Change Simply Makes No “Cents”

Change Simply Makes No “Cents”

By Ben Snyder

Change such as the pennies pictured above are not only a time-wasting nuisance but impose a serious cost on the economy. Estimates approach 100 million dollars lost annually to these hefty slices of metal. Photo from pixabay.com.

We are told that “variety is the spice of life”. While it may be that change keeps people on their toes, the opposite can be said about the kind that jingles. The only thing worse than being forced to dig through your pockets for 74 cents (two quarters, two dimes, and four pennies) is being forced to wait in line while the person in front of you sifts through mountains of coins for an absurdly odd number.

Say you, a savvy shopper, decide to skip the hassle and simply pay in paper. You fork over a few greenbacks for a cup of coffee and all of a sudden the cashier dumps an unwieldy heap of coins into your hand. Now, especially if you do not have a purse at your disposal, you must make a difficult maneuver to slide the coins into your pocket while stabilizing the coffee and sliding the remainder of your bills into the wallet. Wouldn’t it make life easier to say goodbye to coins for good?

Change may appear to be only a minor inconvenience and certainly no reason for so drastic a measure; “first world problems” you mutter to yourself with a snort. Well the issues with change go far beyond wasting time. Coins, and their most egregious offenders the penny and nickel, actually lose money all around.

Though the penny only contains slightly more than a fiftieth of a gram of copper (the rest being zinc) and a nickel contains 3.75 grams of the substance, their cost to produce consistently outstrips the printed value. The Mint reported in 2013 that it cost 1.8 cents to produce a penny and 9.4 cents to produce a nickel resulting in a direct overall loss of 105 million dollars.

Change’s mischief does not stop there, however, the little imps act up again while in the hands of the consumer. With the troublesome difficulties involved with paying in and transporting heavy coins, most opt to use cash instead. In doing so they either accumulate hoards of useless coins or figure it's only a few cents and tell the cashier to keep the change. Combined over hundreds of transactions on items infallibly priced at something 99 cents, these losses can really add up. 

Small value coins simply no longer belong in our society. Keeping denominations such as the penny proved handy when one could purchase small trinkets at half-cent stores in colonial times, but due to inflation pennies and nickels now posses only a negligible purchasing power. The government recognized this problem with the half cent all the way back in 1857 and retired it. More than a century later, why are we still holding on to the penny?

Proponents of coinage remark that strategically placed donation boxes or employee tip jars rely on small denomination coins to bring in money for low earners or charities. Coins may bring in much needed revenue for organizations like UNICEF but it hardly seems fair to offer desperate customers no other option. It would be much easier and probably more lucrative to have sponsor stores that let users donate money from part of their bill to a charity of their choice.

Chinese paper money and then checks and finally credit cards were all hailed as brilliant inventions that revolutionized finance but we still hold onto metal coins as a currency. It’s time to stop living in the middle ages and switch to a more practical money supply. At the very least we should eradicate the most damaging low-denomination coins and save ourselves a headache. Go to retirethepenny.org to learn more.

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