Amid government bailouts, bankruptcies, and plummeting stock prices what does the government give us to cheer us up and let us know that everything is going to be ok? A new penny. Yes, the government has decided to spend our hard-earned tax dollars giving the penny a makeover. The question shouldn’t have been “does the penny need a makeover?” Is should have been “do we really need the penny?”
Each penny is made of copper-plated zinc. And each penny cost 1.4 cents to make. According to Philly.com, this means the “5 billion pennies —$50 million worth—minted this year cost about $70 million to make.” For those of you really bad at math, that’s $20 million wasted dollars.
But don’t worry, Congress is all over it. Several bills are in play to change the composition of the penny. Never mind how much it costs to get a bill through Congress.
And that doesn’t include all of the money that went into this redesign, which Congress approved in 2005. How many people were paid to consult on the penny design? How many historians did it take to figure out how young Lincoln should look and with what tool he built his log fence?
Of course, polls are cited as valid reasons for keeping the penny: Coinstar (yes, the company that charges to roll up your pennies at the local Safeway) released a poll in 2006 that claims 63% of Americans want to keep the penny as an “important symbol of American culture, history, and the economy.” Do these 66% know how much money we’re wasting for a little nostalgia? If everyone is so worried about rounding up, shouldn’t they consider the extra .4 cents each penny wastes? I guess if you consider the wastefulness of our government, spending an extra .4 cents is a very important symbol of how we operate. So never mind the fact that if you added up all the costs associated with the new penny the government would probably be able to bail out another failing company.
But none of this matters anymore because the penny isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, for the first time in 50 years, the penny is getting a makeover. Yes, in honor of the upcoming bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the U.S. Mint has given the penny a facelift.
The first new penny is scheduled to appear on February 12, 2009— the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. The U.S. mint says that the redesign will highlight four phases in Lincoln’s life: “his birth in Kentucky, his formative years in Indiana, his professional life in Illinois, and his presidency.” Translation? A log cabin, a young Abe sitting on a log and reading, Lincoln standing in the Illinois State Capitol, and the construction of the U.S. Capitol dome. Um, yeah. Out of everything Abraham Lincoln did, that’s what they came up with? Sitting on a log reading? A building under construction? The man freed slaves and reigned throughout the bloodiest and most brutal war our country has ever seen. And this is what they came up with? None of the designs even feature his top hat.
But, before you join Citizens for Retiring the Penny, here’s another uplifting thought: last year an average nickel cost 9.5 cents to make.
Sam McGill hates pennies.
Little known fact: the Lincoln penny, first introduced on the 100th anniversary of his birth, was the first coin to feature a person’s likeness.