Time to kill off the penny?
Now that the coins cost more to make than theyâ€™re worth, efforts have begun anew to kill off the cent -- and to save it, too.
In May, the U.S. Mint informed Congress that the cost of making a penny and a nickel will soon exceed the actual value of each coin. Thanks to the high cost of materials that go into the making of the coins -- zinc, copper and nickel -- the Mint estimates that by the end of the fiscal year, the cost of producing one penny will come to around 1.23 cents, and the cost of making a nickel will be 5.73 cents.
The news revived efforts to take the penny out of circulation. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R- Ariz., has begun drafting a bill to modernize America's currency system. According to Kolbe's press secretary, Korenna Cline, the bill would most likely include a slow phasing out of the penny, create a reasonable rounding system, increase the production and circulation of the $2 bill as well as the Sacajawea (often called the golden) dollar, and possibly change the composition of coins to include less-expensive metals.
In 2001, a similar bill that called for the abolishment of the penny, also drafted by Kolbe, never made it out of committee. (Do you think it's time to kill the penny? Vote here
The penny does have its supporters. Mark Weller is executive director of Americans for Common Cents, a nonprofit organization that was founded in the '90s when similar moves to abolish the penny were launched. His organization's goal is to keep Congress and the public updated on news and information about the penny. Weller says that polls conducted by ABCNews, USA Today/Gallup and Coinstar all show that the majority of Americans want to keep the penny around.
Weller's outfit has joined with Virgin Mobile USA to start a "Save the Penny" campaign that is meant to show Congress the worth of a penny. As part of a promotion for their 1-cent text messages, Virgin Mobile is sending trucks around the United States this summer to collect pennies to benefit youth charities. The tour also is picking up signatures for their save-the-penny petition along the way.
The penny may have time on its side. In December 2005, President Bush signed into law a bill that mandated that the penny commemorate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday with a redesign. The date of the penny's redesign: 2009.
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