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This Week's Letters (3/7/08)

The Treasury wants to change the cent
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From the March 7 Numismatic News E-Newsletter:

Q. The Treasury wants to change the cent?s metal content to make its production more cost-effective. Is this a better decision than eliminating the cent altogether?

I think changing the metal is a good idea, stores and people are not ready to give up the penny. Many people don?t pick up the penny if they drop it but they still look for that one cent change when they buy an item for $9.99.

Bob Thiel
Victor, N.Y.

I think we should keep the cent going if it can be done cost effectively.

Dave Hed
Oakdale, Minn.

I have been a coin collector for a long time, the first thing I could afford to collect were the one cent coins. I feel this is the starting point for most collectors, we need to keep the cent just to keep the hobby going. The metal content of the cent has been changed many times so I don?t think changing it again will cause any problems. As far usefulness, our whole system is
centered around the cent, all of our money springs from the one cent coin.

Jim Robinson
Smyrna, Ga.

I think it?s about time we yield to reality and eliminate the cent from our nation?s coinage. The thought of our once proud copper being rendered in tin or pure zinc, or aluminum is too much to bear. I would rather see the cent fade away after 2009 and have our retailers round up or down prices to the nearest 5 cents.

Malcolm Johnson
Vista, Calif.

I believe it is better to change the composition of the cent than to eliminate it altogether, to get rid of the cent doesn?t make sense to me. It will make the penny that much more valuable. The penny has been around for along time and it serves a purpose in our monetary system.

Dale Leaming
Jasper, Mo.

Personally I do not think the U.S. dollar is weak enough yet to fully eliminate the denomination from circulation. Although it can be said that in urban areas having to deal with a lot of .99 price tags [and tax calculations] can get really annoying with all the one-cent change one gather up in a day?s shopping; while in rural areas where trade are dealt on a much smaller scale it would be necessary to have certain amount of cents circulating around.
Just take the euro for example. The Netherlands and Finland have since rounded their prices to nearest 5 euro cents but the 2- and 1- euro cents still remains legal tender and the system has been working very well; the smaller denominations disappeared from their cashiers, while in other EU nations they still prevail Ireland saw a rise in the demand for small denominations according to the Central Bank of Ireland?s published chart of mintages of their euro coins.
If people are complaining that the cent should be fully eliminated then why don?t they just round their prices to the nearest 5-cent or round up to an easily calculated number. And let the cent slowly be phased out due to its unpopularity and disuse other than just drain it from circulation and get the people having difficulty bargaining over prices that end in .97 for example.

Jim Chen
From Ireland

I believe the cent should be eliminated after the 2009 centennial year saving the U.S. government considerable money. There are probably enough Lincoln pennies in circulation today to cover the needs of merchants for several years. At the current rate of deficit spending and the negative balance of payments between the U.S. and it?s trading partners the dollar will continue to drop in value making the smaller denomination coins even more costly to produce.
I also believe that the Jefferson Nickel metal composition should be changed. Both coins contain metals needed by industry and coin production contributes to the raising costs of these metals.
As an avid 50-plus-year collector of Lincoln pennies I hate to see the cent go but I believe that benefits of not producing them far out way that. Maybe it will even help the half dollar and the new dollar coins to circulate.

Jesse Tarshis
Montrose, Colo.

No sir! Absolutely not! Long live the cent and the nickel! Some things should never change. Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Jefferson are right at home.

T. Jeske
Westminster, Calif.

I think we should get rid of the cent altogether and just have it a collector?s piece in ?09 when the new design is sold.Sales tax, etc, would round to the next nickel.

Ken Cobena
Houston, Texa

Dump it. It is a dinosaur.

Bob Austenfeld
Vestal, N.Y.

No I believe we should keep the cent. It seems we?re moving to a cashless society and then they will all be gone soon enough.

James Dracopoulos
San Antonio, Texas

We have all been faced with the dilemma that the cent is costing so much more than it is worth. The paper dollar costs more as well.
The dollar coin is worth keeping and going on that way. Some countries have eliminated the paper dollar and gone to coin that has metal content that is less than in is worth at face value..
We as Americans, believe that the penny should be a continuing trend in one aspect or another. What I feel it boils down to is that when the cost far exceeds that of making the coin or denomination as the case may be, it should befall us all to rally behind and support the elimination of that coin. I feel that as a collector of the penny myself I would hate to see it be relinquished and forgotten. That being said however, think about the billions of pennies that have been minted over the years. There are plenty to go around!
With the one dollar paper note, we all know that there are many circulating notes. There are also many of the new dollar coins that are in circulation as well. And those are becoming just as popular as the notes are.
So the elimination of the cent would be a good thing for the country, but would really be more effective if the dollar bill would be eliminated as well.

Collin Cagle
West Jordan, Utah

It is a much better idea to change the metal composition and keep the cent. That is how most of us started collecting coins. What a wonderful hobby and business. Let?s keep it where the children of our future can have the same joy we did!

Merrill Jerome Edwards
Naples, Fla.

Let?s just cut and close on the cent. Changing metal content is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Around here, people are stealing manhole covers for the metal content. How long before the next metal change exceeds face value?

Bob Klippstein
Greensboro, N.C.

In my opinion the one cent piece should be eliminated.
Back in the early 1980s when changing the composition of the cent from bronze, aluminum was given consideration. A member and a president of the Mid State Numismatic Assoc., who was a doctor at Johns Hopkins, testified before a committee of some sort and gave testimony that it would be a danger to children and possibly adults. The reason for this is that if swallowed, and kids do this, aluminium will not show up on an x-ray. This was one of the reasons the zinc composition was chosen.
The one cent piece is never used other than received as change. They are just accumulated in a jar and then turned in by a counting machine at the grocery or rolled and deposited at the bank. Most purchases today are by use of credit and debit cards and checks. Eliminating the coin would have no bearing on these transactions.
There is of course a president for eliminating small coins. That being the elimination of the half cent over 150 years ago. A half cent in 1857 was probably worth more than a quarter or more today.

Bill Lenz
Finksburg, Md.

Changing the content will not do anything to solve the underlying issues. However as a collector I like the idea.

Bob Vallone
Princeton Junction, N.J.

The cent in the 1930s would buy a small candy bar, the size which now costs 25 cents.
A cold bottle of Coca Cola cost 5 cents, from a dispensing cooler.
A 1 pound loaf of white bread cost 5 cents, as did a quart of milk.
Gasoline was about 17 to 23 cents per gallon.
An unskilled laborer was glad to have work at $1.00 per day (often a 12 hr. day).
 I do not advocate going back to those Depression days, but the values make a point.
 Today a 12 oz. can of Coca Cola costs at least 50 cents, and cold, from vending machines, $1.00. A pound loaf of white bread costs over $1.00. Milk costs over $1.00 per quart. And gasoline is now over $3.00 per gallon (actually a better buy when comparing costs of 70 years ago than foods). Congress is promoting a $10/ hour minimum wage law, which would pay $120 for that dollar a day Depression worker!
 We have had inflation amounting to over 20 times prices in the 1930s for most items. And most of us can afford a lot more than we could during the Depression. It now takes over 100 cents to buy what cost 5 cents 70 years ago. A current dime is worth 1/2 cent of the 1930s.
 The mint should stop production of cents and nickels. Prices can stay the same. It will take many years for the public to run out of ?pennies? and nickels that have been collected in bottles and drawers. . . .probably over five year?s mint production. By then the quarter will be worth less than the 1930s cent and we could discontinue minting the dime.
 Other countries have acknowledged inflation, some by devaluing their currency, others by discontinuing their smaller value coins. It is ridiculous to mint coins at a cost exceeding the currency value of the coins!

Harold Eiserloh
San Antonio, Texas

I think changing the metal content of the cent is a better alternative than elimination of the cent. No matter how many ?experts? say that elimination will not be inflationary - - it will be inflationary. Every producer, manufacturer, middleman and retailer will do their own little rounding up. The end result is not a one or two percent increase, but more like 10 to 20 percent increase in prices. It appears to me that most ?things? are now over-inflated, be it housing, precious metals, petroleum, agricultural products or consumer goods. There will be a downturn as historically there has always been. It is just a matter of how much the correction will be. When the speculators stop playing liars dice the correction will occur.

Robert R Maisch
Mobridge, South Dakota

It is a much better idea to change the metal composition and keep the cent. That is how most of us started collecting coins. What a wonderful hobby and business. Let?s keep it where the children of our future can have the same joy we did!

Merrill Jerome Edwards,
Naples, Florida

I am a cent collector just like any one else in this hobby, but commercially speaking a penny can not purchase anything so what?s the point. I will still collect them no matter what and everyone else probably will also. There have been other denominations that have come and gone like 2-cent & 3-cent pieces, although they did not have the long and glamorous history the cent has had. This comment leads me right to another subject if the FEDERAL RESERVE BANK keeps cutting rates we will be bringing wheel barrows full of money to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk. When will they realize they are killing the value of the dollar?
I would hate to see all the numismatists control the financial world just because we have the hard assets of gold & silver. HA! vengeance is mine says the coin nerd!!!!!

Jeffrey Esposito
Phila. Pa.

Yes, change the metal.

Richard Gaetano
Pittsburgh, PA

No!!! Eliminating the cent would be a far greater disservice to our hobby and to our economy than would be (an inevitable) change in metallic composition. No debate needed about that. Thank you.
 Sincerely yours,

Charles K Miller,
Havertown, PA

I believe yes it is. Eliminating the cent would be the stupidest idea, not only from the numismatic point of view, but also from the inflationary economics point of view. Countries who have eliminated low denominations from their currency have historically faced record inflation rates, and we cannot do the same mistake.

Leroy Vargas
Atlanta GA

No, stop making the cent.

 Larry Gilcri
Natural Bridge, N.Y.

I believe that the cent should not be eliminated from our coinage. Changing the composition is probably the right way to go, but with reservations. As the Immediate Past President of The Elongated Collectors, the cent is integral to our piece of the hobby, and most of our members prefer the pre-1982 coins to the current copper-coatd zinc (AKA ?Stinky-zincies?). If the alloy is changed, it should be something soft enough to go through the elongating machines without excessive problems; steel coins tend to cause machine wear and premature die failure. Of course, none of these concerns will receive the slightest consideration from the Mint in their decision.

Bob Fritsch
Nashua, NH

Well, to have or not have the cent, that is the Question? I say, we
go w/ a 2 cent or 3 cent piece or better still both! That might give
the retailers something to play w/ for a while. ?Let?s see, $3.97 or
$3.98 on a gallon of gasoline? $1.88 or $1.87 per dozen eggs, hmm,
we could have some real fun here. Yes, following the ?09 Lincoln
cents, retire the cent and go for the newest craze from the U.S.
Mint, a 2 cent coin w/ the second president on it (John Adams needs
some recognition) and the following year the Mint could change it to
the second Colony, the 2nd World War etc. They could do something
similar w/ the 3 cent piece by putting Thomas Jefferson our 3rd
President on the coin and following it up w/ the 3rd Colony the
following year and so on. Why, they would make more money w/
collectors trying to get in line to get the mistakes that are sure to
show up. It would be tantamount to a circus, why it is a circus!

Kevin Brady-Jones
Eugene, Oregon