100 Words On: Why It’s Time to Eliminate the Penny

Last month, Canada announced it would no longer mint pennies. That makes a lot of sense; perhaps America should follow suit. In 1913 the once-proud penny had 23 times the purchasing power it does now. Today, the penny is essentially worthless, its inglorious decline attributable to the pernicious effects of inflation. Ironically, each penny costs almost two cents to produce, adding to the National Debt, which is just another reason many folks consider the penny to be a financial nuisance.

The bottom line: When I find a penny in the street, I kick it to the curb. It’s time Congress did too.

Photo Credit: Thomas Barker

23 comments to 100 Words On: Why It’s Time to Eliminate the Penny

  • Olivia

    I happen to love the penny. Brand new copper clad, it’s the happiest of coins. Practically speaking, since I live in Pennsylvania with a six cent sales tax, I like it for financial reasons too. Who wants to pay ten cents on the dollar?

    • Scott

      In the Canada article, they just apply the current sales tax and round the final dollar total to the nearest nickel. I’m sure that’s what would happen here as well.

      While we’re at it, let’s stop making $1 bills and just use the $1 coins.

    • Len Penzo

      … and rounding to the nearest nickel would only occur for all-cash transactions. For everything else, prices would be carried out to the cent.

  • I’m not a fan of losing money. I’m okay with getting rid of the penny. Why make something that costs twice it’s value to produce? I don’t mind rounding up or down. It all evens out in the end.

    • Len Penzo

      By the way, studies have shown that rounding does indeed even out — that is, in countries that have eliminated the penny (and there are about a dozen of them, I believe) the elimination of the penny did not increase prices or result in an uptick in inflation.

  • I also think it’s time to get rid of the penny. I still pick them up, but it’s for symbolic reasons, more than financial.

  • It’s bound to just be a matter of time before the US stops minting them too. It’s just not worth spending all that money on a relatively useless coin. Inflation has made it quite unnecessary.

    • Len Penzo

      I think the penny should have been abolished years ago. For some reason, there are lots of people extremely committed to keeping the penny part of our national currency though.

  • Penney, forget about it! I have given up cash. I never carry any cash. So far, it is not an inconvenience. I do pay certain things in cash, but it is rare.

    • Len Penzo

      For the most part, I’m with you, but I’ve got to keep at least $20 in my wallet at all times. You never know when you’ll need a few real bucks!

  • Yes, I agree it’s time for the penny to go. And I’d go further, and say it’s long past time for the $1 bill to go. Canada did this years ago. They have “loonies” and “toonies” instead ($1 and $2 coins).

    In Britain the smallest paper bill is the £5 note.

    Europe does the equivalent with €5 and up paper notes and €1 and €2 coins. That said, Europe does apparently still mint a one cent (Euro) coin. Why?

    I don’t know why our country is so backwards when it comes to currency. Until the US FINALLY began to small changes to our paper money a few years back, even a small country like Jamaica had better anti-counterfeiting measures than we did.

    • Len Penzo

      I agree, DC. The dollar bill needs to be replaced by a coin.

      I’d say get rid of the $2 bill too, but I’ve had this strange fascination with them ever since I was a little kid — because they’re rarely seen in circulation, they have this almost mystical quality about them that I find so appealing.

  • Amen! America has a habit of continuing things long past the time when it doesn’t make sense anymore, like our system of measurement.

    • YES! I almost started to rank about not being on the metric system, but decided to stop.

      Anyone here old enough to remember when we did, in fact, start down the road to metric conversion during the Carter Administration? That’s when the alcohol industry switched from things like a fifth (1/5 gallon, about 25.5 ounces) to 750ml bottles. It’s why Coke bottles are in both ounces and liters. And it’s why your speedometer has both MPH and KPH.

      I remember seeing road signs with distances and speed limits in both miles and kilometers. I remember pulling into a gas station advertising gas at something like 0.649 per gallon, and then being puzzled when the pump said the price was 0.171, until I realized the pump was priced in liters.

      My son should have grown up thinking inches and feet are strange, in much the same way as British children today have little understanding of farthings, shillings and half-crowns. Instead, we seem to be stuck about half-way converted to metric – the worst of both worlds.

    • Len Penzo

      I think the metric system is ideal for science and engineering.

      However, I think our dozenal (base 12) system is better suited for everyday use — especially when it comes to construction and baking. Base 12 is much easier because it is divisible by more numbers for quicker and neater calculations.

      12 inches (a foot) can be divided evenly by 12, 6, 4, 3, and 2! If I’m using the base-10 metric system, I can only divide my measurements evenly by 10 and 5. That can get messy real quick.

      Although technically it’s not part of the metric system, I also can’t stand Celsius. Who cares that 100 degrees Celsius is the point where water boils — or 0 degrees C is where water freezes? It’s wider gradient doesn’t do as good a job of articulating temperature as degrees Fahrenheit!

      To get similar fidelity with Celsius, you have to report the weather to the nearest tenth of a degree.

      The Fahrenheit range between 0 and 100 is perfect for conveying weather temp. The 100 degree mark is the perfect point to describe where the weather goes from merely being hot to truly scorching. Conversely, when the temp falls below 0 (F) — it’s cold baby! Zero C however, is barely freezing. Meh. Big deal! ;-)

      • My understanding is Fahrenheit’s calibration had nothing to do with the weather, but rather the freezing point of brine (zero) and the melting point of butter (100).

        It’s really a matter of what you’re used to. I’ve had more than one person who grew up with Celsius tell me they find Fahrenheit to be really strange.

        I’ve seen Celsius thermostats – they invariably express settings in 1/2 degree increments: 20.0, 20.5, 21.0, … which effectively divides the range of freezing to boiling into 200 increments, vs. Fahrenheit’s 180 degree range of freezing to boiling. This gives you a slightly finer control when setting the temperature.

        Yes, a base-12 system works better mathematically, but I haven’t seen any proposals to redefine, for example, the dollar as being 120 cents. Or better still, just switch to a base-12 numbering system. :)

        Europeans have used metric for many generations now. It doesn’t seem to have ruined their cooking skills. :)

      • BTW, back when it seemed the US was committed to converting to metric, I saw several “compensating” container sizes to help ease into metric. For example, there were “metric gallon” (4 liter) milk bottles, some items priced in “metric pounds” (500 grams). These are nearly the same as what we’re used to. Visually, you would not be able to tell apart a 4 liter milk jug from a 1 gallon jug without reading the label.

  • Kathy

    Celsius girl here, late to the party — must admit I find Fahrenheit to be very confusing. 32F for freezing and 212F for boiling for water? Seriously? It all comes down to what you are familiar with, I suppose.

    Am curious about your comment Celsius having the wider gradient….less “specific” for the temp…..to me this implies you can tell the difference between 61F and 62F when you are outside. Personally, I can’t really tell the difference between 16C and 17C. Although I sure notice the difference between 30C and -30C…. :)

    • Len Penzo

      Yeah, I agree that scientifically, Kelvin is the real way to go. Celsius would be my second choice. The 32 and 212 designations for water are strange — but it really doesn’t matter. The temperatures for the freezing and boiling points of anything other than water isn’t very “sexy” in any method! (Well, except for absolute zero being zero in Kelvin. That’s about as round a number as you can get!) :-)

      But I stand by my opinion that F is better for weather. There is no denying that 1 deg F is a smaller measure than 1 deg C, which means there are simply more whole-number “ticks” to quantify weather temperature — which is something we relate to every day in life.

      Then again, you’re right, Kathy. I’d probably feel differently if I were raised in a country that used C instead of F!

  • Randal

    My folks belonged to the motorhome club that wanted everyone in attendance to get two dollar bills and use them for everything they brought when they had their camping rallies. This would show the people of that town or city how much income they received from the campers.

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