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Pennies

The soft pitter patter of my feet on the ground is almost completely overshadowed by the soft echoing hum of the numerous voices battling in a quarrel of competing volume around me. Children and their parents roam the grounds in search of the next invigorating ride or competitive gaming booth at the Broward County Fair. As I meander through the stampeding crowd and colorful neon lights the sinking sun gently kisses my cheeks, when I spot something glistening in the short grass. I bend down for closer examination of the little copper disk. It’s a 1998 penny. “Pick a penny up, and you’ll have good luck all day,” I thought. Well, that’s how the saying goes. But what really is so lucky about a penny? Pennies should be taken out of circulation in the United States because they are a waste of time, they are a waste of money, and they are virtually worthless.
Initially, pennies waste time. Think about the amount of time that people spend digging through their pockets looking for exact change, so that they don’t end up with even more pennies. Most transactions include the exchange of the penny from either the clerk or the customer to the opposite party. According to the Association of Convenience Stores and an experiment conducted by Walgreen’s Drug Store, the counting of pennies add an additional four and a half seconds to each purchase. Taking a line of one customer in front into consideration, if each person buys two things a day, that wastes approximately twenty-seven seconds each day just handling pennies. That amounts to be about 164 minutes and 15 seconds each year spent handling a bunch of copper-coated zinc disks. Clearly, the penny wastes time.

In addition to being a waste of time, pennies are also a waste of money. It costs about 1.7 cents to make a 1 cent penny. This means that the production expenses exceed the face value of the coin. The money that is used to create these pennies is collected from taxpayers all across America. Until 1982 the penny was made entirely of copper, but because of rising metal prices the modern day penny is comprised of nearly ninety-seven percent zinc, with a thin copper coating. However, even with this improvement the penny still costs each adult in the United States, all 240 million of them, approximately $40 per year to keep the penny in circulation. As Edmund Moy, the Director of the U.S. Mint states, “With each new penny we issue we increase the national debt by almost as much as the coin is worth.”

On top of being a waste of time and money, the U.S. Mint should most definitely eliminate the penny from Americans’ wallets because pennies are virtually worthless in today’s world. Very often, I find myself asking “What can be bought for a penny?” Most people don’t even bother to pick them up off of the floor anymore, because they are unwanted. That’s why they are on the floor to begin with. Thirty-three percent of the 300 billion pennies created aren’t even in circulation anymore. They are somewhere in a sewer drains, squished on railroad tracks, in the backseat of peoples’ cars, and in countless jars across America. Even if someone were to save those pennies for one or two years, the probable amount of money that would accumulate would still only be around 30 or 40 dollars. Congress has debated similar issues in recent history as well as now when it comes to removing coins. In 1857, Congress ordered the U.S. Mint to retire and cancel production of the half-penny coin which, at the time (due to inflation), was worth more in equivalent value then today’s dime. Many question how, “If Congress could eliminate the more valuable half-penny in 1857, then what is stopping them from getting rid of the one-hundredth of a dollar coin?”
Harvard professor Gregory Mankiw says, “When people start leaving monetary units at the cash register for the next customer, the unit is too small to be useful.” In other words, when someone makes a purchase and receives change that was just left on the counter by the previous customer, you know it’s useless. People receive pennies in change after purchases on multiple occasions. They usually go straight into the tip jar or are thrown on the ground. If every price ended in a five or a zero, we wouldn’t have to deal with that pesky penny. Some might argue that prices would have to rise when being rounded up, but because pennies are so worthless in value, that still would only average out to costing maybe five or six dollars a year. Not to mention that a lot of that money would be made up of discarded pennies if the prices remained the same.
In summation, the penny should definitely be retired from the United States Mint because it wastes time, it wastes money, and it is worth almost nothing. As I examine the tiny coin in my hand, I gaze into the mob of people at the fair. Why Americans spend so much for these coins baffles me to an extreme. With one swift flick of my wrist the penny goes flying into the air. No more pesky pennies for me. Now the useless monetary unit can go be picked up by someone else, to be a nuisance in their wallet.




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