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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?