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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Do Pennies Make “Cents”?

Do Pennies Make Cents?When was the last time you paid for something with pennies or lost your patience as the person in the front of the line searched high and low for a penny? You can’t use them in the vending machine or at the laundry mat. Don’t even think of putting them in the parking meter or tossing them at tollbooths. No wonder pennies are left on the bottom of purses, in dishes at cash registers, and in ashtrays in cars. Pennies have outlived their value. They sit and collect dust. Some people do cash in their stash at banks and machines that count your loose change, but others throw pennies away, or continue to let them sit and sit.

The reason for having a monetary system is to facilitate exchange. If most people are saving, stashing, or even tossing pennies aside, we are not using this coin to promote commerce.It also costs more to produce a penny than what it’s worth. According to an annual report put out by the U.S. Mint, a penny cost 2 cents to produce in 2012, and worse than that, it’s been costing more than its face value to mint since 2006.

For years, U.S. military bases overseas haven’t used or accepted pennies. Canada stopped minting pennies last year, and many other countries such as Australia and New Zealand have also pitched their pennies. Isn’t it time we follow suit?

We proposed the idea that pennies made no sense in a story featured in the 1989 Farmers’ Almanac. Many readers supported our idea and wrote to their local representatives, but as we all know, pennies are still around.There have been two proposed bills that called for the elimination of the penny, but both failed. In February 2013, President Obama did agree that it was time for the penny to retire. So what’s holding up the process?

One of the arguments against doing away with the penny is the whole idea that consumers will have to pay more if we have to round up. But, the key here is that the prices will be rounded up or down, and only if you pay in cash. Our neighbors to the north have this all figured out. The Canadian government has suggested that if the price is $1.01—1.02 or $1.06—1.07 that you round down, and if it’s $1.03—1.04 or $1.08—1.09, you round up to the nearest nickel. This would only be for cash sales. If you pay by credit, debit, or check you would not round up or down.

Since 1989 when we first broached the subject of ditching the penny, debit cards have come into great popularity. You can now use plastic–credit or debit cards–at parking meters, fast food restaurants, and many other places including, obviously, purchases made online which were nonexistent in 1989. Some people never use coins due to the ease and convenience of debit cards. (Which makes us wonder if other coins should be eliminated from our currency as well …)

In a day and age of scaling back wasteful spending, why not save taxpayers $58 million dollars (that is what the Mint spent on producing pennies in 2012) and stop minting pennies. There have been studies or suggestions on changing the metal used to mint pennies, but even the U.S. Mint has concluded that changes to “metals formulation of the one-cent coin would not yield significant cost improvements over the current formulation because the current market price of zinc is competitive with the prices of the credible alternatives, steel and aluminum.”

Over the years, pennies have been made out of copper, bronze, and zinc and steel was used during WWII. Since 1982, zinc has been used as the main ingredient of the penny in an effort to save costs, but zinc prices have proven to be unstable.

Help us Pitch the Penny

As part of our crusade to get rid of the penny, we’re first asking you to pool all those loose pennies that are hanging around your house, drawers, and cars and find a worthy cause to donate them too. Then enter our contest and we might donate 50,000 more pennies to your cause!

We also encourage you to write to your elected representative telling them why you support our efforts to Pitch the Penny. We have a suggested letter here you can use or feel fee to write your own.

Search by zip code to find your elected officials’ websites, and then fill out his/her contact form as directed.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.