The US really might stop producing pennies

In our ears, and in our eyes.
In our ears, and in our eyes.
Image: Reuters/Phil Noble
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It’s getting serious.

The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos reports that in a March 2015 memo to US president Barack Obama, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said he planned to suspend production of the venerable penny.

While the existence of the memo had not been disclosed previously, the idea of ditching the one-cent piece has been a perennial debate for a few decades now. Among the arguments for: Pennies fall out of circulation almost immediately, forcing the US mint to continually stamp out more, and they cost almost twice as much to produce as they’re worth, according to the most recent data from the US mint.

But unless you’re a card-carrying member of the US zinc lobby—pennies have been 97.5% zinc since 1982—Lew’s proposal shouldn’t be a big deal to you.

The US would be following the sensible, penny-free path carved out by countries including Sweden, Finland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, and the Netherlands, which have similarly dropped diminutive denominations of their currencies with little noticeable impact. Britain and Norway also have eliminated their lowest-denomination coins.