Does the sound of loose change swishing around in the depths of your pocket sound appealing? Of course not. How often are pennies found in between couch cushions, under floor mats, in your car or in coat pockets? Probably quite often, but does anyone ever find themselves stressing over the loss of pennies or becoming ecstatic over the discovery of pennies in random places? Most Americans would likely say they have never done either of those things, solely due to the fact that pennies are worthless in our economy.
When the penny was first introduced into the American economy in 1793, it actually had value. One penny in the late 1700s and early 1800s would be worth about $2.38 in today’s market when adjusted for inflation. The rise of inflation in the United States over the last few centuries has diminished the value of the one-cent coin tremendously. So why does the United States continue to mint these useless coins?
While it can be agreed that no one is ever going to make a purchase with pennies, given that they have no real value, let’s talk about how pennies harm us. On average, one penny costs 2.06 cents to manufacture, making the production and distribution of pennies more expensive than the actual worth of a penny. The funding of manufacturing pennies comes straight from taxpayers’ pockets. If that doesn’t raise concern, then realize that in 2019, Americans paid approximately $145 million in manufacturing and distribution costs for a coin that is rendered useless across the nation.
One aspect of pennies that often is overlooked is how they are made. Contrary to popular belief, pennies are only made up of 2.5% copper, while the other 97.5% is made up of zinc. The United States began producing pennies in 1943 with a majority of their composition being made up of zinc because the price of copper was too high as well as copper being utilized heavily in WWII by the United States’ military.
While fun facts about the composition of pennies is neat and all, that is not the point. The point is that the way the United States obtains zinc is detrimental to the environment and humans. For instance, producing one ton of zinc produces approximately three tons of CO2, which flows directly into the atmosphere. The rate at which the United States is mining zinc has led to very high concentrations of zinc being sent into the atmosphere and even in food and water supplies. High concentrations of zinc have also been proven to have adverse effects on public health. Some effects include nausea, vomiting, restlessness and high fever.
The sound of pennies swishing around in one's pocket hopefully doesn’t sound as appealing anymore, for the sound should become white noise. While yes, pennies are annoying in general and have no real value in the American economy, there are more disadvantages carried by them than just their inconvenience. To become infuriated with a coin isn’t a popular choice but the existence of the penny, the coin that holds no value, is absurd. Hopefully, the existence of the coin and its worth in our economy will soon change.
Nicholas White is a freshman studying political science. Please note that the views and ideas of columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Nicholas? Tweet him @nicholaswhiite.