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Keep or Toss the Penny: What Makes the Most Cents?
Written by Your 5News Team
Last updated on February 05, 2013 @ 6:38PM
Created on February 05, 2013 @ 5:46PM


The U.S. is faced with more than $16 trillion worth of national debt and now legislators are looking to cut back on costs anyway they can. But could getting rid of one of our country's most historical assets be the key? Those copper coins at the bottom of your purse or pocket could be saving the U.S. some extra change.

A century ago, a penny could send a postcard or buy a few eggs, but today, it can't even buy itself.


There's no doubt that the United States' most popular coin is the Lincoln penny. It accounts for about half of all coins minted within a year. But the U.S. mint spends 1.4 cents on every penny it produces, costing the government more money than what the penny is worth. Recently, Canada retired its penny and other countries have also followed suit. But should we?


"I don't think they should because I can't think of another way to break a bill down into small increments like that than the penny," said Trevor Hinerman, Fairmont State University student.


"Think about it, how many people use pennies? I mean, to me, it's just useless. I don't use them, I just put them in a jar," said Walter Colley, Fairmont State University student.


Bills to eliminate the penny have been brought to Congress in the past, but have always failed miserably. Economists said the main reason why Americans don't want to let go of the copper coin is because they fear prices will be rounded up.


"Every penny the government is making, it's losing money on. When you're making billions of pennies, it adds up," said Joe Kremer, Assistant Professor of Finance at Fairmont State University. "I don't think there would be a real price impact, but it would be a real cost savings for the government."


Professor Kremer said the only real downfall of retiring the penny would be for charities.


"A lot of charities will have boxes, like Ronald McDonald House, and people will toss in their change. You get bigger coins in there certainly, but pennies are pretty easy for most people, they just toss in the pennies," said Joe Kremer.


The penny has been in circulation for more than two centuries and despite the changes getting rid of it could bring to our economy, many Americans hold a sentimental attachment to the coin. But others said it's all about what's best for our country now.


"No, I don't think it would affect our history, it's just currency," said Trevor Hinerman.


"If you get rid of something that we made, of course it's going to affect us. But, if the economy would be better off getting rid of it, then why not get rid of it," said Walter Colley.


Why does the government want to keep the penny around? Sales tax. That raises the price of an item to an uneven amount, which then requires pennies to be given in change.

Facts about the penny:

  • In 2008, 5.4 billion pennies were produced. That's twice the number of quarters minted and five times as many dimes.
  • About 1,000 pennies are made per second.
  • Former Arizona representative Jim Kolbe introduced the 2002 Legal Tender Modernization Act to Congress, which would have eliminated the penny. The bill failed.

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