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Death to Pennies

Updated on March 16, 2012

"Things that are worthless are worth nothing and pennies are worth much less than nothing."

-John Green

In 1792 when the first U.S. mint opened the quarter, dime, nickel, penny and half-penny went into production. When the penny first went into production it was made of 100% copper but with the rise in copper prices that percentage declined and was replaced with zinc until it was in it’s current composition of 5% copper and 95% zinc. Even with the less amount of copper in 2006 the physical value of the mettle went above the value of one cent and pennies were worth more dead than alive. People began to melt down the pennies and sell the more valuable copper until, rather that removing pennies from circulation the U.S. government made it a federal offense to melt currency.

Even if pennies were to be made of something more representative of their value it wouldn’t fix the issue of pennies being bad for people and the economy.


Pennies just aren’t convenient. It used to be that you could use pennies to buy things such as milk, butter and eggs. Try going into a store and paying for ten dollars of groceries with 1,000 coins that weigh 5.5 pounds. It wont go over well. And even if you are able to find a cashier patient enough to deal with your pennies, try finding a vending machine, parking meter, laundry machine or toll booth that will take them. You wont, in fact the only machine that will gladly take your pennies are a CoinStar where you pay them 10% of your money for the convenience of being able to spend your money.

Time is Money

Time is money and using pennies causes a deficit. The only way to use a penny is with exact change. Because of sales tax with percentages like 8.875 it is impossible to do the math in your head and have your change ready when you reach the cashier. The time it takes you to stand at the cash register and count out your exact change is on average two second which isn’t worth your time or the time of the people in line behind you.


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But What About...

Prices rising?

  • Countries including New Zealand, Australia, Finland and The Netherlands have gotten rid or their one cent pieces. Prices were all rounded to the nearest 5 cents and none of them saw prices rise.
  • The United States has laid to rest coins before. Remember that half cent piece from earlier? The half cent was retired in 1857 because it’s value was too small. Too small meaning that the coin that holds the same value now is the dime. What that says about the nickel is a conversation for another day.


  • Don’t worry, Lincoln's not going anywhere, take a look at the five dollar bill.


  • If it’s unpatriotic to retire the penny someone should tell the U.S. army who has already discontinued their use on overseas bases


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