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Penny ante. April 12, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to ask for your two cents’ worth about the fate of the U.S. cent, informally known as the penny. Canada declared its penny obsolete this past March; in Europe, only the Brits keep them in circulation. Is it time the U.S. sent Abe packing?

As a two-bit coin collector, I love pennies. But even I must admit that making them no longer makes “cents.” That’s because, at this point, the metal in the pennies is worth more than their face value—2.4 cents for every penny, according to Fortune Tech blog contributor Dan Mitchell (“Don’t mess with the penny lobby,” http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/).

And, due to the increasing demand for metals like copper and zinc, that disparity is sure to get higher. I’ve already read about people hoarding pre-1982 pennies for their copper content. (From 1864 to 1982, U.S. pennies were 95% copper; thereafter, they’re 2.5% copper, used as a plating over a zinc core, with 1982’s pennies splitting the difference. The exception is 1943, the year of the zinc-coated steel wartime cent, aka the “silver penny.”) As for the hoarders, I think these folks would be smarter to save nickels (25% nickel, 75% copper) or, say, aluminum foil. But I digress.

Apart from coin collectors like yours truly, the zinc lobby, and the folks who produce those change-to-bills converter machines you see in grocery store entries, is there anybody else out there who’s in favor of saving the penny? I’d like to hear from you either way.


                       Richard Saunders