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Coin toss? Americans debate the pros and cons of the penny.

Are pennies more trouble than they're worth? The manager of one Dunkin' Donuts thought so.

"We will be rounding your change to the nearest nickel," read a sign recently posted at the doughnut shop. "If your change is $2.03, we will give you $2.05. If your change is $2.22, you will receive $2.20."


Why drop the penny? That's what many of the store's customers wanted to know. Pretty soon, the experiment was over.

Too bad, says a group called Citizens for Retiring the Penny. Otherwise, customers might have gotten their doughnuts faster.

The group estimates that if cashiers didn't have to count pennies, they could save about two seconds per customer. That translates to four hours per worker per year.

But, the group adds, pennies aren't just a waste of time. They're also a waste of money. Made mostly of zinc, each penny now costs nearly two cents to produce.

To add insult to injury, many of those pennies go unused. According to one survey, the average household has $93.75 worth of pennies lying around--on kitchen counters, in glass jars, and underneath sofa cushions. That means about $10.5 billion of currency is idle. (If that inspires you to cash in your stray pennies, you might need help getting them to the bank: $100 worth of one-cent coins weighs more than 60 pounds.)

Australia, Canada, the U.K., and other countries have already phased out their smallest coins. Should the U.S. do the same?

Many Americans say no. People like pennies, and they want the government to keep making them. Maybe they're just used to having them lying around in their bureau drawers.

But there's more to like about the penny besides nostalgia, says Americans for Common Cents. The pro-penny group claims that many businesses might round up to the nearest nickel, not down, costing consumers about $600 million a year.

That may sound like a lot, but it's only $2 per person--the amount often charged for one ATM transaction. Unless people can think of better reasons to keep the penny, its days may be numbered.


The U.S. Mint
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Title Annotation:Money
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Dec 13, 2010
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