For the last maybe 20 years, I’ve been complaining about pennies. At first I was impressed by the spontaneous order in solutions like the “Have one, leave one. Need one, take one” dish. Then I realized that such accommodations only propped up an evil regime — and I griped to anyone who would listen that we should just get rid of the penny altogether.

Most people either nodded politely at my suggestion or edged away as one might from a mangy dog. But now at last, I’ve found the best (and best-presented) argument for abolishing the penny that I’ve ever seen.

Watch this video from C.G.P. Grey and tell me you don’t disagree.


 

23 Responses to “Death to Pennies!”

  1. I saw this tweeted by Justin Wolfers a few days ago — excellent video! I like how there is support (for getting rid of the penny) from more than one perspective [economic, time, etc.]

    With Gratitude,

    Jeremiah

  2. Paul says:

    I love the concept! I work in the office products field and nothing I would like more than to charge you more than $0.01 per page. If I could roll that up to a nickel a page it would revolutionize my economy. Seriously though if we could eliminate that somewhat copper money it would be incredibly beneficial.

    On a side note, was it really necessary to say Texas hates Lincoln? We get a bad rap down here, oh well enjoy shoveling snow; I’ll be wearing shorts on Christmas day.

    Thanks for posting sir.

  3. Michele says:

    The post office should listen to this too – I would bet that the 3rd class mail rate doesn’t pay for the cost of processing and delivering that mail. Fix the post office (get rid of 3rd class mail rates – all mail is one higher rate, and cut home delivery to 2-3x/week (odd zip codes on odd dates, even zip codes on even dates)and the government could save billions.

  4. Nate says:

    I’m convinced, but I’m sure if this was proposed in the US some politician would be “up in arms” about doing something just because Europe does it. After all, most politicians hate to compare the US to Europe.

  5. You stole my post for tomorrow! I swear I wrote it yesterday and was going to post it tomorrow. Dan Pink is a thief much like the U.S. Penny is on our productivity and our economic prosperity!!!! ;)

  6. Bob Thomas says:

    Death to pennies! That’s my nickle’s worth. I would say that it’s my two-cents worth, but death to pennies.

    I have other axes to grind too.

    First axe: Death to the dollar bill! Leave the coins, get rid of the bills by pulling them out of circulation. I am certain that the Bureau of Printing and Engraving could tell an equally dismal tale about the economics of keeping dollar bills in circulation.

    Second axe: Death to English standard measurements. NASA should send all Feet, pounds, and degrees Fahrenheit on an expedition to Mars.

  7. Dan Pink Dan Pink says:

    @Bob —

    I’m with you on that second axe. They told us in third grade that the US would soon be converting fully to the metric system. Thirty-nine years later, it still hasn’t happened. Enough already!

    BTW, I have my weather.com bookmark and my weather phone apps all in Celsius. Of course. If we encourage others to do the same, maybe the revolution will begin!

  8. Damien Guard says:

    Great argument but don’t fall for the “include sales tax on the price” pitch! Yes, that’s what they do in the UK and once hidden the sales tax is free to rise away form visible consumer eyes.

    It’s currently 20%.

    [)amien

  9. Katherine says:

    Ah, but what will we do with the Squished Penny tourist market? If the curators of the now defunct Squished Penny Museum could hear you talk…

    I will consider your penny removal, if you will consider my currency pet peeve Mr. Pink. While I was flattered that Sacagawea got her place on the dollar coin – I was extremely miffed that my female voting rights freedom fighter – Susan B. Anthony – was taken off to do it. But I have a solution.

    Andrew Jackson was a shmuck. Whatever good quality arguments that may exist – the Trail of Tears can wash them away, and, regardless, he should not be honored with a bill. So – give the twenty dollar bill to Susan B. Anthony (or pair her up with Elizabeth Barrett Browning), who helped to ensure that over 50% of the citizens of this country can vote – and I will consider supporting the retirement of the penny in spite of my love of flattened, engraved currency.

  10. Pam Daniels says:

    Interesting. A few thoughts from a person who lives in the Land of Lincoln, a.k.a. Illinois, where our tollbooths actually do still take pennies.

    It seems like rounding to nearest five cents adds unnecessary complexity to a system designed around tens (decimals), not fives. Why don’t we just go for it and round to tenths and not hundreths? Eliminate the nickels AND pennies.

    And in terms of time savings, unlike Europe where VAT tax is added before, in the US we have cash register markups due to sales taxes applied at the time of sale. Perhaps even more annoying than waiting for the penny pincher in front of you to count pennies is waiting for the clerk to explain to that person why she was overcharged by 2 cents due to rounding to the nearest five.

    Or is the whole issue moot with the increase of virtual payment options? It seems the trend is to produce fewer and fewer coins per year. According to Coin News, over the past ten years the number of pennies minted has fallen by half. http://www.coinnews.net/mints/us-circulating-coin-production-figures/

    That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.

  11. Terry says:

    Ummm actually you can use pennies in toll booths. I live in Chicago and use them everyday.

    Great points made but for people to take this most seriously, all the facts should be true.

    Nicely done otherwise.

  12. Sue Reddel says:

    Dan you’re spot on as usual. I’ve been complaining about pennies for years. To make matters worse my Grandmother and Uncle were coin collectors and loved the “wheat” pennies. Grrrr. I say don’t stop there let’s get rid of all coins. They weigh down your bag/purse, especially when you’re in Europe. And you never have the right combination which creates even MORE change. Let’s just stick to paper people or accept electronic payments everywhere.

  13. Christine Fotheringham says:

    About going metric – I believe we’re supposed to already be there. Here’s an article you may find interesting http://www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/metric/upload/1136a.pdf. I remember that for a while many of the gas stations sold gas in liters, then they just faded away.

  14. Eugene Broussard says:

    What really bothers me is the 9/10 of a cent on the price of gasoline. Round the dam thing up. It will raise the
    price of 10 gallons of gas one penny. Funny how the final
    price for gasoline purchased never has any tenths of a cent. Three gallons purchased should end in 7/10 of a cent.
    We do not tokens, we don’t need 1/10 of a cent in the price.

  15. Yes, but…A fountain wish will go up to five cents a wish, and I don’t know if a nickel or dime squishes that well on railroad tracks. Then there’s the issue of unexpected good luck…we would need a new little ditty. What will come of “Find a penny pick it up..then all day youll have good luck.”

    Think man, think! Penny loafers? How much would we have to fork over for a thought or an old guy?

    Pennies from heaven….Have you no heart?

  16. Jim W. says:

    There is a correction to be made to the video: the mint doesn’t make 4 million pennies per year, but 4 billion in 2010! ( 5.4 billion pennies in 2008 and 2.3 billion in 2009) I found the following coinage production numbers on wikipedia!

    Jim

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Mint_coin_production

  17. Dan says:

    Dan: Can we have your thoughts on the comments left by the following:

    Katherine: who mentioned the squished penny industry? I don’t think she was joking: On the Pennsylvania Turnpike at least, these machines can be found at every rest stop. I’m sure a number of vending machine operators earn a decent portion of their salaries from such machines.

    Damien: who mentioned the 20 percent UK sales tax. (I don’t know the back story there, so I can’t really comment on it myself.)

    Also, me: I’ve found another error in this guy’s otherwise wonderfully-done video. I too used to be very anti-Coinstar, and in fact I still don’t care much for the company. (Although whoever came up with the idea is a Capitalistic genius, albeit a rather evil one.) Anyway, the Coinstar at my local grocery store takes absolutely none of your money whatsoever, so long as you spend 100 percent of the money in the grocery store. And if you’re already going to be buying groceries, why not?

    Thanks for the video, though, and the (mostly) very strong arguments therein.

    Dan

  18. Justin Brady says:

    I have hated the penny for some time. It’s good to have some facts to back my hatred. Thanks!

  19. Petri Suni says:

    Hi Daniel, interesting post. As the video tells, we don’t have such a useless unit here in Finland, but I have had my share of the pain when visiting abroad.

    I had a thought about the dilemma and posted on my blog what I came up with – http://i-drew-something.blogspot.com/2011/12/death-to-pennies.html

    -petri.

  20. Hello Dan Pink Fans:

    If you don’t want your pennies Mama T. will take them. :)

    http://www.facebook.com/ThelmaWells.AWomanofGodMinistries

    Send to

    P.O. Box 151728
    Dallas, TX 75315

    She has some cool visions regarding what she’d like to do with them.

    Cheri

  21. Here’s Mama T’s blog post about the pennies.

    Just in case you still don’t know what to do with them.

    http://www.thelmawells.com/cent-dream.php

    Cheri

  22. If getting rid of the penny is one of the things we see as pressing enough for the federal government to spend time focusing on right now, we have way bigger problems than pennies.

    While I agree eliminating the penny is pragmatic. I don’t believe it’s timely. We have a serious lack of leadership in this country. We should be working on a solution to that, not on obsoleting useless currency.

  23. P. J. Grath says:

    The argument given is classic ecoomics, i.e., based on the idea of maximizing time and money. With the motivational research (not to mention other recent economic behavioral studies, haven’t we put that self-maximizing rational man to bed yet?

    I have been a shopkeeper (indie bookseller) for over 18 years. We have a 6% sales tax in our state. I use pennies. The coins that pile up until they are overflowing their part of the drawer are nickels. I could live very well without nickels but would miss pennies, both for making change and for their good looks.

    Irrationally yours and intrinsically rewarded,
    your neighborhood bookseller

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