Penny candy, penny ante, the penny arcade. A good 5-cent cigar. Nice phrases, but they're all outdated, even quaint. The fact is, nothing costs a penny, or even two, anymore. And the billions of pennies in circulation are jamming vending machines, stalling lines and creating a major headache for the U.S. Mint. It's time to send the penny out to pasture.
There are plenty of practical reasons to stop making pennies. They account for 75% of the coins produced by the United States. They cost the mint more than $90 million each year, and private companies spend millions more for counting and storing. Pennies use up vast amounts of zinc and copper--versatile metals that could otherwise be used to make kettles or kickstands.
But mostly pennies are just too much trouble. They spread and multiply faster than cockroaches in Texas. They cover our tabletops, fill up our ashtrays, wear out our pockets and purses. They account for millions of hours spent waiting in line while cashiers fumble to make change or shoppers sift through their purses to dig them out.
Millions of people already leave their pennies at home. The mint coins more than 12 billion pennies every year; of those, more than 2 billion disappear almost immediately--into piggy banks, mayonnaise jars and dresser drawers. Collectors start with a glimmer of hope--a penny saved is a penny earned, we tell ourselves--but soon enough pitching pennies into a jar becomes just another habit. When one jar fills up, we open another, too busy or too lazy ever to take stock of the collection.