Jarden Zinc Products is a large zinc plant outside Greeneville, Tennessee. It has a special claim. Since 1982, Jarden has been the only supplier of penny blanks for the U.S. Mint. The blanks are the metal disks that the mint turns into 1¢ coins. It's a good business for Jarden. The company earns millions of dollars. But it may not be a good deal for the U.S.
In 2006, it began to cost more than a penny to make a penny. It now costs 2¢ to make a 1¢ coin. Many countries have stopped using pennies. Canada has a currency similar to that of the U.S. It will end penny circulation on February 4. Should we do the same?
Jarden and the zinc industry are fighting to keep the penny. Since 2006, Jarden has given $1.2 million to Americans for Common Cents (ACC). The group wants to keep the penny.
Two Sides to the Coin
Mark Weller works for ACC. He says there are three main reasons for keeping the penny. Without the penny, we would depend more on the nickel, which also has problems. Charities that depend on penny drives would not be able to raise as much money. And Americans want to keep the penny. In a 2012 poll, many people said they feared they would end up paying more for products if the U.S. stopped using the penny.
Many experts disagree with ACC. They say other countries have gotten rid of their lowest-value coins without raising prices for consumers. And charities don't seem too worried either. Major George Hood of the Salvation Army says, "If pennies were to be removed, the Salvation Army hopes the public will continue to donate generously to help people in need."
Weller has one strong argument for keeping the penny, and that's the problem with the nickel. Each nickel costs the U.S. Mint more than 10¢ to make. If getting rid of the penny led to a greater use of the nickel, wouldn't we be trading one bad coin for another?
President Barack Obama has suggested the U.S. Mint should use a cheaper metal, like steel, to make pennies. Pennies are 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper.
But no matter what it is made of, the penny's days may be numbered. Most in-store purchases are now made with debit or credit cards, not cash. Is it time for a change?
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