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COLUMN: Some cents don’t make sense

The only thing I hate more than people wasting my time and money is pennies and nickels.

Then again, small change and wasting time go hand in hand. I’ve wasted many nights and weekends sifting through mounds of loose change, gathering up enough quarters to fuel a rinse cycle in the community washing machine.

Quarters are fine. They serve a useful purpose and everyone loves them. Dimes are OK here and there, so long as you don’t have pockets full of them.

Pennies and nickels, however, serve no purpose.

The overall cost of products has made the penny an obsolete currency. They are just not worth having around.

In economics, “opportunity cost” is money you’re missing out on when you’re doing something else.

When I’m sitting at home, counting up pennies to roll up and give to a bank, I’m losing out on precious time I could be dedicating somewhere else.

Even vending machines refuse pennies. They are not worth the time to count. Could you patiently wait behind someone feeding 150 pennies into a soda machine?

Nickels are slightly better at opportunity cost, but economically, they are far worse.

According to the U.S. Mint’s 2013 Annual Report, it costs 1.8 cents to make one penny and 9.4 cents to make one nickel.

It costs more to make our change than it’s worth in currency.

The cost of our throw-away change has been increasing for years, and the only thing the Mint has done to stem the tide is by changing materials used in coin creation and distribution methods.  All that accomplished was to drop the price of producing a nickel down to the 9.4 cents today.

According to the 2011 report, it cost 11 cents to make a nickel and cost 2.4 cents for a penny back then. So at least the Mint is aware of the issue.

How about instead of desperately trying to hold on to pennies and nickels, we just take them out of circulation?

Do we love pennies and nickels so much we are willing to let them weigh us down? The economy is in such a terrible condition right now, we should be trying to cut idiotic spending. I believe this meets the criteria for idiotic.

There’s nothing wrong with killing off a piece of currency when it has become economically obsolete, and it’s not like the U.S. hasn’t done it before.

In 1857, we discontinued the half cent because it had outgrown its usefulness. And back then it was worth the equivalent of today’s dime. So what does that say about our situation?

The sooner we get rid of pennies and nickels, the better off we will be. Overspending on the making of money makes no sense.


  1. “When I’m sitting at home, counting up pennies to roll up and give to a bank, I’m losing out on precious time I could be dedicating somewhere else.”

    Bring them to a coinstar, problem solved. Why would you waste time counting pennies?

  2. Because then you are wasting money paying a machine money to count money. It’s ridiculous – just like that sentence. But what do I know? ;)

  3. If you are only cashing in pennies, Coinstar @ 7.5%:

    Lets say it takes you 30s per penny roll. That is $60 in pennies per hour, times 7.5% is $4.50 per hour.

    If someone offered me $4.50 per hour [tax-free] to roll pennies in my down-time, I might take them up on it, but I think I’d rather just watch TV :)

    Nickels and quarters are only 40 to a roll [and perhaps easier to handle and count due to their size], so lets figure 25s per roll and leave dimes at 30s. They come out to:
    Nickels- $12.60 per hour
    Dimes- $45.00 per hour
    Quarters- $108.00 per hour

    So, if you are going to use Coinstar, almost certainly worth separating out pennies and rolling the rest yourself. Or check with your bank, mine has a Coinstar-like machine that is free for bank customers.

  4. John Smith says:

    I should have added to my comment that most Coinstars I encounter no longer charge a fee.

  5. John Smith says:

    And how is it ridiculous to spend your nights of a short life counting change instead of spending 6 cents to a dollar for a machine to do it for you? If it was 4 cents per dollar, would you still spend the entire night counting?

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