Cents and Sensibility
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In May, the U.S. Mint informed Congress that the cost of making a penny and a nickel will soon exceed the actual value of each coin. Thanks to the high cost of materials that go into the making of the coins—zinc, copper, and nickel—the U.S mint estimates that by the end of the fiscal year, the cost of producing one penny will come to around 1.23 cents, and the cost of making a nickel will be 5.73 cents.
The news revived efforts to take the penny out of circulation. On July 18, Representative Jim Kolbe (R., Ariz.) introduced the Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation (COIN) Act that calls for the modernization of America's currency system. The bill includes implementing a rounding system for cash transactions that would eliminate the penny, increasing the production and circulation of the golden dollar while phasing out the dollar bill, and studying whether a change in the composition of coins to include less expensive metals would be worthwhile.
A similar bill that called for the abolishment of the penny, also drafted by Kolbe, in 2001, never made it past the committee.
The penny does have its supporters. Mark Weller is executive director of American's for Common Cents, a nonprofit organization that was founded in the '90s when similar moves to abolish the penny were launched. His organization's goal is to keep Congress and the public updated on news and information about the penny. Weller says that polls conducted by ABCNews, USA Today/Gallup, and Coinstar all show that the majority of Americans want to keep the penny around.
Weller's outfit has joined with Virgin Mobile USA to start a "Save the Penny" campaign that is meant to show Congress the worth of a penny. As part of a promotion for their one-cent text messages, Virgin Mobile is sending trucks around the U.S. this summer to collect pennies to benefit youth charities. The tour also is picking up signatures for their save the penny petition along the way.
The penny may have time on its side. In December, 2005, President Bush signed into law a bill that mandated that the penny commemorate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday with a redesign. The date of the penny's redesign: 2009.Click here for the slide show