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Ditch the penny?

NEWS FACT A bill currently before the U.S. Congress would make the penny obsolete.

Thanks to a spike in metal prices, it now costs the U.S. Mint 1.23 cents to make a penny. Inflation is also dealing a blow to the beleaguered coin. Economists estimate that it takes about 7 cents to buy what 1 penny bought in 1956. Since many people don't bother to use the coin, roughly $1 billion worth of pennies are out of circulation. Just look in your piggy bank or bedroom drawer to find some of them.

U.S. Representative Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona) is the sponsor of legislation that would phase out the penny over the next five years. If Kolbe's bill becomes law, eventually all financial transactions will be rounded to the nearest nickel. Supporters say that this will save precious time at supermarket and convenience store checkout lines.

But a recent USA Today/Gallup survey found that more than half of Americans favor keeping the penny, which they say still serves a purpose. In recent years, for instance, charities have collected pennies as a way of raising money for worthy causes.

What Do You Think?

Is it time to ditch the penny?


People are leaving their pennies at cash registers more and more often. Why? The coins are practically worthless. Yet the U.S. Mint will produce 82 billion pennies this year, representing about half of all coins made.

"Most people don't even pick up pennies from the street, so it is kind of a waste of money to make them," says Elise Keale, 12, a seventh-grader at Knollwood School in Fair Haven, New Jersey.

Mike Patterson, 11, agrees. "People don't really use pennies that much anymore," says the sixth-grader at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, New York. "They are usually just on the ground or around the house."

Rob Cooper, 13, an eighth-grader at Allendale Columbia, says that using the penny "wastes time. What's the point of $19.99? Why not just get rid of the penny, and make everything an even dollar?"


The penny was the first currency of any type authorized by the U.S. government. It serves an important purpose. "They can't take away the building block of the dollar," says Mitchell Atkin, 13, an eighth-grader at Allendale Columbia. "If prices were rounded up, you'd lose more money, and taxes might even be a little higher. They can't take away the number one, so why can they take away the penny?"

Tiffany Sath, 12, agrees that rounding up prices would be a mistake. "What if an item costs 8 cents?" says Tiffany, a seventh-grader at Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, Massachusetts. "We would have to pay a dime. We would lose 2 cents."

Her classmate, Ali Fareri, 12, wonders about the feelings of the President whose image adorns the penny. "How do you think Abraham Lincoln would feel about this?" Ali says. "It's complete disrespect of one of our best Presidents."

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Title Annotation:Debate
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 30, 2006
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