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Pennies Don't Fall From Heaven

Updated on December 9, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose!

A Penny for Your Thoughts!

Lincoln Wheat Ear Penny, 1909 to 1958
Lincoln Wheat Ear Penny, 1909 to 1958

The hue and cry we hear of late from government officials and banks over the severe shortage of pennies may be vexing to those who have to cope with the effect of the problem, but, personally, I find the situation laughable.

The U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve Board continue to rail about "low inventories" and "spot shortages," ostensibly caused by people stashing their pennies away in coffee cans and desk drawers.

These federal officials, apparently, are dim-witted as well as myopic.

A Virtually Worthless Coin

Anyone who thinks about the problem for more than 10 seconds knows why nearly everyone has a huge jar of pennies on his (or her) living-room mantel, or in that humongous piggy bank in the children's room: If you had a handful of pennies, you could barely buy the 33-cent stamp you might need to mail a letter to your congressman telling him how you feel about those little copper, or is it zinc, cents.

I'm old enough to remember when you could really buy something with a penny -- and a handful of pennies was actually worth something. Once upon a time, a penny could buy any one of a large variety of candies or be used to find out how much you weighed on one of those commercial scales.

Tucked away somewhere in my penny-rich Darien estate, I have more than a dozen rolls of pennies. What's more, they are not the currently minted Lincoln Memorials; every one is a wheat ear penny, which the government began minting in 1909.

Pennies Galore!

In fact, I have so many pennies at home that I feel a kinship with computer whiz Bill Gates. You've heard the story: Billionaire Gates makes so much money every minute that he'd be wasting his time just bending down to pick up a dropped hundred-dollar bill.

I feel the same way about pennies. I see pennies on the ground almost daily, dropped or tossed away by people who couldn't care less about them. I'm sure you see them, too. Pick them up? Why?

Typically, the government can't see the forest for the trees. It has a problem, sure, but if it's looking for a solution it's going about it the wrong way.

Will Nickels Be Next?

Officials should recognize that pennies are all but worthless -- that's why there are shortages. That's why people hoard them. In fact, the way things are going, nickels will be next. They're barely worth five pennies.

The Philadelphia and Denver mints are continuing to manufacture pennies six days a week on a 214-hour basis. Over the last 30 years, 312 billion pennies have been minted, and more than 114 billion are actively circulated in the United States.

Instead of minting more pennies by the billions -- and billions -- officials should be looking for a way to discontinue their use entirely.

But, obviously, this is far too complicated an idea for our political and financial leaders. After all, these are the same people who think they can save big bucks by minting dollar coins by the billions despite convincing proof, from history, that such coins are not any more enticing to Americans than pennies.

In my book, the only thing worse than a pocketful of pennies would be a pocketful of dollar coins!

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper in Norwalk, Conn., on July 29, 1999. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

Should the U.S.Government end all circulation of the penny?

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Movie Clip (1936) Bing Crosby Sings, 'Pennies From Heaven'

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    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for commenting, Richard, and thanks for pointing out the typo. Of course, the wheat ears were first minted in 1909.

    • profile image

      Richard 

      7 years ago

      Wheat ear reverse Lincolns were first minted in 1909, not 1913, and small sized coppers go back to the 1864 Indians. (Not that most of these early ones are worth much in very worn condition, only a few dates/mints with low mintages are particularly scarce.) The interesting thing is that the composition was changed in mid-1982 to the current zinc/copper wash. The earlier ones (1/2 a gram heavier) now have about 3 cents of copper in them, just as nickels (which are 75% copper) are worth a few cents more than their face value.

      Right now it's illegal to melt pennies and nickels, just as it was with dimes, quarters and halves when silver coins disappeared in the mid-60s, but I'm sure that's going to happen anyway if and when copper prices really rise. At that point the US will finally give up on the penny forever, or keep selling it just to collectors as they do with half dollars today.

      Personally I'd hang on to copper pennies, and maybe also nickels when their composition is going to change. But I doubt if anyone but a major scrap metal dealer will get very rich off them.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, Brenda. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub.

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 

      9 years ago

      Wonderful hub..... Well a bit short of pennies here at the moment..... but all these lovely hubs for nothing....... who needs money..... brilliant xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I remember when you could buy a U.S. Postage stamp for two cents. Today those two rolls of wheat ear pennies will buy you two 44-cent stamps with 12 cents left over. I wrote this piece 10 years ago, but the government still refuses to do anything to solve this "American tradition." With prices the way they are today, I'm beginning to think there's little point to producing any coins at all. The coins I receive in change keep piling up -- it's a chore just trying to get rid of them. If you haven't seen it, AEvans, you might be interested in my hub about dollar coins: https://hubpages.com/politics/Dollar-Coin-Three-St...

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 

      9 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      Interesting and God only knows how I managed to miss this article, we have an abundance of pennies stashed, we figure one day if we can collect enough of them we can buy some with it. lolololo We also have a couple rolls of wheat pennies my dad left behind for me. Why did they keep making them? It is insane. :)

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I agree, Mike, that pennies have a long and interesting history, but that history will always be there. It doesn't require continuing to make new pennies. It's probably only a matter of time before all coins and all "cash" will be history. Even credit cards, it seems, will be replaced eventually with computers on keychains -- or implants!

    • profile image

      Mike Harmon 

      9 years ago

      Hi,

      I think pennies are a fundamental peice of history.

      Yes , they bring us back to and remind us of easier living days when our money was worth a little.

      ALSO the fed crys about the penny costing so much to make. BUT think what the dollar coin cost AND the money they make from it. Or even the quarter.

      There may be a day when the parking meter goese to credit card swipe. BUT what weill happen when there is a brown-out and no power to run the meter?

      Just a thought.

      ALSO.did any one look at the money that Ebay is getting for the new pennies for instance?

      QUITE A LOT OF REVENUE TO UNCLE SAM FOR A WORTHLESS PENNY! And this revenue is made each and every time that penny is sold! $180.00 for one new penny! WOW!

      Also the mint sells 2 rolls for $8.95 to the general publioc.

      ANd I cant even get a roll here on the Texas Gulf COast from a bank yet! I thinkl I will tell Obama that his banks that accepted all that Redistribution money wont even distribute coins to the public!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      That's really "Pennies From Heaven," Sally's Trove -- and that's a whole lot of pennies. I'm glad to see they were put to good use. I think you can still get those old time candies, but you'd probably need get those school kids working for you because it would take a lot more than a penny to buy them!

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 

      10 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Yeah, those were the good old days when a penny bought a really good piece of candy, like a little Mary Jane, a big gumball, or a strip of dots.

      That doesn't happen anymore, but this does (Excerpted from Solorya's Hub, Benefits of Giving Donations to Non-Profit Organizations):

      *In 1991 a four-year-old named Nora Gross wanted to help feed a homeless man, and asked her father how she could help. That led to the non-profit organization called Common Cents and its program the Penny Harvest. Through this, children have collected pennies and helped fund grants for community organizations. In the 2005/1006 school year alone, nearly half a million children from 770 schools in New York City took part in the Penny Harvest and collected nearly 185 tons of pennies equalling $655,508.54. That's over half a milion dollars! From kids' pennies!*

      If I could just get those kids to work for me for a year, I'd be sitting pretty.

      I enjoy your Hubs, William!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I'm hoping, Cailin, that anyone who hasn't heard Bing Crosby sing "Pennies From Heaven," will check out some of his other great songs on youtube. I liked Steve Martin's movie as well. I'm afraid, however, I can't share your love of pennies, but I do you wish you good luck when you find one. Thank you.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I do like the pennies I sometimes receive as interest on my bank savings account, JamaGenee, but I'd rather get my exercise playing golfing instead of bending down to pick up pennies. All I can say is that you have more patience than I do. Thanks for commenting.

    • Cailin Gallagher profile image

      Cailin Gallagher 

      10 years ago from New England

      One of my favorite songs! I loved the remake with Bernadette Peters and Steve Martin. I personally love pennies and circulate them as much as I can. I am that frustrating woman who scrounges in her wallet for pennies for the cashier. But, hey, money is money. And if I ever see a penny, I pick it up...for all the day I'll have good lucky. There is nothing better than finding a bright, shiny, copper penny on the side-walk.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      10 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      People laugh when I pick up a penny, but I always do because eventually I'll have 100 of them and that's a dollar I didn't have to work for (other than bending down to pick up each penny). I dump the pennies in an odd-looking jar, and when it's half full, there's about $10. At that point, I don't waste time wrapping them, just take them to the bank where a teller dumps them into a device that counts them, and then hands me that amount in CASH. Yes, it takes awhile for the jar to get half-full, but I don't consider pennies "worthless", only an exercise in patience!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      OK, ProCW, I'll begin saving a penny a day. I'll get back to you when I've accumulated 100,000,000 of them.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, magnoliazz. I agree that metals will be increasing in value over the next few decades, but the way the economy is going we may all be sleeping in tents!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      It's true that debit card cards are convenient, SweetiePie, but I never use mine because, unlike you, I have had a couple of run-ins with banks -- and it's hard to understate their arrogance. If you ever do have a problem with your card, you may change your mind. Also, the banks already know just about every little thing you do, and with a debit card, they can track your activities faster and easier. I think banks have far more control over us now than ever, and things are getting much worse. With all their legal "privacy rights" declarations, I believe we are fasting losing any semblance of privacy. I appreciate your comments, and hope you continue not to have any differences of opinions with the banks.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, AEvans. You'll need at least a handful of pennies if you want to buy a Tootsie Roll today.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Funny story, Chef Jeff. Thanks for commenting.

    • ProCW profile image

      ProCW 

      10 years ago from South Carolina

      "ProCW, how many Brinks trucks would you need to take 100 million pennies to the bank? LOL"

      William... you're just gonna have to start saving them up to find out! :)

      ProCW

    • magnoliazz profile image

      magnoliazz 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      Save your pennies! The way the economy is going, all metals are going to be worth something. Excellent hub!

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 

      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      William,

      I have never had a problem with a debit card and I do not feel the bank has more control over my assets then people in any other generation.  There were times in American history when banks had more control over people's finances then in our modern age, so we have made quite a bit a progress.  I have never had a problem with my credit union, which is not a bank, and my debit card :).

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 

      10 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      I have a major stash of pennies as well how ridiculous for the government to be so concerned about them and yes you are correct as they are useless. How often anymore does anyone really ever use a "Penny"? Heck you can't even by a Tootsie Roll for a "Penny"

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      I remember one old guy where I used to live saying he saved pennies because if the world came to an end he could make electricity by dipping them in home-made lemon juice.

      So I asked him where would he get lemon juice if the world came to an end? We live in Illinois, and lemon trees don't grow here.

      He laughed and said "Lemon Juice" was what his old army buddies called pee. Apparently they'd clean their helmet with lemon juice to get rid of the odor or urine & sweat.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, viralprospector. If pennies ever become vailuable I'll be rich because I've got several rolls of them. LOL

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Only yesterday, Linda, when I stepped out my car in a parking lot I all but stepped on a penny, and when I looked more closely there were two more with reach. But God must think I'm wealthy because I didn't bother to pick them up.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, sixtyorso. I'm sure pennies make great souvenirs/mementos -- and at a penny apiece you can have as many as you want! Accprdomg tp coinnews.net athe cost of minting a penny is $1.26.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      There's no stopping "progress," SweetiePie, so I'm sure debit cards are the wave of the future. That'll take care of the penny problem, but I'm not to thrilled about giving banks even more control over our assets than they already have.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      ProCW, how many Brinks trucks would you need to take 100 million pennies to the bank? LOL

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      10 years ago from London UK

      William, many a true word said in jest and you always tell it how it is! ;)

      Infact, i would love to see all cash replaced by some kind of credit based system!! but thats another ramble of mine i wont ramble about today!:)

    • viralprospector profile image

      viralprospector 

      10 years ago from DFW Texas

      Great hub, William with a bunch of great comments...

      Old Lincoln head pennies are worth a few cents. Those were 97% copper or so. I think it was 1964 when they started using copper alloy pennies. I think they are worth less than a penny in metal.

      The same holds true of old silver dimes that are worn out and uncollectible. they are worth more for the metal than 10 cents. These are guaranteed money makers. With stocks gone (maybe for a long time this time), metal and coins are once again something to really look at carefully.

    • profile image

      Linda  

      10 years ago

      Sorry but I still pick up pennies.

      I don't want the Good Lord to think I have so much money I can't use more.

    • sixtyorso profile image

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Great Hub. I always used to put pennies into the souvenir machis that press pennies as mementoes all around the USA when I was visting a lot, in the eighties. Alas I have lost these too over time.

      I wonder if he copper, zinc and nickel (in nickels and dimes) is not perhaps collectively worth more than  the face value of the coins taking the materials, labour, packaging  and distribution into account?

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 

      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Using my debit card for as many purchases as possible has put a curb on the amount of pennies and change I carry around.  The beauty of using a debit card is you have a receipt and can double check whether you were charged the right amount, whereas people may lose track if they are standing in line at the grocery store and the clerk hands them paper cash and coins.  Honestly pennies get lost and people want to lose them, so using a debit card helps quite a bit.  Very good hub by the way!

    • ProCW profile image

      ProCW 

      10 years ago from South Carolina

      A very good thing about pennies to note...

      If everyone would only save 100,000,000 pennies, they'd all be millionaires!! :)

      ProCW

      PS. Great hub! Thumbs up!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      It's amazing what a little ingenuity will do, Patty. A fistful of pennies will also pack quite a wallop when jabbing, uppercutting or even a right cross! I'm really happy you liked the video, Patty. Bing Crosby was, and is, the greatest ever!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Well, I put a handful in each of my students' fists for when they are free sparring, in order to train them to keep fists tightly closed. They're good for that. :)

      Nice video.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      They're sure not much use, Bob, that's for sure. But I hear they want to keep making them for nostalgic reasons.

    • profile image

      Bob 

      10 years ago

      Damn Bill , You can't even use them in the parking meters anymore.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Compu-smart: If those folks with a jar full of coins empty them out, and if the jar is big enough, they may collect enough money to buy one gallon of gasoline for their gas guzzlers. With todays prices, there's absolutely no need for pennies -- or even nickels and dimes.There may be some us for quarters, but half dollars are hardly ever seen in circulation anyway. Your idea of dropping all coins would save the U.S. government billions of dollars, enough to give George Bush's wealthy friends big tax cuts.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      10 years ago from London UK

      William, I have been a big grumbler of pennys and them being just a waste these days!! Even for kids, there is still nothing worth buying unlike when we were younger as you mentioned where a penny would go along way!!

      I would love to see all smallest change removed from the system!!

      I actually wrote a comment in a hub "How to Save More of Your Money" 3 days ago"

      "Quote"

      RE- loking after the pennies!!I would love to see a "small change" amnesty, which forces everyone, including many people i know, who seem to think filing huge glass bottle with lots and lots of coins in a jar is helpfull are not being!!Get that money back into the economy and start earning interest on it as well as clearing space within the home!

      Whats your views on this!!

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