PENNIES FROM HEAVEN
by Edwin D. Reilly, Jr.
for the Sunday Gazette
For a myriad of reasons, most of which I do not agree with, there seems to be a growing movement advocating abolition of the penny. The coin is often considered a worthless nuisance, one not even worth bending over to pick up. But the need to abolish the penny is important national problem number 1,356, well behind the more urgent need to abolish the designated hitter.
Think of what damage it would do to our
musical heritage if there were no longer any such thing as a penny.
would cost at least a nickel. “Nickels from Heaven” just wouldn’t cut
it. (Sorry, Bing.) Penny loafers would
become dime loafers
because a nickel wouldn’t fit in their slots. And we’d have to buy them
Relatively, pennies have the same
value as they always did, namely, a hundredth of a dollar. But the
one can’t buy anything for a penny isn’t quite true; sample the used
section of Amazon.com and you’ll find hundreds of books, good copies
sale for one cent. (Postage extra, of course.)
Yes, pennies do tend to accumulate. Like
the closet, I think they propagate when left overnight on the dresser.
must not deprive our kids of the pleasure of rolling fifty to a paper
twice, to make a dollar. I had great fun when I was nine or ten helping
my grandfather do this at his confectionary
In those days, there was the added fun of
across an Indian Head Cent now and then. No more, of course; people
foolish to part with pennies that are now worth between one and four
dollars each depending on date and mintage.
There are many things the individual can
minimize accumulation of pennies. For those things paid with a check or
card, amounts owed that are not divisible by five are no problem. Some
even have parking meters that accept debit cards. Not
In anticipation of small purchases, I try
remember to put three pennies in my pocket each morning. That way, I am
likely to get rid of one, two, or three when I buy something and yet
gaining one more if some purchase requires an extra four cents.
Other things that would help require
governmental action or, less effectively, voluntary changes in pricing
by businesses. Some would not oblige. But items subject to sales tax
complication. There is no sense rounding a price to the nearest five
the added sales tax would throw things off, and if rounding is done
tax is added, there might be state or county complaints that they were
But there was one attempt in that
direction. In 2002,
Kolbe sponsored the Legal Tender Modernization Act, which would have
the penny by specifying that cash transactions be averaged to the
with the rounding done such that it favors neither the customer nor the
retailer. Pretty good trick, but the legislation died aborning.
I have always thought it ridiculous that
prices are set to end in 99 cents, or in the case of gasoline,
nine-tenths of a
cent. Do retailers think that we consumers are too dumb to be fooled by
practices? Don’t answer.
And more recently, perhaps
only thirty or so years ago, there must
have been a secretly-convened convention of almost all U.S. citizens,
I wasn’t invited to, that decided that there we would no longer use the
fifty-cent piece. There is no need to punish violation; try and find
coins must be stashed away somewhere with the two-dollar bills.
is a whole national society dedicated to the abolition of the penny.
their arguments is that it costs more than a penny to mint a penny. But, as Dick Cheney is prone to say, “So?”
Another is that
penny handling takes a few extra seconds at the cash register. Big deal.
most complete rationale for abolishing the penny of which I am aware
by David Owen in a very interesting and informative article in the New
of March 31 (see www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/03/31/080331fa_fact_owen).
days earlier, a voter at Senator Barack Obama's
hall meeting in
Next year, 2009, is not only the
In December 2005, Senator Richard Durbin
Moral: Save your extra pennies in that urn on your desk. A penny saved is a penny urned.
Edwin D. Reilly, Jr., a sporadic
numismatist and philatelist, lives in