A Penny for Your Thoughts? What an Insult!

As of this writing, the CBS News program 60 Minutes is scheduled to run a segment on Sun., Feb. 10 (7 p.m. EST), on the fate of the penny: should it be abolished or not? I was interviewed on the subject, so if the piece isn’t preempted and if I don’t end up on the cutting room floor, you can see where I stand. (Want a hint? Here you go.) The piece was done by Morley Safer. I have had the good fortune to encounter quite a few legendary journalists, in both TV and print, and Safer was easily one of the wisest, most curious, and most down-to-earth. It was really a joy to talk with him.

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  1. RPFN says:

    The penny should have disappeared long ago. The nickel should be on the chopping block too.
    We should organize a demand-side revolt. Demand that all stores price their items so as to eliminate the need for pennies.
    The organization would also take donations, in pennies only. The pennies are then melted down and sold as raw material.

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  2. Stinko says:

    They’ll take my pennies when they pry them from my cold dead hands.

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  3. Will says:

    How about getting rid of paper one-dollar bills at the same time?

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  4. Josh says:

    Australia dumped it’s one and two cent coins fifteen years ago. It makes for interesting rounding rules.

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  5. GoingLikeSixty.com says:

    It will never happen with Lincoln’s 200th birthday next year.
    But I favor it.

    Like OP’s:
    And let’s ditch the nickel too!
    And the dollar bill!

    But that would make sense.

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  6. L Nettles says:

    This should be the year to move the penny to the museum, being Lincoln’s bicentennial and all.

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  7. Jody says:

    I’m an Aussie and it drives me nuts when I come to the US! I think our rounding rules make sense – if your bill ends in 1 or 2 cents it gets rounded down, three or four cents and it gets rounded up.

    I remember when it was introduced some wags did things like go to the supermarket and buy a bunch of fruit or vegies one piece at a time. Like put each grape or mushroom through and it gets rounded down to nothing and is free. Do that over and over and you get a whole bunch/bag free. The novelty wore off in a few weeks and life went on as normal…

    We also have the dollar coin but I don’t think getting rid of that would work in US culture cause of the tipping. Being tipped a coin would be more of an insult I reckon. Notes are great for tipping, although I did have one pocket full of dollar notes and then a pocket full of bigger notes for “real money” and then a bag full of pennies which I would just end up leaving on the street at the end of each day…

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  8. Jason says:

    Regarding a “demand-side revolt”: rather than legislation or popular revolt, how about just giving the Invisible Hand a little P.R.?

    Convince companies that they’ll make more money if they don’t have to deal with pennies. Ask them to reprice their items so the price always comes out to a 5-cent multiple, once local taxes are included. For example, if sales tax is 4%, reprice a $6.99 item to $6.97, so the cost with tax is $7.25. The lost revenue (0.3%) is more than compensated by lower costs.

    No need for legislation, no need to rip pennies out of peoples’ hands, just a little enlightened self-interest.

    The best part of this scheme is, the more companies use it, the fewer pennies circulate, so the fewer need to be made. Economies of scale apply to pennies too, so this will drive the cost per penny way up. Once a penny starts costing $0.25, people will realize this is crazy and start thinking seriously about ceasing to make them.

    “The pennies are then melted down and sold as raw material.”

    I believe a law was passed in 2006 making this illegal.

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