UP NOLAN CREEK: A penny saved?
Monday, 18 February 2013 by Wayne Carpenter
I read today our neighbor to the north, Canada, is stopping production of pennies, or one cent coins if you prefer the technical term. I have some thoughts on this subject, but before I discuss Canadian money, the whole concept of pennies stirred up a few memories.
A familiar quote I have heard my entire life is from Benjamin Franklin, "A penny saved is a penny earned." I recall most kids of my generation were given a piggy bank when we were very small, so we could learn to save our own money. At our house money was in short supply, and my parents frequently quoted Franklin's admonition of how important it is to save your pennies and not waste them. Of course, back in the fifties when I started saving pennies, I could actually buy something with them, which made the process seem worthwhile. If a boy or girl could hang on to a few pennies and take them to school at the old Tyler Elementary School on Main Street, they had multiple options for spending them.
First of all, one could always buy extra milk at lunch time. Maybe it doesn't sound like much now, but at the time, another pint of cold milk, especially if I could get chocolate to go with my peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich Mom had packed in my sack lunch was no small luxury. Even better than extra milk were the little candy treats sold in the school office downstairs. For a few pennies, a starving boy could stock up on a variety of little hard candies. My favorite candy was root beer flavored and shaped like a little barrel. The going rate when I was a student was two pennies a piece or three root beer barrels for five cents. I'm sure my overconsumption of root beer barrels put me on the early road to cavities, but they were so sweet, I found them irresistible. I ate so many root beer barrels when I was a student at Tyler Elementary School that I no longer enjoy root beer in any shape, form or fashion. But for me, the ultimate use of a few saved pennies was to go after school to Mr. Keetch's little store, which was located just past the big old oak tree near the front playground of the school. Mr. Keetch was a very nice man who sold all kinds of wondrous sweet treats, and he treated us little Tyler kids like real customers. Saving up large numbers of pennies was truly hard work when so many opportunities for instance gratification presented themselves.
I'm afraid a penny earned or saved today isn't worth much today, although given the uncertainties of our economic system these days, saving money is as important as ever. The Canadian government says producing each one cent piece costs about 1.64 cents, and the government will save millions of dollars a year by no longer producing them. Apparently Canadians are bright enough to round off numbers, so it shouldn't be a real hardship to do away with one-cent pieces.
Critics of the idea say it will cost their government quite a bit to collect the one cent pieces and remove them from circulation, but I imagine it won't take long; people just love to hoard things when they know they won't be making them any longer. I've read it costs the American government almost two cents to produce one penny. I'm not sure why the Canadians can mint theirs more economically than we do, but they are a very clever people; must be all the clear, cold air up there. Here in the states, we mint over seven billion pennies a year and lose money on every one of them. Most people I know have dozens, if not hundreds, of pennies tucked away in jars, drawers, piggy banks, old penny loafers, and assorted other nooks and crannies. Most people won't even bend over to pick a shiny new penny off the sidewalk these days, so we obviously we no longer value them.
I say America should stop minting pennies, round up all the old ones, and ship them to China to pay off a small fraction of the national debt. That's my two cents worth for today.