June 23rd is National Penny Day (some calendars have it listed as National Lucky Penny Day). In honor of the occasion I looked up a few interesting facts about that ubiquitous copper coin to share with you:
- Pennies are normally considered lucky. Remember the old jingle “See a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck”? And many a bride has placed a penny in her shoe for good luck. (I certainly did).
- The Continental Congress authorized the first US penny in 1787. It was designed by Benjamin Franklin and was made of pure copper.
- In 1909, on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the very first Lincoln penny was issued. It was the first regular issue US coin to honor an actual person.
- There are more pennies produced in the US than any other coin.
- In 2009 there were approximately 150 BILLION pennies in circulation.
- A 2006 national poll revealed that 74% or males and 84% of females stop and pick a penny up off the ground when they spot one.
- As of May 2010, it cost the US mint more to create a penny (about 1.67 cents) than its face value.
All that being said, I’ll admit to being surprised that the lowly penny rated having a special day set aside for it since that poor copper coin hasn’t gotten much respect lately. In fact, over the past several years there have been ongoing debates about whether or not we should do away with the penny all together.
Those opposed to doing away with the penny argue that it will cause prices to go up as merchants round everything up, that many charities depend on penny drives to bring in funding, and that Americans on the whole are traditionalists who have a sentimental attachment to pennies.
Those on the other side of the debate argue that pennies are all but worthless on their own (you can no longer buy anything for just a penny), processing pennies wastes time (there are statistics that show the average individual spends about two and a half hours a year handling pennies or waiting on folks who handle them), producing pennies wastes government time (if we did away with pennies the Mint would only have half the work to do).
As for me, though I’m normally one of those sentimental traditionalists, it wouldn’t really bother me unduly to see them permanently retired. I don’t carry any around with me if I can help it. Any that do end up in my wallet get transferred to a large jar I keep by my front door (see picture). On the other hand, if I spot one on the ground, I can’t resist picking it up for good luck 🙂 .
So what about you? Are you for or against our government continuing to mint pennies? And do you have a penny jar of your own?