By Philip Dudt
According to recent studies, the cost to make a penny was 2.41 cents, and the cost to make a 5-cent piece was 11.18 cents in fiscal 2011.
So, let’s not just talk about the penny; let’s consider the penny and the 5-cent piece. Yes, get rid of both of them. They are both really big financial losers.
It seems to me we should take a lesson from history and forget about the 5-cent nickel and reconsider the 3-cent nickel. Before you sigh in exasperation, it is useful to point out that the 3-cent nickels, which were first minted at the beginning of the Civil War, were produced to handle metal cost escalations, just like we are experiencing now. And, even though it was never meant to be a long-term solution, it was produced for 24 years, from 1865 to 1889. Not too bad when you think about it.
Times aren’t so different that we can’t reconfigure the current penny format into a 3-cent coin, perhaps change the shape. A square with rounded corners would be less wasteful in producing scrap than punching out round blanks, cookie-cutter style, that is done now.
So what can you do with a 3-cent nickel? Well, you can certainly advertise something for 99 cents (33 3-cent pieces) without getting any change back. And if you are missing one cent in change from a dollar, who cares? The penny that you would have received back was useless. It just ended up in some little cup next to the cash register anyway. And in reality, you get sales taxes for 5 or 6 percent, so two 3-cent pieces cover this. If you happen to be a stickler, you can make up the exact dollar amount from three quarters, one dime and five 3-cent pieces. And don’t forget there are still billions of pennies out there that now have a reason to be in circulation rather than sitting in jars and other odd containers to be sold at garage sales to gullible collectors who think they might possibly hold a few Wheaties to add to their collection.
In the more extreme situation, you might trade a dime for three 3-cent pieces or a quarter for eight 3-cent pieces. Again, who cares? Isn’t it worth a penny to be rid of a penny? And what happens if you have too much change? It gets dumped into machines that pay back dollars but keeps a percentage. You lose anyway.
There are other factors. The Postal Service is raising the postage to 45 cents this year. Yes, and 45 cents is perfectly divisible by three. And you have to admit that our national proficiency in mathematics is pretty low. A 3-cent piece would definitely require more effort from our schools, and they say that engaging the mind reduces the chance for Alzheimer’s disease.
This is definitely win-win proposition.
Anyway, this is my two cents’ worth.
Philip Dudt is a hobbyist from North Bethesda, Md. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News.
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