What Do You Do With Your Pennies?

The Great Penny Debate continues to limp along. One hundred million pennies, collected by schoolchildren, were put on display at Rockefeller Center. Meanwhile, lots of people continue to argue for elimination of the penny.

I am firmly on the abolitionists’ side, as stated previously here and here. The only reasons I can think of for keeping the penny are inertia and nostalgia. Talk about deadweight loss!

The most ridiculous pro-penny defense I’ve seen in a while appeared in a full-page ad in the Times on June 21, 2006. (Yes, I clipped and saved the ad.) It was taken out by Virgin Mobile, which was promoting its texting service as being so cheap to use that even a penny was worth something. The headline of the ad read:

New legislation will attempt to DO AWAY WITH THE PENNY. What’s next, puppies and rainbows too?

Here is the line in the ad that caught my attention:

And what does America think? 66%* of our population wants to keep the penny and 79% would stop to pick one up off the ground.

If you follow that asterisk to the bottom of the ad, here’s what you find:

*Source: The 8th Annual Coinstar National Currency Poll

For those of you who don’t know, Coinstar is the company that put change machines in supermarkets, in which you can dump your coin jar and receive a receipt that you take to the cash register for folding money. According to this article, Coinstar takes an 8.9 percent cut in the U.S. for providing this service.

While the Coinstar National Currency Poll is said to be compiled by an independent market research organization, I am not very surprised that a survey commissioned by a company that makes money from coin harvesting is able to produce a result saying that two-thirds of Americans “want to keep the penny.”

I have gone on the record as saying that I try to avoid getting pennies whenever I can, and sometimes even throw them away. What do you do with your pennies?

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  1. Ian says:

    I get a nice mental image of an angry Stephen Dubner throwing away 3 pennies in a supermarket with an angry look about his face.

    Lets say, for old time’s sake I’m still in college and as of yet I am an unskilled worker. Thus my hourly pay is rather low. If it takes 3 seconds to pick up a penny (seems reasonable to me) I am getting 12 dollars/hour over those 3 seconds. So it makes sense to pick up a penny if you aren’t getting payed very much, otherwise you should just keep going and get to work 3 seconds earlier.

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  2. Ian says:

    I get a nice mental image of an angry Stephen Dubner throwing away 3 pennies in a supermarket with an angry look about his face.

    Lets say, for old time’s sake I’m still in college and as of yet I am an unskilled worker. Thus my hourly pay is rather low. If it takes 3 seconds to pick up a penny (seems reasonable to me) I am getting 12 dollars/hour over those 3 seconds. So it makes sense to pick up a penny if you aren’t getting payed very much, otherwise you should just keep going and get to work 3 seconds earlier.

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  3. Nick Johnson says:

    In New Zealand, we long ago did away with 1 and 2 cent coins (and recently, the 5 cent coin, too). While staying in Canada a couple of years back, I was extremely annoyed to find I had accumulated an absurd number of pennies. I chucked them in the bin before I left – they weren’t worth changing.

    Now that I’m in europe, the euro-cent is almost as bad.

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  4. Nick Johnson says:

    In New Zealand, we long ago did away with 1 and 2 cent coins (and recently, the 5 cent coin, too). While staying in Canada a couple of years back, I was extremely annoyed to find I had accumulated an absurd number of pennies. I chucked them in the bin before I left – they weren’t worth changing.

    Now that I’m in europe, the euro-cent is almost as bad.

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  5. David Lee says:

    Pennies have become part of the social fabric of America…What will frugalites give the kids on Halloween? What will pedestrians bestow upon beggars on street corners? What will become of the drinking game “pennies?” Yes, pennies are wholly inefficient and a waste of money and time, but darn it, this is America where we have the freedom to waste money and time.

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  6. David Lee says:

    Pennies have become part of the social fabric of America…What will frugalites give the kids on Halloween? What will pedestrians bestow upon beggars on street corners? What will become of the drinking game “pennies?” Yes, pennies are wholly inefficient and a waste of money and time, but darn it, this is America where we have the freedom to waste money and time.

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  7. Toni says:

    I collect them in a big jug and take them to a Coinstar!

    However, I would be more than happy to let them go. I think the Canadian system of using coins for denoms under $5 is also intellegent. Maybe even under $10. Frankly, I rarely use currency at all–how long before it’s defunct?

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  8. Toni says:

    I collect them in a big jug and take them to a Coinstar!

    However, I would be more than happy to let them go. I think the Canadian system of using coins for denoms under $5 is also intellegent. Maybe even under $10. Frankly, I rarely use currency at all–how long before it’s defunct?

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