The Penny

Earlier today, I purchased a one-gallon jug of spring water from a local convenience store. The total came to $1.29. I handed over $1.30, then silently waited for my single penny to be returned. It never came. Apparently the clerk was unaware of the optional “courtesy thank you” that a customer can say that means “keep the change”. I didn’t give the “courtesy thank you” on this particular visit, and it took me a minute to realize that I wasn’t getting my penny back. And that was OK. I turned and walked out with my jug of water that I had just paid $1.30 for.


I didn’t mind not getting the penny back — in fact, the more I thought about it, the more I was probably better off without it. It would’ve weighed my pockets down, eventually rolling around the dryer. You see, I hate pennies.
pennyThe penny’s worth has reached such a horrible low, that I’ve stopped bending over to pick them up. If I mistakenly drop a penny, I’ll pause for second to consider the effort that’s involved in picking it up, then realize that the amount of time I’ve spent contemplating its retrieval has probably already surpassed the value of the penny itself. So on the ground it stays. Someone else will pick it up, eventually. Or will they? I’m sure I’m not alone.
To complicate matters, nothing costs $1.30, or $1.35. I always get a kick out of stores that price things in seemingly awkward amounts like “$3.81″. It’s only when the sales tax is added (5% in this case) at the register that you realize the brilliance of “even pricing”, where the awkward price + tax = an even dollar amount. No need for any additional exchange. These store owners are smart store owners — and likely the type of people that won’t bend over for pennies either.
There are, however, those that still believe in pennies. A few weeks ago, I bought a sandwich and lemonade at a local cafe. I always order the same thing, and know that the total comes to $7.01. The cafe never charges me the $.01, simply giving me back $3 in change for a $10 bill. But this partcular day, the cashier asked, “do you have a penny?”. I went through the motion of checking my pockets, knowing full well that I didn’t have one. I may have had one earlier, but I probably had dropped it and quickly moved on. “No”, I said. “Oh, no problem! Don’t worry about it!”. Good. She didn’t mind and, like usual, I’ll get three dollar bills back. But instead, I got a fistful of coins. 99 cents in change.
Unfortunately, the little plastic “Give a Penny, Take a Penny” dish was absent from the counter at the cafe. For those that aren’t familiar, this little plastic dish is a place where fellow penny haters can leave their unwanted coinage for those that run into the aforementioned $7.01 predicament. It’s a community penny repository — not to be confused with the nearby “tip jar” (another story for another entry).
My point: will the penny ever be phased out? A friend of mine thinks not — not unless the tax structure changes as well. But with inflation continuing to rise, change seems certain.

126 Comments

  1. I’m reminded of the Simpsons episode ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns?’ where the lab tech says ‘if you’ve ever handled a penny the government has your dna on file, why do you think they keep them in circulation?’

  2. Remi Prevost says:

    Give a Penny, Take a Penny is one the best inventions ever ;-)

  3. Ted Drake says:

    This reminds me of my glory days working for McDonalds. A customer refused his pennies after buying an ice cream cone. With his most genteel Scarlet O’Hara accent he proclaimed “I don’t keep Coppa”

  4. Tom Williams says:

    One episode of the West Wing gave a very good reason for why the penny will never be phased out – who wants to be the person who gets rid of Lincoln on coins? Or shunts him up to a $200 bill or something like that. Would hardly be a popular move.

  5. Mike P. says:

    Hmm.. and it’s even better with the Euro, not just a very very tiny 1c coin, but also a 2c coin!!
    1,2,5,10,20,50!! Ahhh!
    I too dislike these small coins…

  6. Shawn says:

    I keep ‘em in a piggy-bank at home. Eventually I’ve got a ‘free’ beer.

  7. Sam says:

    I was pleasantly surprised when I moved to Australia from Scotland, where they realise that the penny.. in relative terms to any other currency is worthless.
    The smallest coin they have is 5c. Perfect.

  8. Dave Simon says:

    When I worked at Staples a few years ago, we had some sort of a training thing, and in it, the manager actually said that they had done some sort of a study to figure out what the maximum part of a dollar they could charge without people rounding up to the next dollar in their heads.
    For instance, when you see $5.99, most people see $6, not $5. I think at the time, most of the prices ended in .83 or something like that. $5.83.
    We don’t have a sales tax in Montana, so the 83 cents was just that.
    I don’t know about anybody else, but I rarely walk around with 17 cents in my pocket. Whereas, most of the time, I’ve got a couple of quarters and a few pennies. You aren’t going to take 17 pennies from the give/take pile. So you end up with a bunch of change in your pockets. Bad idea.
    Dan, you might not think a penny is worth worrying about, or bending over for. But add up all those pennies people leave behind in a single day at a store, and you get a few dollars.
    I always insist on making sure I get the proper change. Just for the principle of it. And people who can’t count change, argh!!! Don’t put the bills in first, then drop in the coins!

  9. Tim says:

    I remember, back when I was but a wee nipper, the half-penny was still in circulation here in the UK.
    What an economic nightmare that must’ve been to anybody who didn’t just spend it on penny-sweets…

  10. Joshua Rudd says:

    My late grandmother was pretty well off, but she never forgot the value of the penny. Perhaps it’s because back in the twenties and thirties she and my grandfather lived on pennies a day, or because she saw value in even the smallest of things, but she would save up every penny she had or would find laying abandoned on the street.
    Those pennies would eventually be turned into bills and given to others in need.

  11. John Noel says:

    One of my high-school teachers used to say: “Take care of the pennies and the pounds will mount up.” As long as you don’t mind carrying pennies home, store them in a washed out milk carton or other container then sort them every year or so into bags you can get from banks. You’ll be surprised how much you can save. Some of my university student meals relied on those pennies…

  12. paul haine says:

    “The total came to $1.29. I handed over $1.30, then silently waited for my single penny to be returned. It never came. Apparently the clerk was unaware of the optional “courtesy thank you” that a customer can say that means “keep the change”. I didn’t give the “courtesy thank you” on this particular visit, and it took me a minute to realize that I wasn’t getting my penny back.”
    I don’t understand that at all. You waited for your change and the clerk just didn’t give it to you because you didn’t say thank you? Huh?

  13. Ryan says:

    I see your penny and I raise you some plastic.
    Not only do I not have pennies handy in my pocket, I almost never have any kind of cash. I survive on my check card.
    Unlike some other Check Card Snobs, I don’t get upset if people don’t accept cards (although I wish they would because it’s ultimately much cheaper to do so), but instead don’t purchase there or go grab some cash at the ATM.
    In fact, I’m OK when smaller merchants (Mom & Pop shops) ask that I pay a small fee if my purchase is below a certain amount. I understand that convienence does sometimes have a cost. :)

  14. You guys need to get rid of GST and move to VAT. Although it’s a initial hassle, the benefits far exceed the hassle. AFAIK it’s a better tax system, and who really cares what the tax is. You’re paying a total, and that’s what you want to see in the price of goods. It’s the stores responsibility to collect and pay the tax, not yours.
    Although having said that, that still doesn’t stop store here charging £5.99 and what not for all the pointlessness it achieves.
    I remember a store back home (South Africa) that said all totals would be rounded up to the nearest 5c and the difference would be donated to charity. Sounds like a great idea but people disliked it. I think largely because people are idiots.

  15. I keep all the extra pennies from my pockets in a big plastic jug. One day, my daughter will be able to buy candy with it. :)
    5% tax? That’s it? We’re stuck with 15% up here.

  16. Sjors says:

    Here in Holland we already got rid of the 1 and 2 eurocent coins. Analogue transactions requireing coins and bills get rounded off to the nearest 5 or 0. It always has been, as far as I know, during the Guilder era. When they came with the Euro, we Dutch ditched the 1 and 2 cent coins pretty quick.

  17. Jaap says:

    Over here in the Netherlands we use the Euro. This currency has 1 and 2 cent coins but somehow the Dutch goverment decided it was ok for stores to stop accepting and giving back these coins. Instead they just round everything to the nearest 5 cent (up or down). This is in conflict with all other Euro countries I know of and I wouldn’t be suprised if tourist are seriously confused in our ways.
    I don’t mind getting rid of those small coins, they are hardly usefull, but it’s strange that they exist and are valid in other countries just not in ours.

  18. Kim Siever says:

    I used to work at a gas station and every time someone told me to keep the change, I would. even if it was a single penny. By the end of each shift, I would have between two and five dollars in change. I would exchange it for the highest currency I could before leaving for home.

  19. Joseph Scott says:

    As Sam (#7) mentioned, Australia doesn’t do 1 cent coins anymore. Everything was rounded to the 5 or 0. They have also phased out $1 bills. I lived there for a couple of years in the early 90s and became rather found of the no sales tax approach. If the tag said 1.50 then when it was rung up it was a 1.50, not a result of a calculation that you had no chance of remembering if you were shopping out of your own town.
    There is an overview of Australian currency at
    http://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/currency.html

  20. Allan Rojas says:

    Funniest post in a long time…
    Pennies are becoming the new decorative stuff to put inside big glass containers in the middle of the table.

  21. Pat says:

    SAM: The Mint gets letters with pennies taped on notebook paper. Letters from citizens who found the pennies on the street and mailed them back to the Treasury to help pay down the debt.
    JOSH: It’s almost hard to believe that plan hasn’t worked.
    West Wing – War Crimes

  22. Keith says:

    I have a big money bottle for all my change. Any time I arrive home with a large quantity of change I dump everything below the 1 Euro coin into it.
    One time when I counted it into bank money bags it amounted to €140 Euro – and the bottle was only about 1/3 full at the time!
    It’s back near that again now, but I’m too lazy to count it out :-)

  23. Ole Hansen says:

    In Denmark we use kroner/øre as the equivalent to dollars/cents, but our smallest coin is 25 øre (which is worth about 3-5 cents). However for electronic payment amounts can be specified down to 1 øre, and stores often use prices like 7.95. The total is then rounded to the nearest .25 when paying “analogue”.

  24. Dan says:

    I visited New Zealand recently and like Australia they have no penny and the tax is included in the price you see on the shelf. I found it refreshing and much better in practice. They also have gotten rid of the $1 bill. Generally you end up with more coins like $1 and $2 in your pocket, but that’s okay, it’s more durable (of course, it seems their bills were more durable too).
    Having to figure out the tax in your head is just stupid, but then, so is having varying sales tax rates like we do in the states. Darn municipalities all wanting their cut :)

  25. Jason Beaird says:

    I despise coins in general…and I’m not fond of paper money either. In this new generation of micro-payments, I expect to be able to use my credit card for EVERYTHING. That way when something costs $1.29, I don’t have to worry about getting that penny back.

  26. Tomas Jogin says:

    We phased our rough equivalent of the penny in Sweden, the 0.10 Krona a few years back, and I’m hoping the 0.50 Krona only has a couple of years left, because that’s the coin I tend to not pick up nowadays.
    About even prices though, in Sweden the price tag _always_ includes tax. The fact that this is not the case in the US puzzled me to the extreme when I visited Florida a couple of years ago.
    The only logical reason I can come up with for pricetags not-including tax in the US is because the store owner prefers to show a lower price (whereas in Sweden they are forced by law to show the price with tax included). Obviously, the customer, had he/she a choice, would prefer to have the pricetag actually _show_ the price that he/she would have to _pay_ for it, right?

  27. Mark Payne says:

    If nothing else, my dog likes to chew on them; though quarters are her favorite. Never swallows any of it.

  28. eric says:

    ‘Give a penny, take a penny’ trays are amazing. Every store needs them. They also funnel annoying pennies away from the tip jar, where they just get in the way. ;)

  29. Mike says:

    My girlfriend is a waitress at a local restaurant. She keeps all her change in a scooner and cashes it in every year or so. You’d be surprised how much money accumulates from a small coin here and there.
    Me personally though, I can’t stand change. I throw pennies in the garbage. It always falls out of my pocket or clogs up my wallet. Bah!
    Back to work :)

  30. Matt T. says:

    Those that still collect these ancient relects can send them to http://www.cashforchange.com/ for some of that green stuff. :)

  31. Richard says:

    I don’t know you Dan so this is really aimed more generally.
    What took place in your mind as you decided to let the penny go?
    1. If I ask for my penny I’m a cheap bastard…
    2. Do I want to get into an argument with this dude about a penny?
    If its a self-consciousness thing then I have a related question:
    Would you “stoop” (bend over) to pick up a penny you spot on the ground? No? How about a nickel? Quarter, 1 dollar bill? What price gets you stooping?
    Does this change whether or not you are alone or with a group?
    I realize you don’t want change jingling in your pocket but a couple of quarters? Might they be worth the stoop and jingling?
    Using the penny’s seeming non-worth as a rationale for letting it go seems to me to be a slippery slope (especially for Americans with a dollar that’s sliding fast).
    I don’t like change in my pocket either so at the end of the day I dump it in a jar and at the end of the month I have $50. That might get me a few copies of your book or an icon set or two.

  32. Dave P says:

    Tomas, the reasoning for not including the tax in the displayed prices in North America is a simple one: What is the current sales tax rate in Sweeden? You don’t know do you. (if you do, kudos, but I’m sure you would agree most of your countrymen do not.)
    On this side of the pond, that would bother a heck of a lot of people, since taxes that are hidden tend to rize a lot faster than those that are not. Gas taxes anyone? :-)
    As for the main topic, pennies are cheaper than a cent to make, so all that excess goes into a slush fund for the respective gov’ts. It would actually cost money to remove the penny from circulation, hence the reason it’s still there.

  33. theUg says:

    Notion about inflation is not valid, because after a while the currency will be denominated and the value of a penny shall go up. Say, in Russia, in 1999 they denominated rouble by getting rid of 3 zeroes, so whatever was, say, 5000 became 5.
    It worked because rampant inflation of transitional economy was over, which made possible to denominate for the sake of covenience.

  34. Say you are a company that ships 300 million units in a year. If taxes were to go up by just a penny, that represents 3 million dollars increase.
    Pennies are for businesses tricking you into paying more ($5.83=~$6) and for taxes. Nothing more.

  35. Arjun says:

    Pat: This hardly makes sense because everytime we use the USPS, the government loses money in terms of shipping so the debt would go up, not down. That’s why other postal companies cannot afford to charge 37c per letter.
    Dave P.: I read somewhere that we actually lose money by continuing to make pennies, because although the metal is worth less than 1c, the labor and machines to make pennies make up more than the difference.
    Ryan: I too am in love with my credit card. I love that McDonald’s and Taco Bell take plastic and I can’t wait for vending machines and small stores to do the same. I hate that CC companies charge businesses to use CC because it probably helps the CC company to have their customers spend more (even if it is in small amounts) overall.

  36. Sharif says:

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with an economist friend in school… I asked why stores don’t make it simpler on everyone by setting their prices so that purchases always round up to an even number. Say, $1.90 (assuming a 5% sales tax) instead of $1.99?
    Most stores will never do that because it encourages internal theft. If a cashier knows that a product rings up to exactly $2, and a customer always pays with exactly $2, it’s much easier for that cashier to bypass the register altogether, and simply pocket the cash.

  37. I’m pretty sure just about everyone in the UK knows that VAT is 17.5%, and I can’t actually remember the last time it rose.

  38. Rob McM says:

    There was a certain party that was running for government here in the UK (the sort that has no aim to actually get in). One of their policies was to introduce the 99p coin! Genius

  39. I would give you my 2 cents, but I can’t scrounge up another penny…

  40. Raven says:

    Heh…
    Allan: true, I have a plastic bag with 1 kopeyka (1/29th of a penny if we convert currencies) somewhere. I usually keep all the change above one rouble in a heap close to my door so that I could grab some on my way out and use it somewhere where the prices are not round.
    With the rest of change there’s an interesting story – some people look like they are about to fight you and make you take that damn change… I this talk in the shop, with the seller being an old hag. (handling money) “Please keep the kopeykas” (kopeykas are the coins below 1 rouble). “Why would I? Take them.” “I have no use for them.” “Nor do I.” “Ok I’ll leave them right here if you give them.” “No, don’t clutter the table with YOUR coins.” “What, do you want me to throw them away or something?” “I don’t care, just take YOUR damn coins.”

  41. mike huch says:

    To my understanding it’s mostly to do with the penny still being a profitable enterprise for the US government and people just being afraid of change, no pun intended. More answers courtesy of The Straight Dope:
    The Straight Dope: Does it make sense to keep minting pennies?

  42. jacob harvey says:

    Well Shawn, if you could make it to a NEWD meeting you’d see how generous Dan is with the beer. (Though it seems your from Colorado, sorry)
    I know it’s a bit off topic but I’m sick of our single color money. And no what they’ve been doing with the peach and blue doesn’t count. I want multiple sizes and colors.

  43. Jorgeq says:

    I have to admit that I always take for granted the mighty “penny”. Sometimes I’m in dire need of one, simply to avoid getting a slew of change back. I guess the phrase “A penny saved is a penny earned” doesn’t go a long way anymore…lol

  44. Jaro says:

    The problem with little coins was solved in my country a few years ago. The total price of a purchase was rounded up or down. So if you pay 312.20 it was simply rounded to 312. 312.70 rounded to 313.
    I’m not sure if this would work with pennies. How about having only 10 pennies as the smallest coin?

  45. Craig C. says:

    A visiting friend from Australia once remarked “Oh look, one cent pieces. How quaint.” Oz phased out their pennies years ago and seems to be doing just fine without them.

  46. zaskar says:

    In Mexico the smallest coin we got is 5 cts, and prices still show with the .99 or .79 prices. I have always thought is for the psicological effect of not paying the next round number.
    even whe you pay for something thats X.65 you wont get any change … only when u use plastic you get the advertised price … and .5 mx is about a nickle but stores keep the change because we dont have a penny

  47. Zachary Jones says:

    A penny? What’s that?
    But seriously, we have a seven-percent tax here. Certain things have no tax, most do. It’s odd.

  48. Greg Hinch says:

    At least you all seem to have fairly even tax rates…5%, 15%…out here in Cali we have to deal with 8.25% and 7.75%. I have so many pennies I recently cashed them in at a Coinstar machine and got $80.

  49. In New Zealand we have done away with 1c and 2c coins and will soon be phasing out 5c also. Most goods in small shops are priced to the nearest 5c. Only kids stop to pick them up. Our lowest denomination will be 10c (worth about US7c). We also have $1 and $2 coins (as do Australia) which are so much better to carry and use than paper banknotes. On that topic, we don’t have paper any more either – our notes are plastic. New Zealand operates a universal 12.5% goods and services tax on everything. Domestic consumers only ever see the tax-inclusive price. What the label says is what you pay. Going to America is a shock for some NZers, especially travelling between states where the tax is different.

  50. alive says:

    Heh, it seems that even though we have high tax rates (22% VAT) here in Finland, we have done something right. I mean, when the euro was introduced the government decided to scratch the 1 and 2 cent coins immediately. And they also slapped a rounding law to small change. So now everything costing 1,43e is 1,45e. And 1,56e translates into 1,55e. So eventually you’ll get even while paying with cash.
    Also, all prices at stores are announced WITH the tax, so people will know what they cost really. Of course the receipt has detailed info about how much the tax was.

  51. ian says:

    This is one of the more negative of Notebook posts I’ve read.
    I have to say that I disagree. I think that (if for only teaching children the value of money) the penny still has value. I sincerely hope that when my daughter (and son on the way) are learning about money that they haven’t already formed the opinion that a penny is worthless. I hope that they will still bend over to pick up a penny on the ground, if nothing else it will keep them limber. . .

  52. I knew after writing this rant on pennies, that at least some would fail to see the humor, and instead form the opinion that I’m careless with money. Truth be told, I have a jar of change that we cash in when it fills up. “A penny saved, is a penny earned” and all that. Yet at the same time, if I drop a penny, I think twice about picking it up. I do realize this is terrible and wrong, but it doesn’t change the fact that I despise pennies, and the ways in which they complicate everyday transactions.
    Some great info on taxes, international currency, etc. here. Carry on…

  53. Foamcow says:

    Remember how Richard Pryor got rich in Superman II?

  54. Sadish says:

    In a Dunkin Donuts nearer to my place, when a situation occurs like $7.01, they take 1 cent from their ‘Tip Jar’ and use it. Thats so nice of them.
    on the same topic, India does not use 1,5, or 10 cents (paise) at all.
    the minimum denomination is 25 paise.
    so when the total is somewhat nearer to 7.10, they take only 7 and if the total is greater than 7.15 they take 7.25
    and everyone agrees to it.

  55. This discussion reminds of a recent Seth Godin post.

  56. Bending over to pick up a penny is itself insufficient compensation. Then figure in the medical bills for your back problems later if you do this to any significant extent. :P
    Regarding the VAT, I say NO. It’s just as bad as anything we have today. It taxes every stage of production, just like the myriad of random taxes we have in the US already does.
    What we need is the FairTax. Eliminate all federal taxes, replace them with an equivalent (high) sales tax. We won’t be taxing production, so prices will go down proportionately, and it will all balance out.
    Everyone will get a rebate at the beginning of each month to cover taxes on necessities of life — so just living isn’t taxed. Rich people are naturally taxed more, because they spend more.
    The Income Tax (and zillions of others) will be abolished, the IRS will disappear, we’ll save literally billions of dollars on dealing with the tax code, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we halve the world’s paper consumption while we’re at it. :P

  57. Amen to what Lanny said about the Fair Tax.
    Unfortunately, this is not a new idea and it’s unlikely we’ll see it happen anytime soon. The tax burden has become so unbalanced that those that don’t pay taxes (or pay very little) nowadays have greater voting power than those that do.

  58. Mike L says:

    The other day the family and I went out to eat and the the bill came to $28.46. I put $30 in cash into the payment folder. The waiter only brought back $1.00. I figured the waiter rounded up the bill to make it easier for himself. I then promptly rounded down his tip and left. Next time I’ll tip with credit card instead of cash.

  59. Countries I have been to where on an individual coin level, their currency was worthless, they have a jar of sweets on the counter and if you are owed a small amount of change you just take a few sweets as compensation if you like.
    They should use a similar system here in the UK for amounts of under £0.05 I reckon, basically removing the need for our 2 remaining brown coins. That now seem to be completey useless, except for this slot machine, I don’t know if they exist in the US, its like 2 sliding trays covered in coins, you drop a coin in the slot and if you time it right it causes a cascade of coins to pour into the winnings compartment. It is possible to win maybe 10 – 15 pence. Great?

  60. Sage says:

    I wish all places would just have taxes already figured into the prices (and make the prices straight-cut, none of this –.99 crap).

  61. DaveMO says:

    Hey, Dan I got a good chuckle from the post! I guess there’s a bad penny in every pocket-full though… =^J
    However, opposite of what someone further up the comments mentioned, I recall that the reason for stuff like $5.99 pricing was the fact that most folk focus on the “5″ and think “That costs Five bucks.” It’s also why the change part is usually printed in a way smaller type size in adds.

  62. Keri Henare says:

    I’ve never really understood why America has kept the penny this long anyway. In New Zealand we’ve long since got rid of our 1 and 2 cent coins and the government plans to remove the 5 cent coin from circulation during the next 2 years.

  63. steve says:

    We’ve gotten rid of our 1 & 2 cent coins in Oz and replaced them with $1 and $2 coins. Pockets end up just as weighed down:)
    I must admit I don’t bother bending down for 5 cent coins anymore. Inflation is a wonderful thing.

  64. One of my best friends in college hated pennies as you do, but he found a more interesting (and annoying) use for them. He’d collect a number of pennies over a month or two, either in his car or in his office, and he’d bring them to my dorm. If I happened to be in my room and the door was open (which it usually was), he’d stop in the doorway, smile, and throw the pennies all over my floor.
    After a few rounds of this little gag of his, it got so bad that I refused to pick them all up because it was such a pain. I remember finding pennies when I moved out after my sophomore year.
    Maybe his hatred of the penny is part of the reason he moved to Australia this year.

  65. Chris Jones says:

    After reading this post, I have realized that the smallest coin I will actually, physically BEND OVER to pick up is a quarter. Anything less and I will leave it for the next person.

  66. Dave says:

    Is there anywhere outside of North America that doesn’t include Sales Tax/VAT in the price of an item.
    In Ireland VAT is currently 21%, it was lowered to 20% a couple of years ago but savings were not passed on to the consumer so the rate was raised again.
    Of course in the American system the savings would have been passed on since the sales tax is applied at the till.

  67. 1 penny X 1000 transactions a day X 365 days a year = 3,650$.
    I can use that money.
    My dad used to tell me that “If you don’t pick a penny you are not worth a penny”, and I always thought (but never said) “so if you pick a penny you are worth a penny?”

  68. Jeremy says:

    What ticks me off the most about pennies is that, from what I understand, stores don’t have to accept them as payment in bulk. I once tried to buy a few things at the grocery store with $5 worth of pennies (rolled up, of course), and the cashier wouldn’t take them! Turns out that just because the penny is legal tender for all “debts” doesn’t mean stores will accept them for goods or services.
    Anyone else know about this?

  69. 3stripe says:

    Spooky… just as I was reading this, someone came back into the office with some chocolate they’d picked up for me on their way across the road – and guess what they dropped off with it – a penny change!

  70. Thomas Tallyce says:

    > It’s only when the sales tax is added (5% in this case) at the register
    The US still has that crazy system? So you don’t actually know how much stuff is going to cost until you’re actually about to pay for it? Madness!
    > You guys need to get rid of GST and move to VAT. Although it’s a initial hassle, the benefits far exceed the hassle. AFAIK it’s a better tax system, and who really cares what the tax is. You’re paying a total, and that’s what you want to see in the price of goods. It’s the stores responsibility to collect and pay the tax, not yours.
    Seconded!

  71. Jeremy says:

    My wife and I keep all our change in a little leather purse thingy she found. When it gets full we go to the bank and exhange it for bills. Usually about $50 or so. We save it and buy junk for ourselves. She’s close to buying her own iPod now.

  72. Ki says:

    I used to keep all my changes in 5 gallon water bottle in my bedroom. I dropped in whatever I had end of the day. After about 5 years, I decided to cash in (the bottle was about 2/3 full). Took me about a week to roll all the changes by hand. I even needed friend’s help to carry all that change into the bank.
    When it was all done and over with, I had about $1500.

  73. Kurt Lach says:

    I paid 50 cents this weekend for the amusement of placing a penny in a machine, cranking a handle, and retrieving my penny squashed flat with an image of the Split Rock Lighthouse embossed in it. Is the penny the Rodney Dangerfield of coinage? I mean, doesn’t the government even care if I am defacing currency?

  74. Pat Collins says:

    Obligatory Office Space quote warning:
    PETER
    I don’t think, I don’t think I’m explaining this very well. Um, this Seven Eleven, right? If you take a penny from the tray -
    JOANNA
    From the crippled children?!
    PETER
    No, that’s the tray. I’m talking about the tray. The penny’s for
    everybody.

    Sorry. Had to do it.

  75. Peter Leonhardt says:

    “What ticks me off the most about pennies is that, from what I understand, stores don’t have to accept them as payment in bulk. I once tried to buy a few things at the grocery store with $5 worth of pennies (rolled up, of course), and the cashier wouldn’t take them! Turns out that just because the penny is legal tender for all “debts” doesn’t mean stores will accept them for goods or services.
    Anyone else know about this?”
    Yeah, from what I heard a few years back the government decided to negate pennies as legal tendor. This was because people opposed to paying income tax started to pay in all pennies! (hundreds, if not thousands of people). It cost the goverment more money to count and sort the pennies than they were actually worth. So they decided that they can refuse the penny as a form of tendor.

  76. Sebastian says:

    A funny late night read, although I had an ‘Office Space’ memory resurface as well. I like the pennies, but they are so just darn heavy when they gather in larger groups. If they eliminate pennies will we have to pay higher taxes to ‘Uncle Sam’? (I’m being followed by paranoia.)
    As to the ‘hearing’ that the penny doesn’t need to be accepted as legal tender; those store owners would violate the Legal Tender Statue (section 5103 of title 31 of the U.S. Code). And you can pay off debts with it, same statue.

  77. Maverick says:

    The same thing happens in the UK, the following appeared on theregister.co.uk last month:
    We’d never really considered this, but a third of Brits want a 99p coin to tackle the menace of the £XX.99 pricing strategy, which a Virgin Money poll says wastes £11m a month in discarded 1p pieces.
    Although around 50 per cent of thrifty citizens save their 1 and 2p coins – traditionally in a huge whiskey bottle having drunk all the whiskey they bought with the proceeds of their last huge whiskey bottle bank – plenty of us just chuck the small change. Virgin Money reckons the total lost comes to £133m a year.
    The poll – of 1,250 people – also proved that 40 per cent of surveyees preferred to break into a pound coin or a note than count out change.
    Of course, the real solution to the problem is to make the pricing of goods at £XX.99 (or £XXX,995 in the case of houses) illegal and punishable by death while raising the value of the 1p coin to £1 to encourage people not to throw them away.

  78. Greg says:

    I don’t bend for a penny (or in my case for 0,01€) either. Mostly I tell the waiter (or someone else I pay) to keep the change. Although I’ll miss it when I need it.
    I hate it too!

  79. In South Africa, where I live, the 1c and 2c coins have been phased out for the past year.
    Now, when you buy something that costs R5,32, you get charged R5,30.

  80. Chris Hunt says:

    Call me mean, but I always keep all my change – even down to the pennies. I had been in that store, I’d have demanded my 1c. If shop keepers don’t want the hassle of shuffling all those pennies around, the answer is simple – don’t charge X.99 for things!

  81. Matt Linder says:

    Pennys suck. I throw them away or punt them across the parking lot as I leave places that give them to me for change. They smell, they’re dirty, they take up space(and don’t jump on me about saving them and cashing in then…because by the time you gather all of them up, and drive them to the bank…you’ve already lost thier value with the gas you wasted driving there), they take way too long to save up…and they’re ugly.

  82. karolina says:

    Dave P (#32) said: “Tomas, the reasoning for not including the tax in the displayed prices in North America is a simple one: What is the current sales tax rate in Sweeden? You don’t know do you. (if you do, kudos, but I’m sure you would agree most of your countrymen do not.)”
    I’m from Sweden too, and I think I’m safe to say that the greater part of Swedes know that sales tax on most items is 25% here (except, for example, books, where the tax is a mere 6%). It has been for quite some time. I knew about the 25% when I was, like, seven years old. Also, the tax isn’t “hidden”, as you said, it shows very clearly on all receipts, both as a percentage and in money. And, boy, do I think there would be an uprising if the government was to either raise or lower the tax (depending on one’s personal political beliefs…).
    On another note, when I lived in the US I got fed up so quickly with the pennies, and I don’t think I’ve ever taken a penny, but just left them… I think it’s only natural for certain denominations to “disappear” over time, as inflation rises.

  83. Kerry says:

    I guess I’m in the minority: I actually make a point to carry pennies with me! I do keep a change jar at home, and before I go out to get coffee/run errands/whatever, I grab four pennies in addition to whatever silver coinage(1) I have. So if the cost is $1.97, I give ‘em a couple of pennies and get a nickel back. That nickel ends up in the change jar.
    I think in the long run it actually cuts down on the number of pennies I have to bring home and lug around. Of course, I have not conducted a scientific study of this, since that would cost more than the pennies are worth! :-)
    (1) Yes, I know they’re not really silver. I’m just referring to the appearance as opposed to that of copper. The US Mint provides
    specification guidelines
    regarding the composition of their coins.

  84. Jason G says:

    Actually, the German Pfening peice saved me a ton of money, so back when it was in circulation, I’d pick one up of the ground in a heartbeat! Here’s why:
    When I was in the USAF stationed in Frankfurt, GE., when we went to the local pubs (an area known as “Sachunhausen” (sp?)) when we met up with other USAF buddies, we would do a “pfening check”. If you were caught without one, you had to buy the first round!
    I bet I still have a pfening laying around somewhere….

  85. Joel says:

    Oh, My G-d! What a great post! I think us fellow penny haters sould start a revolution! A little googling found this this link to the US Mint’s report on operation costs of coins! If some is smart enough to do the math – please enlighten us!
    But it seems that demand drives production! Apparently it costs $0.0074 (as of year 2000) cents per penny to circulate, and that doesn’t even include metal cost and production! So it has to cost more than $0.01 to get the metal, make the coin, package the coin, ship the coin and not to mention all the people involved in the processes along the way!
    [Oh, side bar..Would a stop in penny production cause a dip in GNP or unemployment rated in DC??]

  86. Manzell says:

    #26 Tomas – US prices do not include various taxes (almost always sales tax) because sales tax is a state tax. if you’re like me, and live in no-tax Oregon, but across the river is 8.5% sales tax Washington, you don’t have to pay WA sales tax even when buying in that state – you flash your no-sales-tax id and presto, tax is gone.
    coincidentally, a great way to skim some money off the top if your working menial retail jobs… repost each transaction as sales tax free, keep the difference…

  87. Nev says:

    Ah the UK half-penny… The only thing I remember costing half a penny were little, chewy sweets called “Mojos”. Then half pennies were phased out and Mojos doubled in price over-night!

  88. Jared says:

    Well, what else am I going to throw in a fountain?

  89. Mikhail Bozgounov says:

    One penny is one penny. Period! :-)
    If someone gives is to you, take it! Because, if someone wants it from you, you’ll have to have one, actually;-)
    Nice, post, Dan! :-)

  90. The Mad Penguin says:

    I collected all my pennies and other lose change during my college years. And I just recently took this huge bag of pennies to the bank and got 17 bucks for them. It was like wow, 17 bucks, reminded me of the time I opened up my Atlas Shrugged book found a twenty.

  91. Sam Freedom says:

    You can’t ever get rid of the penny for a very simple reason. Unless they increase the amount of OTHER coins made, it’s going to put a lot of pennymakers out of work.
    Am I the only one who thinks like this?
    Sam Freedom
    the coolest guy on the planet

  92. MBennett says:

    Here’s a couple for you…
    A few days ago I was on a road trip with a few buddies to an NFL game. We stopped at In-n-Out for dinner on the way. I ordered my food, it came to $5.18. I gave six bucks and got my 82 cents back.
    Next in line was my buddy, he orders and it comes to $4.83. I was thinking how cool it was that the change amounts of the two transactions were in sync, which rarely happens. I hand my buddy the 82 cents, he hands it to the cashier, who just gives a blank stare. “It’s $4.83″ he says. C’mon, man. Turns out he wouldn’t budge. My buddy got his seventeen cents back and left it on the counter for the next person who had to deal with the penny nazi.
    On the other hand, everything in life is relative. I remember hearing a few years back that Bill Gates had amassed enough wealth so that if he were to drop a $100 bill, it would literally be a waste of his time to turn around and pick it up. *must be nice*

  93. Gnome says:

    In Canada, our system is slightly MORE complex. We have a federal and a provincial sales tax. Most provinces sink their taxes to fluxuate with the federal taxes to keep ‘em at 15% flat, except Alberta, where you are “nickel’d and dime’d” to death with tolls and fees. I have yet to visit a store where a “take a penny, give a penny” thing isn’t in place. I always put my small change in them, and I always get my small change from them. On an average day, Canadians probably exchange some 5 Million dollars by dropping and picking up pennies. Our money is worth slightly less than money in the US, but the exchange rate has been climbing as long as I can remember. And with all the economic problems of the US, Canada will continue to see higher and higher exchange rates. We have no need to follow Austrailia, but the US might want to consider doing what Russia did with rupees to make the penny worth what it was in the 50′s. It can’t hurt, can it?

  94. Klaudija says:

    In other countries it is normal not to get the penny back. For example in Croatia you will not get no money back if it costs 4,73 HRK and you pay 5 HRK for it…

  95. Joey says:

    I hate change sooo much that when I am eating out, I round out the tip so that the amount always ends in an even xx.00 amount. I dont even want to see change in my statement. The penny is completely worthless regardless of the tax structure. The “loss” of a penny can be worked out eventually. Although the other thing to consider is stock valuation. Everything is by the penny. When you talk about a trillion dollar global stock market and having to round up a penny. Well… thats a lot fo coin.

  96. Karol says:

    Do what you may on your own with the pennies, here in Poland, you’re always getting screwed. Either because you don’t have small change and the shop doesn’t have anything but big bills. Or because you’re trying to pay with small change (like our equivalent of pennies and nickels and dimes) but the shop just happens to have too much of that, and it’s SUCH a hassle for them to have to count all that up. Either way, the customer’s so often just plain wrong, pennies or not. Top that off with a 22% VAT tax and you got nothing but fun! Can anybody relate? :)

  97. Trevor says:

    ahahah. An interesting post. So very true though, I’ve heard rumours of the penny being removed in the near future.
    There is a little saying my “lucky rich” uncle jokes about, something like “count your pennies and the dollars will count themselves”. Not true! I’ve been counting pennies for 20 years and I still have gained nothing but a heavy pocket. Although, when waiting for a subway car or when very bored in an office, pennies usually are interesting to look at, each one seems to be either really old, or very new and each has some new picture.

  98. Matt says:

    For all of you who can do without your pennies, feel free to drop them on the sidewalk or in the parking lots. It can really brighten up a little kids’ day to find a penny.

  99. Chui Tey says:

    In Australia, 1-cent and 2-cent coins were phased out a few years ago. Although stores continue to price goods down to the last cent, the figures are rounded at the cashier. $2.53 rounds to $2.55, $2.52 rounds down to $2.50.
    Can’t wait until the 5-cent piece gets phased out.

  100. Rick says:

    It’s nice to have so much time to worry about a penny….

  101. Timothy Ng says:

    I just wish that they would include the tax in the pricing on the label, but then I guess the dollar store wouldn’t work properly.

  102. My co-workers and I discovered that a restaurant near Union Square in NYC rounds the amount charged up to the nearest 5 cent multiple. As a result, they might be keeping up to 4 cents on every transaction.
    When we showed the receipt to the manager, she acted surprised, but it was undoubtedly no accident. I haven’t returned to see if they changed their policy as they were overpriced to begin with. Stealing pennies was the last straw for me.

  103. Bob says:

    If you’re still at a loss about what to do with all those “useless” pennies, please consider donating them to the GotCents campaign, which is trying to raise 25.4 million pennies to represent each one of the deaths by AIDS of people in Africa who are similarly discounted…a penny looks very different to me when it represents a person’s life.

  104. Remi says:

    In Nigeria, the coins (kobo) simply disappeared..woke up one morning and all was gone. It probably explains why the Government has now decided to issue 1000 Naira note. No one would have to worry about the collecting pennies (kobo) from the shops.

  105. David House says:

    You need a 99c coin :)

  106. Mike Cherim says:

    What with all the diets, pills, and exercise videos out there in the marketplace, picking up a penny might be worth the effort. Not only is it a cheap workout, but you’ll actually get paid in the process.
    A person would become an icon of fitness long before getting rich due to the penny’s low valuation, but considering how many people pay the big bucks to stay — or become — fit, it starts sounding like a good thing. ;)

  107. asevasti says:

    I throw pennies away.
    I also pretend to dig through my purse for however long it takes for the cashier or the person in line behind me to get annoyed and just give it to me.

  108. jim says:

    I tend to let cashiers keep the copper, but when i get home my pockets are always crammed with ‘em.
    I must have about £100 worth of copper in a large duffle bag under my sofa, it takes two hands to lift it…
    …when i’m feeling fit – i may take it to the bank…

  109. This may well have already been mentioned, but I was going cross-eyed trying to read the previous 109 comments to be sure I wasn’t repeating anyone. My apologies if I am.
    Several mathematicians, who are much smarter than I, have examined the problem of change to determine what denominations would result in the lowest average number of coins per transaction. Interestingly enough, they found that the answer was to add an 18 or 32 cent coin. The problem is that people think in base-10 numbers (unless you’re a hex guru who thinks in base-16!), so figuring out how many 18 cent coins to return when giving someone back, say, 73 cents was the biggest hang-up. In the end, I read that one of these mathematicians simply advised people to stop using pennies or to carry no more than 5 of them.

  110. Andi says:

    This reminds me of ‘Reservoir Dogs’…
    [Joe counts the tip and finds it is a buck short]
    Joe: Hey, who didn’t throw in?
    Mr. Orange: Mr. Pink.
    Joe: Mr. Pink? Why not?
    Mr. Orange: He don’t tip.
    Joe: He don’t tip? Whaddaya mean you don’t tip?
    Mr. Orange: He don’t believe in it.
    Joe: Shut up!

  111. Jo says:

    I give you a penny for your thoughts …’

  112. Matt says:

    Pennies are good to put on railroad tracks at least (or is it dimes?)…

  113. Terry says:

    I was recently in the US, didn’t realise the use of the little dish next to the till. It just dawned on me why the guy took a penny out when I was owed $2.99 change! I may sound simple, but that is brilliant! Doh!
    I do get confused though by sales tax, why can’t the price you see be the price you pay over there. Adding sales tax almost always had me reopening my wallet and getting more cash out.

  114. Jeff says:

    In Argentina the one cent coin no longer exists and you hardly ever even see a 5 cent coin. Of course, considering the low value of the Argentine peso, 10 Argentine centavos are just barely worth 3 US pennies.

  115. shirley says:

    How much money in a 5 gallon water bottle when it is full of pennies

  116. To expand on what Chui Tey said:
    I Australia when an amount is rounded it affects a businesses tax, so a business who rounds down more often than up will likely get a tax rebate.
    Some shops could likely do quite well out of rounding down :)
    Of course i am blatantly wrong about things every now and then, and this may be one such occason… but well i’m pretty sure its right…
    i think :)

  117. Mike WS says:

    Sharif is right about the reason behind the x.x9 pricing policy. It is intended to prevent cashiers fiddling the store by making them open the cash register, hence recording the transaction, in order to give change on purchases of one or two items instead of pocketing the offered dosh though those determined to do so could always take a few pennies in to work with them.
    I’m touched with Ryan’s naive enthusiasm for plastic money. Apart from Big Brother issues, they are for the convenience of the Banks and card companies not the user. Like Roosta said in the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Second Radio series) “If I can’t scratch a window with it, I wont accept it.”
    Incidentally, here in Andorra the pricing policy is usually ‘take the cost price, add the margin, that’s the price’ leading to price tags ending in any old amount. Also some things, like minor traffic fines, are literal conversions of the old Pesseta value. E.g. 12 Euros 02 (2,000 Pessetas) and you have to cough up the 2 though it is somewhat comforting that the amount has not risen in 4-odd years.

  118. Pete Boere says:

    For the last four years my part time job has been with a foreign coin dealer; the value of pennies for the weight and packing cost means they’re not even worth sending back to the US. For the last year we’ve been bagging them up mixed with the canadian 1c (the machine can’t tell the difference so we would have to sort them by hand) and selling them 4000 a bag to collectors and China, which has a custom of throwing in a coin at funerals, a good luck gesture for the afterlife.

  119. Aidan Maconachy says:

    This is a funny story lol.
    It reminds me of a time I bought some groceries in a variety store in Toronto. I gave the clerk cash and I was due a dime in change. I waited for the dime, but he wasn’t offering. Finally I asked for the change and he said …
    “Oh you want the dime.”
    I figure he probably tosses un asked for change in jar someplace under the counter, and regards is “a tip” of sorts.

  120. Ian Adams says:

    I read in an issue of Scientific American once that you could actually significantly reduce the amount of change in circulation just by adding a 14-cent coin into the mix. I think there was another coin that you had to remove from circulation, but I don’t remember what it was. Still, an interesting idea.

  121. Jules Manson says:

    Back when I was in high school I cashed my check (about $198 and change) for a small fee at a liqour store and the clerk rounded down my money by only about 2 pennies. This is the very same liqour store that I often purchased thing at and every time I was due say a penny or two it was not given as change. I wasn’t missing the penny or two but I did begin to resent the sheer unpoliteness about it
    all. When I cashed a check and he did the same thing I demanded my two pennies. He got so mad that he grabbed a bat and threatened me with it. I just walked out of the store laughing at him and never returned to give him my business. Was I so wrong to antogonize him?

  122. Chris says:

    Yes, yes I’d like to keep my change. It’s my money; after all, I earned it. It has nothing to do with amount, it’s all about the principle. How is it okay for you to keep something that is due me, that is rightfully mine? In most places we call that stealing.
    Anyhoo…
    I don’t like to carry change, but I’ll always stop to pick up any coin I find, even pennies.
    When I get home, I place any change from the day in a piggy bank (yes it’s actually shaped like a pig). I have about $50 US right now.

    In Oregon we have no sales tax, but we have a state income tax. Our neighbor to the north, Washington, has no state income tax, but has a sales tax. At the same tax rate, you save money by being taxed on what you spend, rather than what you earn. So, while it might be an inconvenience to add a 5-15% figure to the cost of your purchase, it might actually save you money.
    But the cool part about being from Oregon and having no sales tax, is that for most purchases in Washington and California, I can show my drivers license and pay no sales tax there as well.

    Something else interesting for all you Americans out there, you’ve noticed that while the mint has created many new designs on our currency lately (or even new coins, like the Sacajawea dollar), the penny has remained untouched for 50 years or so. Will they try to make it popular again? I actually hope so.

    My bank just started something with check cards. When you purchase something that is say, $1.87, they charge you $2.00, transferring $0.13 from your checking account into your savings account. Not a bad idea for keeping your checkbook balanced, but can you imagine reviewing the deposit statement for your savings account?

  123. Praveen says:

    $0.01 * 30000 Days (average human lifetime of 82 years) = $300
    My brand new bike cost more than $300 ($340.97 to be exact)! So basically a penny adds up really slowly!

  124. Mike Ward says:

    The trend has started in America, well at least in US Navy bases in other countries. I just got back from duty in Italy where on the Navy base they don’t deal in pennies. Sure the price may be $1.83 but they will round up or down to suit there needs. Works for me.
    I’m not a big money carrier either, instead counting on plastic, and I have a jar with about 20 lbs of pennies in my office. Anyone know how much beer I can buy for 20 lbs of pennies?

  125. Arnor says:

    Here in Iceland, the government has plans on phasing out all coins. Our largest coin sums up to about $1.50. Instead, they’ll replace our coins with some kind of a debit card, where the money is inside the card, on a secure chip. Sounds interesting but it will probably take a few years for implementation and public recognition.

  126. Ish says:

    I HATE pennies they are horrible little pieces of copper.
    All of you penny picker uppers chew on this.
    It takes approximately 4 seconds to recognize and pick up a penny. If it is dirty you are going to have to find some way to wipe it off another 4-5 seconds.
    therefore you are making at best 0.01 cents per 4 seconds or or the equivilant of $9.00 an hour and at worst $4.00 an hour.
    If in your general life you make more than that it is not worth it to pick up a penny.
    Plus if you have an abundance of pennys they aid in the wear of your pockets decreasing the life of your pants. not worth it
    I also keep my change in a jar so I seperated the pennies that I intentionaly kept for a year from the rest of the change. (i’m canadian so there are $1.00 and $2.00 coins involved) Other change= 2681.65 pennies=18.15
    and i had to roll that garbage NEVER AGAIN
    Pennies are usless