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The Penny Analyzed: The Most Useless Coin in the United States

The+Penny+Analyzed%3A+The+Most+Useless+Coin+in+the+United+States

Clink. Clink. Clink. Got any pennies in your pocket? Unless you bought something in the last hour, you probably do not. Most of us collect them, put them in tiny donation boxes, or maybe even throw them out.

Pennies, along with nickels, are perhaps the most useless coin in circulation. Dimes are 1/10th of a dollar, quarters are used for laundry and to park your car, and dollar coins are a sort of eternal novelty. But, when is the last time you used a penny? When you have to pay $25.68, do you hand the cashier your cash, two quarters, a dime, a nickel, and three pennies? You don’t, because that takes an absurd amount of effort as compared to handing the cashier a twenty and a ten.

Pennies are an inherent deadweight because once someone gets one in change, it is virtually never used again, unless you see a Salvation Army worker or collect them for those Coinstar machines. Even before being put in circulation, it loses us money: another 2017 NBC News report found that the mint pays one and a half cents to make a penny.

So why do we keep the penny around? Well, for a few reasons. First of all, skeptics say the coin is patriotic and honors Abraham Lincoln. This is sort of true, except the penny is so useless that it is hardly an honor. Besides, the five dollar bill has his face, and it is literally worth five-hundred times as much as a penny. Also, you know who does not use the penny? The U.S. Military. On army bases, prices are rounded up or down. 32¢ turns to 30¢, and 34¢ turns to 35¢. Efficiency at its finest.

Another argument is this whole doom-and-gloom that our currency will be destabilized. This is foolish. If the penny has no fundamental use or value to begin with, removing it from circulation would have no real effect. Don’t believe me? Ask Canada and New Zealand. They phased out their pennies from 2012-2013 and 1990, respectively. Those countries seem to be okay to me.

The last reason we have pennies is that, basically, politics are terrible. Pennies have a nice copper sheen, but underneath that surface, there is a whole bunch of zinc. The zinc industry knows that its metal has no use to consumers, and, outside of industrial applications or manufacturing, it has one happy customer: the U.S. Government. The industry has spent millions, if not billions, on “helping” politicians make decisions on the penny. Corporate lobbying has done far more sinister things, but this is definitely the most annoying.

I say we get rid of the penny. While we’re at it, how about the nickel, too? Does it really bother anyone at all to lose or gain around five cents with each purchase? You’d have to be painfully miserly to feel that way. Let’s go the route of our northern neighbors. These coins can still be used, but they’ll instantly return to the mint and be put in smothering flames for some other various applications.

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