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Pennies are Barely Worth the Metal they’re Minted On

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Tom Fudge: The penny has become so engrained in our culture, it's hard to imagine a world without it. Songs like "Penny Lane" and "Pennies from Heaven" come to mind. People still offer you a penny for your thoughts. But if you really did have something worth telling someone, these days you might want them to pay you a buck before you come out with it. 

The fact is, the penny today has so little value, it's hardly worth the trouble. Thrifty people still save pennies in a jar, in hopes of someday taking it to the bank or the grocery store to get a few bills in return. But most of us know it's not even worth it to bend over to pick up a penny. Some people actually throw them in the trash at the end of the day. You may have heard that it costs the U.S. Mint more than one cent to manufacture a penny.

Now, if you think that it's always been this way, that's not really true. Pennies did used to be worth something. In 1940, a one-pound loaf of bread cost you eight cents. Back then, the American penny had more purchasing power than a quarter does today. So, should we just get rid of the penny? It wouldn't be unprecedented. New Zealand has gotten rid of its one cent and five cent coins. And there's talk of eliminating the Canadian penny.

Guests

  • Jim Kolbe,  former member of Congress from Arizona. He sponsored legislation several times, during his Congressional tenure, seeking to abolish the penny.
  • Mark Waller, executive director of Americans for Common Cents .

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