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Who uses pennies?

December 12, 2007

Dubner writes in Freakonomics about the uselessness of the penny in today’s economy and comes to the conclusion that we should do away with the coin.  I must say I agree with him.  The main proponents of keeping pennies around are companies and industries that benefit from their production (Coinstar, nickel and copper companies, etc.).  Pennies are pointless for so many reasons, but lets look at a few:

  • Pennies cost more than $0.01 to produce.  The government is losing money for every penny it creates-and those fractions of a cent add up.  Rising costs of minerals have made making pennies (and nickels) unprofitable, to the tune of a $45 million dollar loss in 2006.
  • Picking up a penny isn’t worth the time it takes to bend down and grab it.  In college, a philosophy professor offered a thought experiment: say you were in a room filled with pennies and you could pick up and keep as many as you wanted.  But you could only pick up one at a time.  Would you stay?  I don’t think many of us would.

Pennies are bulky and take up too much space relative to their value.  What do you do with all these pennies before you take them to the bank.  I have a pile sitting in my desk drawer-change from one of the lunch places I frequent that is cash only.

Every few days I will put a few on the ground in my office because I like seeing how long it takes someone to pick them up.  I inconspicuously “drop” them in various places throughout the office. I think one guy is responsible for about 80% of the penny retrievals.  The entertainment factor alone is worth the loss of $0.01.

Hilariously, Dubner recounts what he does when offered pennies in stores:

Whenever I get change for a dollar, I ask the cashier to keep the pennies. They aren’t worth my time, or hers, or yours. Sometimes the cashier refuses for bookkeeping purposes, in which case I politely accept the pennies and then throw them in the nearest trash can. (Is this illegal? Maybe so, but then so is throwing pennies into a wishing well.)

I have to admit I have thrown pennies away as well.  People yell at me, but I just don’t see the point of keeping them.  This whopping stack of pennies in my desk, which is the result of more than a month of collection is worth a whole $0.22!  By Christmas maybe I can trade them in for a quarter!  Carry that trend and in a year I’ll have $2.66.  But I will also have a huge, unsightly collection of pennies that I would pay well over $2.66 to not have to stare at.  Pennies are pointless.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. andy permalink*
    December 12, 2007 3:38 pm

    As far as I know, throwing money away increases the value of existing money. If all of Bill Gates and Carlos Slim’s fortunes vanished tomorrow, we would all be richer (perhaps noticeably so – they’re the 2 richest dudes in the world). I know this is only theoretical, but still, it speaks to the point that pennies are dumb.

    Also, I lose more money because of pennies than I gain by having them around. Every time I pay for something that costs like $3.02 I get a bunch of change and inevitably lose it.

  2. Ashley permalink
    December 12, 2007 3:53 pm

    Is the government even considering this? Wishful thinking I suppose.

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