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Penny's pinch

Thursday, August 3, 2006

"Nickel for your thoughts" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

"A dime saved is a dime earned?"

"Not a quarter to your name?"

How about "that's worth a pretty half-dollar"?

The phrases may sound strange now, but according to the U.S. government, the penny is in trouble.

A pending federal bill would eliminate the coin, requiring the cost of every item to be rounded to the nearest nickel.

The reason? Due to the rising cost of metal, it actually costs about 1.4 cents to make a single penny, which adds up to a $20 million loss for the U.S. Mint each year, according to FoxNews.com.

But there's strong opposition to the elimination of the penny, including from some federal legislators who point out that the nickel also costs more to make -- 6.4 cents for every nickel produced -- and doing away with the penny would mean more nickels would be needed.

In a recent survey by USA Today, 55 percent of people said they find the penny useful.

That includes Southeast Missouri resident Miranda Inman.

"To me the penny is as American as apple pie. I remember as a child my Grandpa would give me pennies all of the time, and I remember how rich I felt, not because of their worth, but because of how many pennies there were," said Inman, who lives in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Over the past decade, the penny is has added up to quite a bit for 27-year-old Dawn Abney of Burfordville. Last year, Abney managed to save more than $340 in pennies alone, just by keeping her coin change from everyday purchases.

"I actually have a piggy bank -- a great big purple pig -- that I keep it in," said Abney.

She put the $340 into her savings account. Abney said the loss of the penny would put a crimp in her coin-to-cash program, so she's opposed to it.

On the other side of the issue is Cape Girardeau resident Steve Mosley, who says he is in favor of eliminating the penny.

"Every time I see a penny I feel psychic pain resulting from the well-deserved physical pain I endured for pilfering rare pennies from my dad's coin collection when I was a preteen in order to trade them for nickels so as to feed the pinball machine at Wimpy's hamburger heaven," Mosley said. "Doing away with them may mean 'out of sight, out of mind' and lead me to achieve some kind of guilt-ending closure."

Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., is responsible for the legislation that would eliminate the penny.

"Times change, you have to adapt to those changes," Kolbe said in a recent USA Today report. "A penny should be thought of not as some nostalgic thing but as ... currency. And it simply has no use as a medium of commerce."

Cape Girardeau Mayor and First Missouri State Bank vice president Jay Knudtson said the loss of the penny will have an emotional impact for many people.

"It's indicative of the world we live in today," he said. "The penny just no longer represents anything that has any worth."

From an economic standpoint, Knudtson said he believes the elimination could contribute to rising costs as manufacturers set prices for merchandise.

'"Obviously they'll be rounding up as opposed to down," he said. "But what impact that will have I don't really have a grasp of."

cmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128


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