Kent Bernhardt: A penny for your thoughts

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2016

It’s time to get rid of the penny.

I’ve reached this conclusion after going back and forth on the issue for years. I once participated in an on-air debate on the subject of the necessity of the penny, and at that time I was pro-penny.

Yes, it was a slow news morning that day.

Now thanks to age, maturity, and the fact that I’m tired of hearing them rattle around in my dryer, I’ve changed my mind.

I don’t want to get rid of all coins, just the penny. I like the other coins. In fact, I pulled enough pocket change out of my sofa one day to pay my daughter’s tuition that semester.

The penny has been around for a long time, but that’s no justification for keeping it around longer. For one thing, they’re expensive to make. Currently, we spend 1.7 cents manufacturing each one cent piece. In 2011, the cost was even higher — 2.4 cents per penny.

We take a financial hit on every penny we make, and I’m told we produce about eight billion a year. You do the math.

Other coins at least try to turn a profit. Dimes cost only 3.4 cents apiece to make, and quarters about nine cents.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, pennies are about 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper. So you can’t refer to them as copperheads anymore.

The biggest reason we should get rid of the penny is we don’t really attach any value to it. A TV news crew recently scattered a hundred-fifty of them on a sidewalk and filmed people’s reaction to them.

Yes, it was another slow news day.

Not one person stopped to pick up even one. No one. I suspect if they had been nickels, at least a few folks would’ve scooped them up. Make them quarters and the ensuing melee would’ve looked like a gang of Methodists going after the last piece of fried chicken at a covered dish dinner.

A Gallup poll once revealed that a large number of us regularly throw away pennies. I actually did that once. I sucked one up in the vacuum cleaner, and when it came time to empty the dust chamber – well, you didn’t think I’d actually dig around in there for it, did you?

For a quarter, sure. And I have.

There was a time we needed the lowly penny. We used to cram a handful into a parking meter while shopping downtown. Twenty minutes later, you would send your kids back to the meter with three or four more to buy extra time.

Three of them would buy a stamp in the 1960s, and as a child, there was no greater thrill than when your mom would hand you a few for a nearby gumball machine. Now for that gumball machine, at the very least you’re going to need that quarter I retrieved from my vacuum cleaner.

Would it be so terrible if we started rounding off all sales to the nearest nickel in the customer’s favor? I don’t think that would cause our planet to spin out of orbit.

And couldn’t we do something else with the millions of dollars we spend manufacturing them each year? Like maybe let the taxpayers keep that money?

It’s an election year, and I’ve decided I’m going to support the anti-penny candidate. But so far, there have been no takers. I would’ve hoped at least Donald Trump would call the penny “a loser” and campaign to dump it, but even he hasn’t stepped up.

Well, all I can say is “a penny for your thoughts.” And I hope that will soon change to “a nickel for your thoughts.”

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.


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