ends in 8 or 9 it is rounded up.
There is nothing to stop you making your purchases in combinations that always end in seven, giving you the free 2cent saving each time by lining up several times at the register.
Except you would be a dick, because it is 2 cents dude. Get over it.
Petrol is still sold in $1.42.9 or whatever, and credit cards, cheques (rarely used) or gift certificates all keep the exact price, no rounding unless it is necessary.
posted by bystander at 2:44 AM on April 5, 2008


Most countries got rid of them long ago.

Most countries switched to metric long ago.
posted by zennie at 12:25 PM on April 5, 2008


Most countries switched to metric long ago.

It's just the US, Liberia and Myanmar not using the ISU system these days.
posted by Hogshead at 2:47 PM on April 5, 2008


Money requires confidence from the public because it's not real to begin with. Therefore bad idea.

10-1 is easy. Look at the Mexican Peso, which was revalued at 1000-1, or the Turkish Lira, revalued at 1000000-1 (Yes, 1 million old Lira became 1 new Lira.)

The British Pound Sterling and the US Dollar have, so far, avoided this fate by simply being such a strong currency -- there was a long way to fall. But fall they have, and the USD -- esp. with our inane insistence on the paper dollar1 -- has coinage that, value wise, is a joke. Our largest commonly circulated coin is worth .12 GBP. The UK has four commonly circulated coins worth more -- 20p, 50p, 1&pound and 2£ -- and given the Fed's policy decisions, I expect the 10p to be worth more than a quarter in the near future.

At the current rate, given the current policies, in five years, you're not going to worry about pennies -- you're not even going to worry about quarters.

I would not be surprised if there is a 100-1 or 1001-1 revaluation of the USD in my lifetime -- that is, if the USD continues as a valid currency.

1) It's more than just lobbying by the papermakers. The US Public is fanatical about the dollar bill. I just don't get it, but there you go.
posted by eriko at 2:59 PM on April 5, 2008


The US Public is fanatical about the dollar bill. I just don't get it, but there you go.

Try carrying around $10 in bills. Replace that with $10 in $1 coins. How much does your purse weigh?

And what about those who do not carry purses, like many men? It's much simpler, lighter, and more practical (they fit in a wallet) to carry small denominations as bills than coins. As I mentioned above, I've traveled in the UK, and it got very, very heavy.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:16 PM on April 5, 2008


The US Public is fanatical about the dollar bill. I just don't get it, but there you go.

Or they simply aren't fanatical about the alternatives. The 2-dollar bills failed to make any headway after many attempts, and the dollar coin was never intended to replace the dollar bill (which for all of its faults is lighter than metal) because the mint is happy that nobody uses the coins, apparently. The best arguments for getting rid of nickels and pennies is their waste of precious metal, their vulnerability to smelters and the needless expense to sort them, and even their larger size compared to a dime. Everyone knows they are a joke as money goes, and I think people are supporting them for nostalgic reasons.
posted by Brian B. at 3:52 PM on April 5, 2008


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