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A costly penny for your thoughts
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It costs taxpayers 1.83 cents to mint a penny.

And if you’re like me, you probably have $5 or so worth of pennies between what you may have accumulated in a jar, under the seat of your car, or scattered about drawers.

Unlike nickels that cost 9.24 cents to mint, if you see a penny on the ground you aren’t likely to bend over and pick it up.

You can accumulate a few nickels and actually be able to afford to buy something even if is just out of a vending machine. Pennies, on the other hand, can’t even be used in vending machines or even parking meters any longer.

Many of us in stores pass on a penny or two in change and instead opt to drop it in a communal dish that other customers could use to complete a transaction without breaking a bigger coin.

If your change is just few pennies, typically a clerk will ask if you want it, or you may tell them to keep them.

That said, it tends to make a few people angry when a clerk arbitrarily decides to keep the extra penny or two such as two cents back when you hand a dollar bill for a 98-cent purchase.

Those clerks tend to be owners — mostly in convenience stores — who can benefit from a day’s worth of penny dropping.

One Manteca convenience store owner who has since moved into a different venture was known to brag how he’d pocket $5 to $7 a day from the penny honor dish at his cash register. When customers found out, it angered them. But then again, they didn’t want the pennies anyway.

I don’t really want the pennies either as they are annoying in your pants pocket or when dropped in your wallet.

However, it does tick me off when a clerk doesn’t ask me first and just takes the extra pennies. My reaction is to simply not patronize a store that essentially openly steals money from me.

And I say that knowing full well I have pennies at home and in my desk that will probably stay there for many years to come collecting dust.

Perhaps we should do what the Canadians did. They minted their last pennies in 2012 and stopped circulating pennies on Feb. 13, 2013.

The Canadian economy didn’t collapse. Businesses didn’t go bankrupt or get big windfalls. Individuals weren’t driven to the poor house by rounding off receipts when they paid in cash.

 What happens today in Canada is if your tab comes to $4.92 and you pay in cash, it is rounded down to $4.90. If the tab is $4.93, it is rounded up to $4.95.

Study after study has shown it has been essentially a wash for individuals and businesses.

Part of it has to do with the law of averages. The other is the fact Canada still uses cents when you pay by a debit or ATM card, check or credit card. So if the tab comes to $4.92, you pay $4.92 if you are not using cash.

Canada has since collected 4 billion pennies that people had in their possession for recycling. People were paid face value or $40 million for the pennies they turned in. That essentially put $40 million back into circulation. An estimated 2 billion pennies are still out there.

Canada, a much smaller country in terms of population and economy, saved $11 million a year by not minting new pennies that typically found their way into drawers, jars, and the garbage.

Government stopped getting greedy over pennies — at least in California — a long time ago.

It is why the income forms filed with the State Franchise Tax Board has eliminated all “cents” in terms of what you owe or what is due you. It doesn’t matter if it is one cent or 99 cents.

Not only does it ultimately not change the amount of money the state gets, but it significantly reduces addition and subtraction errors.

The nickel is the only other coin that costs more than its face value to produce. But unlike the penny, people don’t essentially discard the nickel due to the value not being perceived as next to nothing.

And for the record, it costs 5.7 cents to mint a dime and 10 cents for a dime. The $1 and $2 bills cost 5.4 cents each, the $5 bill costs 10.1 cents to print, the $10 bill costs 9.2 cents and the $20 and $50 bill cost 10.2 cents apiece to print. And if you carry them, that $100 bill costs 13.1 cents to print.

Jettisoning the penny is a logical move.

Perhaps Congressman Jeff Denham might pick up the cause. The Turlock Republican has made a name for himself back in Washington, D.C., by going after the nickel and dime waste that ends up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions in dollars.

Perhaps he should go after the penny ante stuff as well.

Dropping the penny eliminates government waste as well as private sector waste.

It’s a win-win.


This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.