The US really might stop producing pennies

Quartz – by Matt Phillips

It’s getting serious.

The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos reports that in a March 2015 memo to US president Barack Obama, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said he planned to suspend production of the venerable penny.  

While the existence of the memo had not been disclosed previously, the idea of ditching the one-cent piece has been a perennial debate for a few decades now. Among the arguments for: Pennies fall out of circulation almost immediately, forcing the US mint to continually stamp out more, and they cost almost twice as much to produce as they’re worth, according to the most recent data from the US mint.

But unless you’re a card-carrying member of the US zinc lobby—pennies have been 97.5% zinc since 1982—Lew’s proposal shouldn’t be a big deal to you.

The US would be following the sensible, penny-free path carved out by countries including Sweden, Finland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, and the Netherlands, which have similarly dropped diminutive denominations of their currencies with little noticeable impact. Britain and Norway also have eliminated their lowest-denomination coins.

9 thoughts on “The US really might stop producing pennies

  1. Not really a big deal. There used to be half cents as well but they were eliminated ages ago – and I do not think anyone cares much.

    The half cent is the smallest denomination of United States coin ever minted. It was first minted in 1792 and last minted in 1857. It was minted in five different appearances. Wiki-

    1. Britain stopped their half-penny (aka ha’pennies) in about 1970 (when I went there as a graduation gift from HS) when they went to the “new pence” system which was based on units of ten. I got a half-penny (or ha’penny) as a souvenier, as well as a penny, a two-pence (or tuppence), three-pence (or thruppence), sixpence, shilling (14 cents), and half-a-crown (I forgot what that was worth) as well as some pound notes. The changes were set up so that it would enable Britain to enter the Common Market (European Economic Community)–the precursor to the European Union.

      The only real affect will be that instead of prices being marked at, for instance, $3.99, they will be moved up to $4.00.

      If you haven’t started saving copper pennies, now is the time to start! All pre-1982 pennies are copper…the “wheat pennies” are even more valuable (pre-1959).

  2. Pre-1982 pennies are 95% copper. Post 1982 pennies are zinc slug with copper wash. Collect and store all 1981 and prior pennies for the copper value. Collect all post 1982 pennies as metal slugs, which can be drilled to make washers – a resource that is difficult to find at a penny apiece. They can also be used as shot in a shotgun cartridge or for any number of other purposes.

    1. Actually the penny switched from copper to zinc mid 1982.
      A zinc penny weight is 2.5 gr.
      A copper penny weight is 3.1 gr.

      I find that about 25 to 30% of all pennies still circulating are copper.

  3. These new pennies look and feel like fake monopoly game money.
    I have a better idea.
    Keep the penny and get rid of Jack Lew.
    There ya go.

  4. Wake the FRELL up people, if something is $5.23, does the store round up or down, UP and they keep the difference. If this happens that will get more people to up a card for everything and total cashless is not far behind

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