Do pennies make sense?


Should the U.S. government stop making pennies? (bigstock/The Washington Post)
March 1, 2013

Do pennies make sense?

That might seem like a strange question, but for countries including Canada and Australia, the answer is no.

Those are just two of the countries that have stopped making one-cent coins, and last month, President Barack Obama indicated that it might be time for the United States to stop making them, too.

Here’s the problem. Pennies cost more to make than they’re worth — a lot more. In 2012, it cost the government 2 cents to make each penny. As time goes by, that cost is likely to go up even more as the prices of the metals that are used in the coins go up, economists say. Last year, the government spent $58 million minting, or making, the coins.

So how would you pay for that $9.99 toy if there were no pennies?

Well, the toy would probably cost either $9.95 or $10 in a penniless world. At stores on U.S. Army and Air Force bases, all cash purchases are rounded to the nearest nickel.

President Obama said last month that he wondered whether it still makes sense to make the penny. “Anytime we’re spending money on something people don’t actually use, that’s an example of things we should probably change,” he said.

But the penny has its fans. There’s even a group, cleverly named Americans for Common Cents, that says there’s nothing to be saved by ending the penny. The group says that because prices would most likely be rounded up, people would be forced to pay more. That could be hard on the poor. It also says that without pennies, the government would need to turn out more nickels. And nickels cost 10 cents to make. The good news: Making a dime costs only 5 cents.

— Tracy Grant

A penny for your thoughts:
Should the government stop making pennies? Tell us your opinion in 50 words or fewer and have an adult
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kidspost@washpost.com.
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We’ll publish some of your opinions in
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