Stop Making Cents?


A few weeks ago, one of my library rss feeds popped up a bunch of links about cents.  Specifically, groups of Americans who want to retire the “penny” and Americans who think the smallest coin has great value.   Each side in this debate has some compelling arguments.

The Citizens to Retire the Penny take:

  • the cent serves no useful function in commerce
  • it costs more to mint the coin than the value of the cent itself!
  • looking for and counting out cents wastes time in transactions

Americans for Common Cents counter:

  • cents are often collected by charities in fund raising drives
  • the cent, especially with President Lincoln’s portrait, has great cultural significance
  • losing the penny and rounding up to the nickel would raise prices
  • most Americans like them

You can read the websites for more discussion of the cent’s merits and weaknesses (including counter-arguments t0 each organizations main points).  As a fan of Abraham Lincoln and someone who enjoyed collecting coins when I was young, I lean toward the save the cent side of the debate.  Yet, I can see the inherent wastefulness of producing something that is worth less than it costs to make.  I’ve long wondered, why not just revalue our currency?  I searched the ‘net and found proposals to do just that by declaring the penny worth two cents or even redefining the base unit as five cents.  It certainly makes sense for a decimal system to have a .01 unit and the Lincoln Cent is certainly a cultural icon worth preserving.

I say, let’s not do things in half measures though.  Let’s revalue the cent so that it will  be worth what is currently valued as ten cents.  The other denominations in our currency would be revalued accordingly:

1¢ = 10¢
5¢ = 50¢
10¢ = $1.00
25¢ = $2.50
50¢ = $5.00
$1.00 = $10.00
$5.00 = $50.00
$10 = $100.00
$20, $50, & $100 would all be retired because no one would carry that ridiculous amount of money around.

The US Mint could also reintroduce the half-cent and two-cent coins to replace the role of the nickel and the quarter, and the $2 bill could return to useful circulation as the new twenty.  Readjusting the value of our currency in a big way now will make it last for many more decades against the rate of inflation.

Obviously, they’re would be a confusing and laborious process of revaluing everything from the price of goods to employee salaries to adjust to the new system.  Yet, I think even that will eventually have it’s charm.  Imagine buying a soda from a vending machine for a dime or a movie ticket for a dollar!  This new system would save the mint and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving a lot of money, be a boon to collectors, and preserve an important facet of our cultural heritage.

Let me know what you think in my first ever Panorama of the Mountains poll, or put a message in the comments: