Our economy must be in bad shape. How do I know? Well, if I leave my car unlocked overnight, my spare change disappears. I caught a glimpse of the thief a few nights ago. He was cruising down my alley with his lights off at about 11:30 p.m. He got out and jiggled a few handles, but my car door was locked.
Locking my car that night saved me a few bucks, but it’s not like I had my entire savings in my change cup. No, like many Americans, I keep a significant part of my savings in jars and bowls. Citizens like us have billions sitting in coffee cans, drawers and sofa cushions.
As for my retirement fund, it just keeps growing inside a gray metal box at my office. I figure when the box is finally filled with pennies, I’ll have enough for the first 20 minutes of retirement.
Those pennies, according to the article “Penny Dreadful” by David Owen, cost the government 1.7 cents to make. The U.S. Mint loses even more money manufacturing nickels, which cost almost a dime apiece. No wonder there’s a movement afoot to eliminate small change from our currency.
The penny would be the first to go because it’s lost almost all of its purchasing power. The only coin operated machines in the U.S. that still accept pennies are the toll-collecting machines on the Illinois toll way. I know this from experience having heaved handfuls of pennies into the basket to activate the green light.
As for the 5-cent piece, Forest Park is one of the few communities that have parking meters with a slot for nickels. If current trends continue, however, these will be replaced by pricier parking collectors.
If we did eliminate pennies and nickels, we wouldn’t be the first country to do so. New Zealand got rid of its penny and 5-cent piece. Americans are much more traditional though, and we can’t bear to part with our Lincolns and Jeffersons. We also haven’t embraced the $1 coin, which would save the government a mint in printing costs. A coin lasts 30 years, while a Simoleon can only survive a few months of circulation.
Back when the Susan B. Anthony coin came out, I was in charge of coins at the Forest Park National Bank. I’m sure I could have given them away, but otherwise the public didn’t want them. Customers said they were too close in size to a quarter.
As for pennies, if we got rid of them, our local merchants wouldn’t have to buy rolls of 1-cent pieces to make change. Instead, they would round prices to the nearest zero – in the customer’s favor of course. Eliminating Abe unfortunately would make my retirement fund worthless, but hasn’t that already happened to many Americans.