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A penny for your thoughts? More Americans wouldn't bother

By Ke Xu
On April 21, 2012


Donna Carter, a transportation worker, drops a penny into a donation drop for Children's Hospital in front of her while she is waiting for her medium-sized hot tea in Dunkin' Donuts at Boston's City Place.

Carter just had given the cashier two dollars bills and a dime for the $2.09 tea.  When she saw the donation drop with a kid's smiling face and a slogan "It's the little thing that counts," she put the penny the cashier handed back into the drop.

"I always give out my pennies if there is a donation drop because I never use my pennies," Carter said,

Polls show that two in three Americans still support keeping the penny as a form of American currency but that support is slipping.

Among of the leaders of those seeking to retire the penny is Jeff Gore, an MIT physicist profiled this week by The Boston Globe.

"Inflation has eaten away at the value of the penny to such a degree that it no longer facilitates commerce," says Citizens for Retiring the Penny, a website founded by Gore,"the penny is now worth so little that nobody even picks it up off the ground, despite the old 'lucky penny' adage." 

For visitors to the stores around City Place in the Transportation Building, Gore's beliefs are just common sense.

"We should get rid of pennies," Mary Durkin, a saleswoman in Boston from Los Angeles said. She just dropped her pennies into a transparent square box as tips in Starbucks. "It is more expensive to produce the coins than using them."

According to Citizens for Retiring the Penny, the U.S. mint produces about 7 billion pennies every year (roughly half of all coins made), at a cost of over $100 million.  The Boston Globe reported that it now costs 2.41 cents to mint a penny, up from 0.97 cents in 2005 because the cost of medals surges. 

Greg Brown, who said he works in the hotel business, agreed with Durkin.

"Nothing costs a penny today," Brown said. He  said he never use his pennies. 

The debate about whether the penny should be eliminated or not has existed for a long time. According to CNN, in 2002, Jim Kolbe, a former Republican congressman from Arizona introduced the Legal Tender Modernization Act and in 2006 he introduced the Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation (COIN) Act in U.S. Congress. Both bills aimed at ending the production of pennies. Neither passed. 

But the penny still has its supporters, too.  A March poll by Americans for Common Cents, a group aiming at keeping the penny notes that 66 percent of Americans favor keeping it in circulation.

"Americans understand that eliminating the penny would lead to a rounding process and cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in higher prices." Mark Weller, executive director of ACC said on ACC's website.

However, his organization's numbers appear to show a decline in support from 2006, when a poll by Coinstar, Inc.,  showed that 79 percent of Americans favor keeping the penny. Coinstar, Inc. is a multi-national provider of automated retail solutions.

"I don't think it is necessary to keep the penny," said Nicola Menchetti, a first-year law student at New England School of Law, "When I travel abroad, many countries do not have one cent. We see the penny every day, but without it, no big deal." 

By Ke Xu

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