Monday, June 05, 2006

Does keeping the penny still make sense?

It's all about the price of Zinc and Copper

By J. Scott Orr

Newhouse News Service

WASHINGTON — They accumulate everywhere, multiplying faster than bunnies, it seems, in pockets, purses and dresser-top jars. And you can't buy much with them.

So why doesn't the United States get rid of the penny, especially now, when, for the first time, the copper-coated coins cost the government more than 1 cent each to make?

At least one bill has been introduced in Congress to retire the coin, but it never gained traction. And the bottom line may be that when it comes to the penny, Americans don't want change.

"Americans want to keep the penny, it's that simple," said Matthew Eggers, policy director of Americans for Common Cents, which is fighting to keep the coin in circulation.

The most recent survey — conducted last year by Coinstar, a Bellevue company that puts coin-counting machines in supermarkets and other locations — found 66 percent of Americans want to keep the penny. It also found 79 percent will stop to pick up a penny.

But the penny's detractors have been buoyed by new figures from the U.S. Mint that show the skyrocketing prices of the two metals used to make the penny — zinc and copper — have pushed the cost of making the coin across the 1-cent threshold for the first time, to 1.23 cents. The penny is 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper, according to the mint... -source

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