Okay, I’ve got absolutely nothing against Abraham Lincoln. I never knew him. But we did study him in school. He seemed like a pretty cool guy. He did some pretty cool things, like ending slavery. Heck, he MUST have been pretty special; they put his likeness on the penny. The one cent coin endured times of tragedy and times of triumph, the great depression, the space age, two world wars,
I’m sort of ambivalent about the whole idea. Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by coins, particularly old coins. Some of my most prized possessions are Indian head and wheat pennies. Okay, so the Indian heads don’t include
So, if we do away with the penny, how does that affect our monetary mainframe? Well, the next step up is the nickel. Without pennies, things would be priced in increments of five cents. It only follows that taxation would also default to the nickel, thereby causing revenuers to either drop or raise taxes accordingly. And if you think any city, county, state or the Fed is going to rush to reduce sales, income or capital gains taxes to the next lower level, think again. In fact, think five more times, actually. No, that ain’t gonna happen. So get ready to pay more taxes if the penny bites the dust.
I wonder if the legacy of the last red cent might represent the next domino to fall. Some countries around the world have suffered such inflationary infections that they’ve done away with coins altogether, leaving pockets devoid of metal and at the same time stuffing wallets to the brim with a plethora of paper. Physics works here, too. What you give up in metal, you gain (usually and then some) in paper. This could also have a psychological element. Folding money has a much more pleasant connotation than the mere flip of a coin. Which sounds like more, a dollar bill or a hundred pennies?
Modern vending machines now take bills. Beyond that, some of them even take credit cards. And I don’t know of a coin slot anywhere that will take a penny without instantaneously coughing up the copper. Penny candy has gone the way of the idea of “dialing” a telephone number. Who’ll suffer most? Oh, probably coin collectors who will breathe a sigh of nostalgia when there’s no copper coins to covet, collect and commercialize.
Seems like the bookends are closing in on us. I can’t remember when, but we’ve already seen the demise of the half dollar coin. That was one of my favorites as a kid. I’d sometimes get one as a birthday gift, and just holding one in your hand made you feel like you were rich. Back then I WAS rich when I had one. Is the penny an endangered species? Will the one cent coin be next, closing us in from the bottom of the heap? And will the erstwhile nickel, dime and quarter remain to rule the numismatic realm? Penny…er, make that a nickel for your thoughts!?