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Note to Self: Stop Throwing Out Pennies

Whenever I get change for a dollar, I ask the cashier to keep the pennies. They aren’t worth my time, or hers, or yours. Sometimes the cashier refuses for bookkeeping purposes, in which case I politely accept the pennies and then throw them in the nearest trash can. (Is this illegal? Maybe so, but then so is throwing pennies into a wishing well.)

If I were the type of person who regularly a) loaded up my pocket every day with loose change or b) brought all my loose change to a bank or supermarket coin machine, then it might be worthwhile to keep the pennies. But I’m not, and so it’s not. These facts, coupled with the fact of inflation, have led me to wish for years that the penny would be abolished, and probably the nickel too. (When we were kids, playing Monopoly, we never used the $1 or $5 bills; did you?)

But now, at long last, there is a sensible alternative solution to throwing away loose change: “rebasing” the penny to make it worth five cents. The plan comes courtesy of Francois Velde, an economist at the Chicago Fed. Austan Goolsbee has a nice writeup on the subject today, including the necessary history and objections.