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Waste Watch: US throwing away millions on pennies

Updated: Wednesday, July 10 2013, 03:15 PM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. - On a break from shopping at Marketplace Mall, Jannyce Arnold shared a sentimental tradition with her three grand daughters.  “Are you ready?” she asked, handing out pennies.  “Make a wish.”

Plop, plop as the pennies go into the water at the base of the fountain. “I think kids still enjoy it, seeing it go into the water, hoping your wish might come true,” she said.

One cent is quite a value when tied to a wish that just may come true.  Yet when it comes to its actual value, the coin bearingLincoln’s image falls short.  “Believe it or not I throw them away,” said Sean DePalma cradling his baby daughter.  “I don’t really use them.  They’re worthless to me.”

“I have no value to a penny at all,” said Roger Davis adding “When I take a penny out of my pocket I just put it in a can.”

What can you buy for a penny?  Not much and so they collect in jars and drawers forcing the US government to mint more each year.  

Yet, each penny produced will cost taxpayers more than it is actually worth.

“I don’t have a problem with the federal government doing away with the penny,” said Mike Omeluch who has run Ridge Jewelry and Coin for 41 years.  

He knows the value of coins and said the penny “operates at a loss” which is something his business cannot afford to do.  “You could melt a penny today and get two cents out of it if you could reclaim the elements.  That’s why the government is losing money,” he said.

The cost of zinc and copper rises nearly every year.

According to the U.S. Treasury, with manufacturing expenses each one cent coin actually costs taxpayers 2.5 cents to mint.  That will add up to a loss of $70 million dollars this year alone.

“I didn’t realize it was (such) a big waste of money,” said Shawn Hawkins adding “We don’t need them.”

The last time a penny cost a penny was 2006.  That was the last break-even year for a nickel too.  It costs 10.09 cents to mint a coin worth half that.  Combined losses on the nickel and penny over the last 7 years add up to $469 for taxpayers.

“That’s a big waste of money, a very big waste of money,” said DePalma who added he was surprised at the total.

“I say that means we should just get rid of (the penny),” said Eddie Rivera.

Most pennies drop out of circulation right after they are distributed which creates an artificial demand for the US government to mint more.  

There are so few in actual circulation that several banks contacted by 13Wham News said they still hand roll the coins.

Many countries including the Netherlands, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and, most recently, Canada, have pitched their lowest denomination coins.

Back at the mall fountain, Jannyce Arnold said the penny may have outlived it’s usefulness in her lifetime.  “I think it’s a lot of wasted money,” she said.  And what about the sentimental value? 

“You can make a wish with a dandelion too.  Just blow on that and you make a wish,” she said.

Waste Watch: US throwing away millions on pennies

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