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July 30, 2004

The penny should stay

by Grace Harter, Page Editor
Over the past few years, there has been an increasing amount of debate about the state of the penny. In 1999, legislation was introduced to Congress for the abolishment of the penny and the dollar bill, but many citizens quickly attacked the bill. In June of this year, New York Times op-ed columnist William Safire wrote an article calling for the elimination of the penny.

There are reasons for the elimination of the penny, mostly having to do with the inconvenience of the small coin. However, 59% of adults polled between June 10 and June 16 of 2004 by Harris Interactive said that they were against the abolishment of the penny. No doubt about it, Americans still are attached to the copper cent.

Pennies play an important part in our culture and our history. Abraham Lincoln has adorned the coin for 95 years. Getting rid of the coin would be getting rid of an item that pays homage to one of the greatest former leader of this country. Pennies are also ingrained in our popular culture, everywhere from the phrase “A penny for your thoughts" to the discovery of a lucky penny on the sidewalk. Young children collect jars of small coins and can often exchange them for dollars.

Other than these sentimental and cultural reasons, there are monetary incentives to keeping the penny. If the penny is abolished, all prices will have to be rounded to the nearest five cents. In 1990, Congress estimated that this rounding would cost the American public an upwards of $600 million every year. Similarly, the United States Treasury earns a good profit yearly from producing the penny. During an address to the House of Representatives in 1996, officials stated that pennies cost less to make than their worth, so the Treasury earns about $40 million each year from penny profits.

Many charity organizations also rely on pennies for money. Organizations like the Salvation Army and UNICEF depend on people giving extra coins here and there. During Halloween, some children carry around UNICEF boxes in which people can deposit some spare change to donate to the organization. Pennies can add up quickly, and organizations can total donations in the thousands just from spare change alone. Similarly, most low-income families are against the abolishment of the penny because prices would be slightly higher, something they may not be able to afford. When money is tight, every spare cent counts.

People seeking to abolish the penny should also look to other countries for examples of where the penny (or penny equivalent) is still in production. When the European Union decided to switch to euros, it kept the one-euro cent in production to avoid the rounding up of prices.

There are many reasons to keep the penny in production. Not only is doing so the most cost-effective choice, but it is also the most convenient. Trying to phase out the ubiquitous coins will take years and cost millions, as will rounding off all prices. The best and easiest choice is to keep America’s most beloved coin in production.

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  • Heather (View Email) on July 30, 2004
    Your topic is excellent. Great Article.
  • confused on July 30, 2004
    so then all the prices have to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents? Then what? Get rid of the nickel, so we round to the nearest 10 cents? Then 25 cents? 50 cents? A dollar?
    • somone on October 30, 2014 at 9:14 PM
      its called slippery slope.

  • senior on July 30, 2004
    Hey I have more than $20 in pennies saved over the years. They better keep it.
  • mark (View Email) on July 30, 2004
    Hello Grace Harter,

    A few facts regarding the cent for you:

    It's made of zinc and plated in copper and has been since 1984 when the bronze alloy (copper, tin, and zinc) was costing more than face-value to make. Your data from 1996 is now 8 years old; the break-even point on the zinc cent has almost been realized.

    Rounding would occur on only cash trasactions, not debit or credit or other electronic transfers. Amounts ending in 01, 02, 06, or 07 would be rounded down. Amounts ending in 03, 04, 08, or 09 would be rounded-up. Rounding would occur only on the total purchase amount, not on individual items. The actual impact in commerce would actually be positive. The Federal Reserve bank sells coins to banks at face value, plus charges a shipping fee. Cents have the highest mintage of all coins, and thus are responsible for the greatest part of the shipping costs. Banks pass these costs on to businesses and individuals.

    The other important point to note is that the cent would still be legal tender, even if no longer minted. There are literally billions of cents minted every year and could still be used.

    Thank you for your time,
    • santa on March 29, 2016 at 12:35 PM
      pennies should stay
    • UrMoMGaY (View Email) on February 14, 2018 at 3:01 PM
      You really went through all the trouble to find all this out? You're pathetic, pennies shall be the superior coin.
  • wow on July 31, 2004
    you tell her, mark!
  • huh? on July 31, 2004
    i don't get it..I really don't see a point of getting rid of them, who would suddenly think "um..i don't like pennies, let's get rid of all of them!" ?!
  • emma h. on July 31, 2004
    good article grace. interesting and informative. goooo pennies.
  • guy on August 3, 2004
    really, the only reason to keep the penny in circulation that i can think of is economic, and thats a bit sketchy. Really, who thinks of the penny as a way to "pay homage to one of the greatest former leader of this country." Personally, i think a lot of people cant even tell you who is on the face of a coin. also, removing the penny from circulation would not ruin the American culture just because of the phrase "a penny for your thoughts" or "lucky penny."

    Overall good article, but it could use some editing: "There are many of reasons." Also, like mark said, some more recent facts would be good in addition to older facts.

    Also, i would be interested to see how many people only donate a penny to charities. I would feel kind of wierd doing that, but like they say "every cent counts."
  • Ponderer on August 5, 2004
    I agree completely with mark, and have a few things to add.

    Let's look at numbers a bit closer here: First, $600 million sounds like a lot, but even if that is correct, look at the perspective. There are 300 million people in this country. That's only $2 each. Second, whether or not they make $40 million a year on pennies, they would make nearly (depending on materials costs) 50 times as much by producing 50 cent coins instead at the same rate. That's $2 billion; more than three times Congress' estimated cost. Finally, yes, 59% of adults is a majority, but I can guaruntee you that nearly everyone polled thought only of the sentimental aspect and knew nothing about the financial. If you ask the question "Do you think the Treasury should stop minting pennies?," most who don't know any of the facts about pennies would say "no", not "I don't know much about pennies." I think this is some severe bias here. (Props to Mr. Stein)

    Really, the only reason the penny is still in production is because of the huge interest to the zinc industry. They spend a heck of a lot in campaign contributions and lobbying to keep the penny alive. And so far, they've been sucessful.

    In closing, I must admit that I occasionally stop to pick up a penny on the ground for good luck, although certainly not every time I see one. But usually, I just toss it back down again for someone else to find.
  • Second ponderer on August 6, 2004
    Also, your "cost" to the American public figure relies upon the premise that moeny spent in business transactions would be "lost" money. For example, when you go buy chips for 99 cents, if that were rounded to a dollar then the public would "lose" a cent. Of course, the storeowner, who is also part of the public, would gain a penny. So in fact, it's more like the money in the economy would simply shift from the consumers to the producers, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It can result in more investment and expansion. So these economic "costs" that you cite aren't exactly accurate.
  • someone else on August 16, 2004
    Ponderer, the mint could never produce 50 cent coins, or any other, at the rate at which they produce pennies--there isn't enough demand for them.
  • alumnae3 (View Email) on August 17, 2004
    i wish meteo/WMATA had read this. with their new 'smart' machines, pennies ARE NOT accepted. i hate it. especially since the drivers do not speak up unitl after most patrons have deposited .05-.07 cents in pennies. and does WMATA not take all those pennies to the bank for money,.exactly..they do.

    So long as the penny is llegal us currency, i think WMATA/metro bus should accept.

    so next time you get on metro, save yuor pennies, the machine wont give you credit for it but will take it, adn you will be short on your $1.25.

    great article ms grace!
  • John McManigle on August 27, 2004
    I would make the argument that without pennies being produced, the luckiness value of pennies already in circulation would go up. With a higher luck:penny ratio, interest in penny-finding would increase, and people would pay more homage to Lincoln as they attempt to win the lottery by penny-finding.
  • Anonymous on September 1, 2004
    Title 31 (Money and Finance), Subtitle IV (Money), Chapter 51 (Coins and Currency), Subchapter I (Monetary System), Section 5103 (Legal Tender) of the United States Code states:

    In the words of the United States Treasury, is that "[A]ll United States money . . . is a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal law mandating that a person or organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services."

    in response to alumnae3, its anybody's choice to accept pennies. stores wouldn't have to accept them if they don't want to. if stores didn't like pennies they could simply instate a policy rounding prices to the nearest nickel, as WMATA does. there are no fares for $1.01 or anything. the reason they don't like pennies is because they take up a lot of room and weight. if everyone went paying their fares in pennies, it would fill up rather quickly.
  • ZAYRA TODD (View Email) on September 6, 2004
  • Frank bruhns (View Email) on September 25, 2004
    I picked up a very shiny "silver Penny", US, 1997, is it valid from the mint or is someone electropating copper pennies? thanks
  • Stacy Oliver (View Email) on December 23, 2004 at 9:44 AM
    I have a silver penny as well. I thought maybe it was painted somehow but I have cleaned this penny is every chemical available to me and it only makes it a shinier silver. I'm wondering if this is real, can someone who knows respond.
  • Curtis Wireman (View Email) on February 19, 2005 at 6:52 PM
    I have a silver penny also but mine is from 1990 I think it is a cast to make the regular copper pennys if someone knows about this e-mail me.
  • Stuart (View Email) on March 6, 2005 at 4:30 PM
    I have a 1997 Silver Penny. I don't know if it is worth anything. If anyone knows please inform me.

    • ty (View Email) on January 23, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      Lincoln cents have never been struck in silver. They're made of copper-plated zinc. That leads to at least 3 possibilities:

      > Your cent was struck on a dime blank. If it's the same size as a dime, you have what is called an "off metal error". These are valuable but you would need a professional appraisal.

      > Your cent was struck on a normal zinc blank, but was never plated. If there is no trace of copper showing, it might retail for as much as $100.

      > Someone dipped the coin in acid to remove the copper plating. In that case it's a damaged coin worth 1¢

      In any case it would need to be authenticated by someone who specializes in error coins to rule out tampering or damage.

      Read more:
  • maria (View Email) on April 26, 2005 at 5:46 PM
    I also have a silver colored penny from 1996. I am also wandering if this coin is worth anything and is it a true penny or did somebody paint it some how.
  • Matt Hampton (View Email) on May 24, 2005 at 11:49 PM
    I also have a silver penny from 1997 - found it in my pocket today. I don't know anything about it...any ideas?
  • Cathy Billingsley (View Email) on July 4, 2005 at 9:20 PM
    I have a silver penny from 1971, has any one found if these are worth anything? If so could you e-mail me and let me know.
    • Ryryreye on March 29, 2016 at 12:31 PM

  • traci (View Email) on August 18, 2005 at 4:41 AM
    I found a 1971 silver colored penny in excellent condition, never even thought these existed, can anyone tell me if this is worth anything, please email me thanks
  • Derek (View Email) on September 21, 2005 at 3:06 PM
    We stopped making the half cent coin a long time ago, and that was back when it was worth much more than a cent is today. And Australia and New Zealand have already abolished their 1- and 2-cent coins. If they can do it, and if we were able to get rid of our smallest denomination once, I'm sure we could do it again. In fact, we're going to have to do it eventually, maybe when it starts becoming more expensive to make it than it's worth, but it will happen.

    And what good is the penny anyway? You can't use it in most vending machines. You tie up the checkout line if you try to count them out for the cashier. So they just wind up accumulating in people's coin purses and jars, and our Government who can't balance their own checkbooks just laughs all the way to the bank!
  • Ema watson on November 13, 2005 at 8:17 PM
    I think that I have saved up a lot of money from "mere" pennies (hundreds)and ilimitating it would just take away any oppertunity to do this.SAVE THE PENNY!
  • Anne (View Email) on February 16, 2006 at 10:40 PM
    my sister has a 1992 penny i believe it is silver does any one know anything about it?
  • Darre (View Email) on February 17, 2006 at 10:10 PM
    In answer to the silver penny issue there I have a simple theory. The penny, being only about 15% copper, could lose its lustrous coating and be reduced to a dull gray color. I have two of these, green copper (or something like it) still clinging to one of them (dated 1997 & 1993). This is not exactly a common occurance mind you, but it's still a plausable theory.
  • someone on March 16, 2006 at 3:19 PM
    Why do you want to get rid of pennies? I think this idea is dumb.
  • Yolanda (View Email) on March 21, 2006 at 4:04 PM
    I have a 1943 Silver penny and is there any value on it.
  • Aaron (View Email) on March 21, 2006 at 4:37 PM
    I have a 1992 Penny that appears to be silver or all zinc. Its in excellant condition (Ive had it since 1992 new), therefore, the blimish theory doesnt work on this one. If you know anything about it, id like to hear from you.
  • Sandra (View Email) on April 7, 2006 at 12:51 AM
    hi i have a 1943 silver penny and i would really like to know if it had any value
    thank you for your time
  • susie (View Email) on May 4, 2006 at 4:40 PM
    i have a silver penny from
    i believe 1962 or 1965....and I have never seen nor heard of a silver penny if anyone could tell me if it has any value or if I am holding on to this penny for no actual reason at all besides the fact that its silver and shiny...hehehe!
  • Jerry (View Email) on May 17, 2006 at 9:03 AM
    Who is on the penny? Abe Lincoln! What respect would we be showing to one of our nations greatests presidents, if we got rid of the penny. I dont like the idea.
  • Reid (View Email) on June 5, 2006 at 7:35 PM
    The real answer to the silver penny is this, durning the World War, copper (used to make pennies!) Was of greater need for the shells of bullets, therefore for a limited time silver pennies were made, unfortunatly they were quickly recalled, and some destroyed because people hated them, they confused them with dimes very easy. Theres ur anwser!
  • randall (View Email) on October 19, 2006 at 10:57 AM
    is a 1992 silver penny worth any thing other than 1 cent
  • Samsam (View Email) on January 18, 2007 at 1:53 PM
    I can't see why anybody would want to kill honest abe. Our entire economy is based on it... think of how many more people would have to struggle to make ends meet - I can't imagine why anyperson would want to force more people into poverty just so they can save a few seconds at the cash register. Don't wanna use pennies? Write a check.
  • Benladin (View Email) on January 19, 2007 at 10:39 PM
    I'll buy ANY silver penny NOT from 1943!!!!
  • Cameron (View Email) on January 24, 2007 at 1:53 PM
    The penny should stay!!!
  • Jackson (View Email) on June 14, 2007 at 1:41 PM
    ok first of all the penny is costing the U.S. $40,000,000 dollars a year to make them because each one costs 1.23 cents to make. Second of all theres already a memorial to Lincoln...its called the Lincoln memorial! plus is it that great of an honor to be put on the lowest form of money? I dont think so.
  • frank gracia (View Email) on October 9, 2007 at 12:53 PM
    i found a 1994 silver penny is it worth anything
  • anthony (View Email) on November 25, 2007 at 12:41 AM
    I have a silver penny from 1997 and a gold one from 1990, are they counterfeits or what or where can i take them to get inspected?
  • Gold coins (View Email) on May 13, 2010 at 1:54 PM
    Nice blog post, I just got out of the college of gold here and still keep track of our gold coins blog posts and found yours. Great post, I agree with most of the pros of the article, great research, well keep in touch. John Gold Coins
  • eve (View Email) on November 3, 2010 at 8:53 PM
    Also, If we get rid of the penny, we'll be erasing Abe Lincoln from our history. He's like a reminder for all the GREAT THINGS he did and how we should be like him. PENNIES ALL THE WAY!
  • SANTA on January 4, 2011 at 2:41 PM
    I have a penny
    • Elf on February 4, 2014 at 5:27 PM
      Me too
  • Your Mother on May 3, 2012 at 10:00 PM
    Since the facts in this article are now completely outdated, I feel I have to add that the penny now costs the U.S. government 2.54 cents to produce which adds up to a 300 million dollar loss per year.

    Also reading all these comments is kind of like looking in a time machine
  • kevin on May 3, 2012 at 10:01 PM
    Since the facts in this article are now completely outdated, I feel I have to add that the penny now costs the U.S. government 2.54 cents to produce which adds up to a 300 million dollar loss per year.

    Also reading all these comments is kind of like looking in a time machine
  • Seriously... on October 11, 2012 at 9:05 PM
    well, I read William Safire's article... and frankly, he has better arguments and supporting data. First, nostalgia is not evidence at all. Just because a mojority of American's want the penny, that does not make it a smart decision. Second, retailers can just as easily round down as they can round up. How do you know that everyone is going to round up when the penny is gone? And charities can still benefit from change. Hello! There is still the nickel, the dime, and the quarter! I'd like to add that Safire does address most of these weak arguments. Lincoln is still on the five dollar bill, so history doesn't really play a part in it. We are wasting more in a month making pennies than the estimated deficite we'd lose in year if the penny were abolished. So get real, Safire is makes a better argument. Personally, I think there are bigger issues in this country and in the world around us than the penny, but argument and supporting evidence wise, Safire wins.... by a landslide.
  • Stephanie on February 25, 2013 at 8:50 PM
    I think that the penny should stay because it helps charities and If they were gone profits would rise. And it can really help many people with their bills.
    • somone on October 30, 2014 at 9:15 PM
      this makes no sense..

  • lol on February 4, 2014 at 5:26 PM
  • ludog02 (View Email) on April 11, 2014 at 10:32 AM
    i think it should stay its part of america most counties took it away which could make the u.s. different and and the great president Lincoln would not be on the penny. People say a penny is good luck, and charities run off pennies so a lot of charities would close
  • Wow on August 2, 2014 at 3:01 PM
    Who would pull information from the nineties and think they're relevant, despite the article being very old, the data then was even quite old...

    We don't need pennies.
    • A person on March 3, 2016 at 10:01 AM
      Yes, I beleave that the U.S should keep the pennie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • RedVoidzDxz (View Email) on February 26, 2015 at 2:32 PM
    The penny should definitely stay! Save Abraham!!!
  • dylan on March 29, 2016 at 12:33 PM
  • dddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd on March 29, 2016 at 12:38 PM
    pennies rule
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