Should The Penny Stay In Circulation? 

Last Updated on March 26, 2024.

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Should The Penny Stay In Circulation?

The US Mint shipped 8.4 billion pennies for circulation in 2017, more than all nickels (1.3 billion), dimes (2.4 billion), and quarters (1.9 billion) combined.  While countries such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have phased out their one-cent pieces, Harris Poll found that 55% of Americans are in favor of keeping the penny, and 29% want to abolish it.

The US Mint produces coins as instructed by Congress, so a law would have to be passed by Congress and signed by the President in order for pennies to be removed from circulation. [4] Several unsuccessful legislative efforts have sought to bring about the penny’s extinction. Most recently, in 2017, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) sponsored ultimately failed legislation that would have suspended minting of the penny.

Proponents of keeping the penny in circulation say that its use avoids increased prices that will hurt low-income households the most, that pennies have a long lifespan and are more cost-efficient to manufacture than nickels, and that pennies are vital to several charities’ fundraising efforts.

Opponents of the continued use of pennies say that the coin has become worthless, that the penny minting process is costly and harmful to the environment, and that eliminating pennies would save time at the point of purchase without harming customers or businesses.

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Pro Argument

A penny can be used for decades and is more cost-efficient to produce than a nickel. Most US coins have an expected circulation life of 20 to 30 years, meaning a single penny could be used thousands or even millions of times. So what if it costs 1.8 cents to make? That’s a bargain for how many times it gets used.

Without pennies, the Mint would be forced to make more five-cent pieces. That would cost an estimated $10.9 million more annually than it would cost to keep making pennies.

Pennies and nickels both cost more to make than their face values, but on average, over the last five years, nickels have been made at a loss of 2.58 cents per coin, compared to .65 cents per penny. The cost of making and shipping pennies includes some fixed costs that the US Mint would continue to incur even if we abolished the penny because the Mint would still make other coins.

The existence of pennies helps raise a lot of money for charities. Organizations such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Salvation Army, and the Ronald McDonald House ask people to donate pennies to raise funds.  In 2009, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society announced that schoolchildren had collected over 15 billion pennies in support of its charitable work — that’s $150 million dollars for blood cancer research and treatment.

Dagmar Serota, who created a nonprofit called Good Cents for Oakland, said, “Pennies are easy to ask for, and they are easy to give. And it’s very easy for a child to say, ‘Will you help me support this nonprofit, will you give me your pennies?'” Elementary school students in Los Angeles, CA, gain significant leadership and civic engagement experience from USC’s Penny Harvest program by choosing how to donate the money they raise.

Common Cents, a nonprofit based in Dallas, TX, has run a “Pennies from the Heart” program for 20 years, and the student-led efforts have raised over $850,000 for local charities. [16] The Ms. Cheap Penny Drive for Second Harvest in Tennessee raised enough to pay for 316,039 meals for the hungry in 2017.

Con Argument

The process of making pennies is costly both financially and environmentally. At a total per-unit cost of 1.82 cents, it costs nearly two pennies to make one penny. Aaron Klein, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Treasury Department, estimates that the United States could see $1.78 billion in losses over the next 30 years if the penny remains in production.

Making pennies also has environmental consequences from mining and transportation. Mining zinc and copper produces carbon dioxide emissions and pollutants and uses vast amounts of energy.

Over the last 35 years, 107 million pounds of carbon dioxide have been emitted due to pennies being delivered from the Mint to banks. A California company called Mike’s Bikes has banned the penny from its registers because “Making pennies wastes natural resources [and] is toxic to people and the environment.”

Eliminating pennies would save time at the point of purchase without hurting customers or businesses financially. The use of pennies in paying for goods and making change adds time to sales transactions. A study by Walgreen’s and the National Association of Convenience Stores found that pennies add 2 to 2.5 seconds to each cash transaction.


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This example is a part of our guide on writing the GED essay.