Retiring the penny makes good sense

Recently Canada announced that beginning this fall, the nation will no longer mint or distribute pennies. This would have been a much bigger story in the world, had there not been rumors – quickly squashed – that Lindsay Lohan had gotten in a catfight in a night club.

The United States, never one to play second fiddle in North America, except when it comes to ice hockey, curling, and French, cannot help but wonder whether the same fate should befall our penny. After all, it costs more to make a penny than it’s worth, and it’s only a matter of time before “road rage” is replaced by “mini-mart rage.” Trust me: Someday someone is going to go postal because a very nice elementary school student or senior citizen is holding up the line by counting out 59 pennies. (If you suspect that “someone” is my coy way of distancing myself from my own inner jerk, you would be right.)

I asked readers whether the United States should eliminate our one-cent coin, too. Here is what they said.

  • Elizabeth Pitney Seidler: “I am so over the penny. It’s an annoyance that collects dust in the car and the laundry room. Counting and stacking them is a pain – though the penny is a great way to pay off your ex-husband if money is owed.”
  • Roxanne Tastula Loughlin: “Would I have to have a nickel loafers or a dime’s worth of thoughts? Would Mr. Pennypacker have to change his name? What would be the fate of my lucky penny?”
  • Jennifer Recker: “My three little girls would miss the penny. My three-year-old found two pennies at the park yesterday and thought she had hit the jackpot!”
  • Louise Shipley: “The mall water fountains would probably see a decrease in revenue. When my daughter was younger, she would throw pennies on the ground so that lucky youngsters would find them and it would make them happy. I’m not sure I’d be thrilled if she’d wanted to throw nickels and dimes.”
  • Matthew Wood: “‘Pennies from Heaven,’ Chris. ‘Pennies from Heaven.’”
  • Frank A. Mason: “The song, ‘Nickels from Heaven,’ just doesn’t sound right.”
  • Kristin Yager Watson: “The only way I would miss them would be if prices went way down and we could actually buy something with them!”
  • Kari Grunberg: “See a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. We can’t lose the penny!”
  • Suzan Castor: “I’d miss it. As a small child, to find a penny on a sidewalk or in a pile of melting snow was like winning the lottery. Taking them to school on banking day; putting the occasional penny on the railroad tracks where it ended up bigger than a silver dollar; using your pencil eraser on an old penny to make it look shiny and new; examining every penny for the elusive and potentially ‘valuable’ wheat penny. The copper color stands out from the silver coins. Why must we replace or throw away all that’s old and loved and works perfectly well for the shiniest and newest?”
  • Rachel Sunshine: “As a mother of two young children, I have recently instituted a penny reward system. While this may seem trivial to most, my children have really begun to value what it means to do a task and be rewarded. For each task that they complete, they are given a penny. It is a coin that represents a value of ‘one’ for that task. When teaching lessons about money, this simple little coin for me is worth more than one cent.”
  • Jody Chamberlin: “How would we honor Lincoln?”

Indeed, how would we honor Lincoln? Perhaps the five-dollar bill, the monument, and the village in which I live are not enough? (Oh, wait. Lincoln, Vermont is named after Benjamin Lincoln, a Revolutionary War general.)

My two cents? Let’s lace up our skates, pop a Molson, and follow Canada.

(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on April 22, 2012. The paperback of Chris’s most recent novel, “The Night Strangers,” arrives this Tuesday, April 24.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

2 thoughts on “Retiring the penny makes good sense

  1. Sandra McCullough says:

    I very often toss a few pennies somewhere and think of how happy a small child will be to find them.
    I would miss the penny for a little while. I guess I just don’t like change. Like that daylight savings time . Right now it seems perfect.

  2. Jane Groves says:

    I’m saddened by the phasing out of the good old penny as it has served Canada well since 1858. It’s an attractive looking coin sporting a maple leaf design and will be missed by many. A silver penny was found recently in the UK that escaped the coppering process at the mint, it is worth thousands!

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