Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pennies – The currency, not the store

A few days ago when I was at work, I asked one of my co-workers if he could go downstairs and get something for me out of the vending machine. I had 70 cents in dimes, nickels and a quarter, plus five pennies that I couldn't use in the vending machine. Of course, the item I wanted was 75 cents. The guy who had gone down to get that item for me chipped in a nickel, and I offered him the five pennies to make up the difference, but (surprise, surprise) he didn't want them.

But when you go to the grocery store (at least in Kansas, where everything has tax added to it), you end up with an uneven total most of the time, so if you're paying with cash and want to use exact change, you have to use pennies. And, conversely, if you don't have exact change, you get pennies back. Some people just tell the cashier to "keep the change" because they don't want the pennies.

Obviously, since pennies don't work in vending machines, they're not going to work at a coin-operated car wash or gumball machine or anywhere else. They seem to only be useful when paying for something in a restaraunt or in a grocery store and using exact change.

And now, the government is considering getting rid of pennies altogether, because the zinc used in their production (about 97% of their production, in fact) is costing the government more than the coin is worth to produce. I don't know about what you think, but if the government gets rid of pennies, everyone is going to have to make changes. Tax rates will have to be rounded not down, but up, to bring the total of purchases, etc., to the next nickel. That's a huge change for everyone.

But, as for the positive, that means no loose pennies hanging around that will never be used. It also means that if the government is going to phase them out, we need to start collecting what we have. They may be worth a lot more someday.

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