The Great Penny Debate


100 Million pennies in Rockefeller Center. PHOTO: Andrew Dallos
100 Million pennies in Rockefeller Center. PHOTO: Andrew Dallos

After 211 years of making one cent coins, the United States Mint is debating eliminating the penny. It takes 1.79 cents for the U.S. Mint to make one penny, which is almost double the penny’s worth! Pennies are part of U.S. heritage, and some people think it is important to keep them, but others feel that it is a waste of time and money to make them.

If the U.S. Mint melted down all of the pennies made before 1982 they would get 2.4 cents worth of copper from each penny! People who want to eliminate the penny say too much time is wasted handling pennies. As Greg Mankiw, an economist at Harvard University, said, “When people start leaving a monetary unit at the cash register for the next customer, the unit is too small to be useful.” Some stores and restaurants even refuse to accept pennies.

Others are against eliminating pennies because prices may rise when rounded up to the nearest nickel, which would affect the poor more than other people, and would also affect charities that have “penny drives.” Eliminating the penny would also make it necessary to produce more nickels. Since it costs more than eight cents to make one nickel, the US would actually lose more money making more nickels than making pennies. Robert Whaples of Wake Forest University believes that people “want to keep a (U.S.) penny, regardless of all the good arguments against it.” Because, as Whaples says, “It’s a sentimental attachment.” What do you think? Should the United States keep the penny?

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