Thursday, June 9, 2016

A (U.S.) Penny for Your Thoughts

Now that Canadians have had a few years of life without the penny, we’ve more or less figured out that none of the terrible predictions came true. But the U.S. has penny proponents who are sure that eliminating the penny will bring big trouble. I think their tactics are all wrong, though.

One penny advocacy group called Americans for Common Cents wastes their time trying to refute obvious facts such as that the penny is essentially worthless, and that eliminating pennies will save time at checkout and will save the government some money.

This approach of trying to make nonsense arguments sound reasonable is a bad strategy. I think they need to hit people with on a more emotional level. Here’s one idea from another successful lobby:

The government wants to come into your house and take all your pennies!

Nobody wants the authorities trampling flowers and rooting through their underwear drawers. And just think of the increased cost of having to play Rummoli with nickels.

All prices will have to be 5 times more once the penny is gone!

This is a way better grabber than some conspiracy theory of retailers fixing prices so they get the benefit from rounding to the nearest nickel.

It would probably be too offensive to use something like “First they came for the Socialists’ pennies …,” but when your position makes no sense, sometimes desperate moves are all you have.

The truth obviously won’t do. Saying “I’m old and I don’t like it when things change” or “I like collecting pennies more than I like talking to people” won’t change opinions.

Maybe Canada and the U.S. are in a race. Which will happen first: the U.S. eliminates the penny or Canada gets rid of both nickels and dimes? My money is on the U.S., but the current presidential race makes it hard to imagine a time when U.S. politics stops being dysfunctional.


  1. Given the US aversion for the 50 cent piece, and the $2 bill, and their general zelotry about the government changing anything (much like a child does on the Autism Spectrum), I think Canada may abolish the $1 before the US Penny goes away.

    1. @Alan: Maybe they'll adopt the metric system first :-)

  2. I was told that the next most efficient move would be to eliminate the dime (wich is nothing else than 2 nickels after all)and re-introduce the 50 cents coin at large scale.

    Others claim the only denominations below 1$ should be a 20 cents and a 50 cents (even if none of those are used actually)!

    For myself, I would just be happy with 0.25$, 2$ coins! We used to "roll" all of the coins in the house once a year. We stop doing it when we realised we stash about 10$/year in the piggy bank including few loonies!

    I wonder how much it cost/year to the US mint to keep the penny and print 1$ bills?

    1. @Le Barbu: It's hard enough to get people to accept the elimination of small coins without trying to introduce 20-cent or 50-cent pieces into common usage. I think the only sensible path is to eliminate nickels and dimes together. This isn't likely to happen soon, though.

  3. Hey Michael,

    I still find the elimination of the penny and the push now to go after higher denomination coins a negative. It's confirmation that the value of a dollar has eroded and is still eroding and no one seems to be paying attention to this. It's also the next step on the war against cash. Look at your last link on today's "short takes" for example. A million dollar retirement is no longer a sure bet you won't need a part time job one day to supplement it...

    I think this simple graphic depiction of coin debasement kind of spells it out well.

    1. @Paul: Past inflation has already happened. Getting rid of the penny is not the cause of past inflation. Forcing the government to keep making pennies to rub their noses in the fact that they caused past inflation won't make any difference. I'm no fan of high inflation, or government mismanagement in general, but keeping the penny won't help.