The man responsible for the world’s biggest economy blamed too many more pressing issues when questioned on why the US is still spending millions minting its penny when other countries have got rid of it.
But during the recent online Q & A, President Barack Obama did give his strongest hint yet that it might be time for America’s lowest value coin – which costs 2.4 cents to produce and circulate – to go once and for all.
Drop the penny and save a mint?
In 2009, the US Government lost nearly £20m minting its one-cent coins. That figure had trebled to almost £60m just two years later. At a time of global recession, many argue that ditching the penny would be an obvious cost-cutting measure. Like many others around the world, the UK included, the US penny can’t even buy itself.
Not a top priority
But is it quite as simple as that? Obama may be President of the world’s most powerful nation but even he needs legislation from Congress who, not surprisingly, has other more important things to do. And should the penny go, the five cent Nickel coin would be used more and that costs nearly five times more than the penny to put into circulation at 11.2 cents.
The end of the Canadian penny
As regular readers of this blog will know, should the bill ever go ahead, the US would be the latest in a long line of countries to eliminate its smallest denomination coin. Its North American neighbour stopped its production of the penny in January after more than 150 years.
But Americans it seems are just as sentimental as we Brits are about holding onto a part of our numismatic heritage – despite the fact we can do very little with our pennies but save them for a very rainy day …
Last week Canada became the latest country to bid farewell to its penny or 1 cent coin. Australia, Brazil and Sweden have already ditched theirs – the question is will the UK be next?
With over 11 billion in circulation according to latest Royal Mint figures, the humble penny accounts for nearly 40% of all Britain’s circulating coins. It is in fact our most common coin but when it costs more than a penny to make a penny, surely its days must be numbered?
Opinion is divided
Those in favour of getting rid of it say you can’t buy anything for a penny these days. True – the penny chews of my youth have now gone from our sweet shops. You can’t even ‘spend a penny’ anymore (that’ll cost you as much as 30p for the privilege). Put simply, 1p coins have no other function but to weigh down our purses and pockets.
But, in these tough times, every penny counts. Those against the move say there are plenty of people that still need the 1p and other small denomination coins. How many of us pop our loose change in charity collecting boxes when we’re out and about? They may be small amounts but they all add up.
A future collector’s item?
So it is probably fair to say that keeping hold of your old pennies is unlikely to make you rich. However, when they do finally disappear from our change (as is almost certain at some point), they are certain to remain an important part of Britain’s numismatic heritage for centuries to come.
Penny for them
Ultimately the “Master of the Mint” Chancellor George Osborne will make the final decision but what are your thoughts – should the penny stay or go?