The Argument Against the Penny

Don't touch this pennyThe author Louise Penny is great. Penny from “Inspector Gadget”? Baller. But the penny qua penny, that one-cent coin we drop on the street and then don’t care enough to pick up again? That penny, argues the Paris Review, is a penny dreadful.

As a nation, we have yet to abolish the penny. A penny costs more to produce than it is worth (even after the 1982 change from a 95 percent copper composition to 97.5 percent zinc), so the U.S. loses tens of billions of dollars a year minting them; the sheer cost of lost time spent hunting for pennies, waiting in line behind someone else hunting for pennies, and disposing of pointless pennies once we have them has been estimated at as high as a billion dollars a year. No coin in U.S. history has ever been worth less than a penny is today, by a long shot: the half cent, eliminated in 1857, was worth more than a dime in today’s buying power. A penny saved may be a penny earned, but it is about two seconds of income for an average American, so who cares.

Tiny little one-cent coin with Lincoln on it: worth keeping around, even if just for sentimental reasons, or rubbish-ready? A penny for your thoughts.

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