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  • Writer's pictureTLALOCO

Penny for Your Thoughts? Maybe, Not Much Longer for Either One!

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

What used to be UN-imagined sometimes turns into a heated debate. We ain't talking about democratic values, like voting. That would be silly. Just like Women's Rights are protected so is our vote, right?

Or a debate about some place to sleep...if your not homeless. Nope, we are discussing the much debated, but never publicly shared officially - THE END OF THE U.S. PENNY COIN.

You know the coin. It has the familiar picture of Abe Lincoln on one side and Lincoln Memorial on the other side.

The original penny was first circulated in 1793, and it was made entirely of copper. The composition first changed in 1857 to a mix of copper and nickel.

During World War II, 1943 to be exact, our penny was made of lead to save the copper for weapon manufacturing. Which proved the adage, A penny saved, is a penny earned, and that amigos, helped win the war.

Since 1982, the penny has been made with 97.5% zinc and just 2.5% copper.

You might think, "So what's the big deal. It's not worth a penny today anyway." That's true, especially with very little copper in it. A penny today is worth only half of what it cost to make it. In 2021, each penny produced cost 2.10 cents to make and distribute. In 2021, the Mint made 7.60 billion pennies, costing taxpayers $145.8 million. What's more troubling is the fact that pennies don't buy much like they did when Abe Lincoln first had his face put on the coin in 1909. In those days a penny bought you about what a quarter does today.

These are certainly good reasons to stop using pennies. If you have more than 5 pennies in your purse or pocket you know it.

Each one only weighs 2.5 grams, but they add up. A dollar's worth of pennies would weigh 250 grams, or about half a pound. Consider that a $1 bill itself weighs just 1 gram.

Remember the viejo in line at the store, pulling out his man coin-holder to pry out 3 cents for the the ten people in line look on in disgust. Que gacho, don't they know every penny counts!

Pennies take up valuable time at the cash register to count out. If time is money, then pennies are not worth the time it takes to handle them. In fact, In 2020, cash was used for just 19% of in person transactions. That's down from 26% in 2019. Debit cards top the list as the most used payment instrument, accounting for 28% of payments. Why, carry the extra weight of coins and hold the line up so people can curse at you and the cashier? Simple, we are all creatures of habit, most of us anyways. Besides, most of us still love chump change, really!

Slightly more than half of Americans are emotionally attached to the penny. A poll by found that 51% of Americans were in favor of keeping it. More than a third (34%) would be disappointed if the government stopped making pennies, and another 9% would be pissed off. Do the math, the CENTiment of the people is with the penny! Besides, getting rid of the penny will not be easy. Congress must enact a law that removes the penny from circulation. It must also direct the U.S. Mint, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury, to stop producing them.

Wow, here is an easy issue for both sides of the political aisle to get behind. Heck, the U.S. Mint is a contributor to the U.S. Treasury, yet producing pennies is a money loser for the Mint.

In 2021, the nation lost $83.6 million making pennies. This a slam dunk penny-wise decision right?

Slow your roll, ese! Getting consensus on the budget deficit is probably easier for congress to pass than abolishing the freaking penny. Talk about being penny-wise!

There has been tons of speculation over the past few years that the U.S. Mint will stop production of the penny. PuroChisme! But those rumors cannot be confirmed or denied. Wishful thinking perhaps? Well, let's imagine our world without a penny.

First, how would you calculate your change at the liquor market? You bought a six pack, some chicarrones and rolling papers...the essentials for an intellectual evening with your significant other (Your dog). The cashier rings up $9.74. How does the store owner determine a price since the penny is no longer used?

Or your abuela is at the grocery store buying veggies and leche. The total at the register is $5.68. A bargain but how do we address the extra three pennies?

Don't forget the gas pump. Filling up your 1979 Datsun low-rider, the meter should read $44.92.

How do all these merchants determine a cost value? By rounding down or up to the next 0 or 5? Um, if merchants are in business to make a profit then every penny counts!

Penny advocates argue that eliminating the penny would impose an additional sales tax on consumers and drive up inflation.

In 2012, Chipolte did just that at a few of its locations in New York and New Jersey—using a computer algorithm to round receipts up or down to the nearest $0.05 until customers complained. They got smarter and just rounded down to avoid looking greedy...again!

Certainly it's cheaper to keep the penny - for now - because we have no laws to protect consumers. Penny supporters point out that if we get rid of the penny, all-cash transactions will have to be rounded off to the nearest nickel. According to Americans for Common Cents, this will lead to a “rounding tax.” In other words, stores will deliberately manipulate their prices to ensure transactions are always rounded up instead of down.

Finally, let's not forget the "Penny Fundraising" non-profit groups. Even if pennies seem worthless, they actually add up to hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable donations each year. Charities such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Ronald McDonald House raise funds through “penny drives,” encouraging people to donate their unwanted pennies for important causes. The very fact that pennies have so little value makes them useful to charities because people are happy to give them away. It's thousands of dollars for a good causes. What if the government suddenly stop circulating pennies? Well, we can be sure charities would start Nickel fundraisers and donated coins would keep on coming.

One more important fact about pennies. Some of them are valuable. For example, the lowest-mintage circulation strike of the Indian cent series is the 1909-S, which was struck to the tune of just 309,000 pieces. Value start at around $300 for a penny! The list goes on:

There is perhaps no 20th-century coin more famous than the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent that in quality condition goes for well over $2,000. Or the 1922 Lincoln penny without the mint lettering worth a meager $300.00. Many coin collectors saved 1931-S Lincoln cents from day one because of the limited production. That coin is worth over $50.00.

1943 bronze pennies tend to sell for around $125,000 and up. One sold for a whopping $1.7 million dollars through Heritage Auctions in 2010.

If your lucky to find the 1955 Double-die penny, you'll know it when you see it. It makes your eyes blurry and it's value too - $1,000. Same goes for the 1969-S & 1972 Double Die Lincoln. These are high value coins that numismatics (lunatics for coins) will gladly pay to own. So next time you see a penny on the ground, ask yourself, "Is it worth it to bend over and grab that penny? Will somebody admire my shapely butt or worse, think me cheap." No worries, PuroChisme has completed the extensive research and cacalation algorithm. Si pendejo, pick up that penny! Its better odds than playing the state lottery! Besides, you can always donate it to a worthy cause!


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