Dollar bill and penny: On the way out?
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, May 13, 2012
5/13/12 at 3:31 AM
On a recent Monday, I noticed a surplus of bills in my wallet. This happens on occasion. Not because I'm loaded with money but because I often find myself in possession of several dollar bills. I'll explain that shortly.
In that same week, while making a purchase at a QuikTrip (yes, I play the lottery, quite unsuccessfully), the total came to something involving a penny. I got the change and left the four cents.
There is another movement afoot to get rid of the dollar bill and the penny. This comes up often but has yet to gain much traction.
I am divided.
As for the plethora of dollar bills in my pocket, I often find myself in that situation come Monday. I play golf on most Sundays and my golfing buddies and I make wagers. That means on Sunday morning I have to stop somewhere and buy something to break a 10-dollar bill so that I will have some ones with which to settle my losses. Lately, I've been on a roll and have left the course with more ones in my pocket than I brought. (As this is being read, I might be on the verge of giving all those ones back, which would solve my weekly problem, at least for this week.)
Despite the inconvenience of having all those ones in my wallet, I find that alternative more appealing than lugging around 15 one-dollar coins in my pocket. Bills fold nicely.
Granted, not many people carry 10 or 15 one-dollar bills around. But it happens. Paying for things in cash - yes, some people still do that - and getting change often involves dollars. You can't leave them all as tips.
Speaking of that, imagine a wait person having to bag his or her tips at the end of the evening.
On the other hand, the General Accountability Office says the U.S. could save $4.4 billion over 30 years by axing the dollar bill.
As far as the penny goes, I have no quarrel with scrapping it. It costs more to make than it is worth (2.4 cents per coin to mint). They really serve no purpose other than to force people to dig around in their pockets or purses trying to find one or two pennies to give the salesperson.
There's not even enough copper in them these days to make them worth stealing - or picking up off the ground. They are 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper. Not so long ago, 1980, many pennies were still 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. No kid wants a shiny new penny for being a proper child.
When I was a kid, we used to scavenge for pop bottles and turn them in for the 2-cent deposit. Of course, a nickel would get you a candy bar and a dime a Coke. It didn't take many bottles to make that goal.
Now, I, and I'll bet a lot of other folks, simply leave the penny or two of change on the counter. If I and everyone else leaves 4 cents at the QuikTrip every time we stop, that's a pretty neat profit, albeit over many, many years.
Pennies are so worthless a lot of places have a dish of pennies by the cash register and offer them to customers in the change-making process. In the past month or so, my favorite person at Billy's on the Square, Stephanie, has spotted me about 3 cents a few times when I have come up 3 cents short on a $9.03 bill. That's going to add up after a while.
There are those who defend the penny - or cent as it is officially known by the U.S. Treasury.
Charities often conduct fund drives with change jars and much of that change is in pennies. They fear it will cut down on giving. Or, it might have a positive effect if everyone puts in a nickel.
On the historical side, opponents stress that the penny was one of the first coins minted by the U.S. They also point out that Abraham Lincoln is on the coin. True, but he also is on the five-dollar bill, so it's not like he would be totally dissed. Besides, I think Lincoln is more of a five-dollar president than a penny president.
As far as the tax dilemma, round up or down. If it's 1 to 2 cents, round down, 3 to 4 cents, round up.
Good old days
The penny meant something when I was a kid. A penny would buy a piece of bubble gum. I am the owner of a penny gum ball machine that my family had in our hamburger joint when I was growing up. It is full of pennies, but the key is missing.
My 86-year-old mother, who collected about 50 one-dollar silver certificates and about 80 Kennedy half-dollars, is certain that the gum ball machine is full of wheat pennies that, along with the silver certificates and Kennedy halves (all tucked away in a safety deposit box), will make me filthy rich someday. The way I see it, is between the silver certificates, the Kennedy halves and the wheat pennies confined to the darkness of the gum ball machine innards, my older brother and I will have $95 to split for our inheritance, give or take a penny or two. I just have to find a key.
Last week in our Opinion section, we ran a very interesting piece on the dollar bill vs. dollar coin. The writer favored the coin. He runs a car wash and pointed out that for the convenience of his customers, he believes that the dollar coin would be better. He says the customers struggle with getting crumpled bills into the change machine. And he said that if a customer buys a $12 wash with a 20-dollar bill, he would get 32 quarters in change. He asks, who would want 32 quarters in change? I ask, who would give someone 32 quarters in change? How about eight one-dollar bills? Or, who would put 20 one-dollar bills into the change machine to get a $12 wash?
Smaller is better
The cynic in me also sees a chance for vending machine companies and, yes, car wash owners to switch their quarter machines to dollar machines and jack up the prices.
If, by some chance, the Treasury decides to drop the dollar coin, I suggest making it smaller than a quarter. For those who might spend some time in dark places such as bars, it is difficult to distinguish the quarter from the dollar coin, I am told.
I also suggest that the government consider making a two-dollar coin. That would cut down on the number of dollar coins we would have to carry. That would get rid of the two-dollar bill that no one uses (I think Mom has some of those squirreled away, which would jack up my inheritance) and they could maybe bring back the Native American theme to replace Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson still has the nickel.
That's my opinion. That and a dollar or two will get me a cup of coffee, But, I wanted to get in my 2-cents worth before it's too late.
Original Print Headline: Dollars and cents
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332