The worth of a penny seems to be missing

Morgan Kuster

Search through your things for a moment; look around your apartment, rummage in your purse a bit, dig deep to the bottom of your pockets, maybe between a couple sofa cushions. What do you find? Odds are you came across one or more pennies during that little adventure, so what do you do with them now?

You could put them in a jar and when it gets full enough take them to be redeemed at a Coinstar, but those machines charge 8.9 percent of your total in service fees; which means if you have $100 worth of coins, you will only be able to receive $91.00 of that when you’re finished.

You could lug them around in your pockets and purses all day long hoping you can use maybe one or two while checking out of a grocery store or fast food restaurant, but that gets heavy and irritatingly annoying with the constant clanging of change. And it’s not like you can use them in vending machines.

You could always leave some in your car with all your other change and use them while paying for parking meters, oh wait; no, you can’t do that either because they also don’t accept pennies. So what is the great purpose of the penny?

Let’s break it down. In the United States we have money, which is used to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. The smallest unit of money we have in America is the penny, worth a whopping 1/100 of $1.

A penny was worth what a nickel is worth today in 1972, but because of inflation our values in American money have deeply plummeted. One of the main issues I’d like to bring up is that it costs the United States Mint 1.7 cents to make a penny; which means that every year $70 million of federal tax money goes to subsidizing the continuation of the penny.

Have you ever heard the term opportunity cost? It’s this fancy term in economics that basically means anytime you are doing something, you could be doing something else. Very important. Several studies have proven that the time Americans spend fiddling with pennies actually costs us money, as much as one billion dollars a year. So every year, American tax payers pay $70 million to have the prospect to lose $1 billion in productivity costs.

That isn’t even the ultimate reason to get rid of the penny. The ultimate reason is that, as I said before, money exists to facilitate the exchange of goods and services, and pennies don’t do that effectively. Once again the only places we use change, like parking meters and vending machines, don’t even accept pennies.

So should we get rid of the penny? What would happen to taxes, the already existing pennies and all other change circulating in the world today?

Supporters of the penny argue that as long as sales taxes and retail prices continue to be rendered in cents, consumers should not stop using pennies during transactions.

Some challengers of the penny, on the other hand, propose that retail prices and taxes should be rounded up or down to the nearest nickel, thus eradicating the call for pennies as currency.

As for the already existing 300 billion pennies of the world, it is difficult to say what would happen with them. And the other forms or small change — nickels, dimes, quarters — would those too lose all value in the near future?

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he might almost be embarrassed to have once quoted that.