user_30405's Blog

25 Feb 2023

Thoughts on the Cent being Abolished

Young Numismatists Exchange | user_30405

For the last 230 years, the United States government has been minting cents, even though they have cost more than a cent to produce for the over the last decade. Many people advocate for the United States Mint to stop minting cents, as they create a government deficit, while others defend the cent for its numismatic, cultural, and business value. This question has been battled out by the numismatic elite, like Former Mint Director Philip Diehl, as well as ordinary numismatists. While there are strong arguments on both sides, I advocate for the eventual discontinuation of the cent, perhaps in the next five years.

The cent is the most widely recognized United States coin, and when the history of the cent is explored, the reason is obvious. The cent was the first coin struck for circulation by the United States Mint in 1793, and has been struck continuously until today, with the exception of 1915. Originally, cents were struck in pure copper and were not legal tender until 1864. The composition continued until 1857, when the composition of the cent was switched to 75% copper, 25% nickel, and the diameter was reduced from 27.5 mm to 19 mm. In 1982, the composition was changed again to copper-coated zinc, due to a rise in copper prices. To counter this, Congress passed a bill that banned the melting of copper and nickel in 2007. Today, a copper cent is worth 2.27 cents melt value, while zinc cents are worth .7 cents melt value. Many bills have been introduced in Congress to stop the production of cents, as the production costs surpass face value by hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The cent has spanned all of the presidents, the Civil War, the World Wars, and increased inflation. Why? Because of its profound practical and cultural significance.

Many argue for the cent to continue to be produced, because it is one of the most significant coins in American numismatic history. The cent has portrayed American values through its designs. The first design portrayed Lady Liberty as a frightened woman with unruly flowing hair, and worse yet, the reverse depicted a chain circle, which reminded people of slavery! Needless to say the design didn’t last long, with the designs eventually the Matron Head cent until small cents were instituted in 1857. After a brief design depicting a flying eagle, James Longacre designed a new cent with a Liberty wearing a Native American headdress; the design was popular and lasted until Abraham Lincoln’s profile took over the cent in 1909, where it remains today. The cent has long been a cultural icon, originally seeing the most extensive circulation. Although they are relatively useless as money, they have started many, myself included, on a track to numismatics. As one might think, they are highly collectable, being the third most collected series, behind Washington Quarters and Morgan Dollars. While many say that they are useless and are only costing tax-payer’s money, they make up only one millionth of a percentage of the government's total expenditure. Some say it is a small price to pay for honoring Abraham Lincoln, one of our country's most honored presidents, and what he symbolizes: freedom. The cent is going to continue through at least 2026, the United States sesquicentennial, when the reverse will be redesigned commemorating the event. While the cent is more symbolic than anything else, the price that Americans pay may not be worth it to anybody but numismatists.

Many call for the abolition of cents and nickels, including me. Most people will never spend their cents, they are often regarded as a nuisance to the consumer as they have to cash them in at some point, at a bank or Coinstar for a loss of 10%! This can often turn people away from numismatics, rather than to it. Cents have outlived their usefulness as one cent will not buy anything, at least without carrying rolls around. In fact, the cent has become so useless as money, you are losing money if you bend down to pick a cent up from the sidewalk, considering you make the minimum wage in California. There is also the issue of a government deficit. Minting billions of cents a year leads to a yearly deficit of over $100 million, taken on partially by taxpayers, the rest put into the national debt.

Many people advocate for the cent because of its cultural significance. Depicted on the cent, President Lincoln, he is already honored on the $5 bill, which is more common than the cent in everyday commerce. While the cent may have been the workhorse of commerce since its beginnings, the nickel and quarter have dominated the last 125 years as the most circulated coins. In the mid-1850’s half cents and Spanish coins were phased out of circulation, yet the majority of people readily accepted the change as a sign of prosperity, not losing history. On the same note, other countries, including Canada in 2012, have discontinued their lowest denomination coins and while people protested the change towards the beginning, few people noticed a change in their bills or expenses. While the United States may be behind its time on the issue of cents, it needs a more realistic solution, as a straight abolition is unlikely to happen.

The United States coinage system was one of the first decimalized monetary systems in the world. But with inflation and basic metal prices rising, it seems a new system, or solution needs to be adopted. A likely target date for any changes is 2027, the year after the 250th year since the declaration of independence, and the affiliated coinage. I would propose a radical proposition. Abolish the cent, nickel, and dime from circulation because of their nominal purchasing power, with the last year of issue being 2026, with an option to continue the series as collector-only Not-Issued-For-Circulation coins. As for quarters, I would continue the current circulating commemoratives, and once they are finished, start new ones that contain one design per year. Reissuing a smaller-sized half dollar and small sized dollar would be quite a change, but one almost every numismatist supports. A ringed two dollar coin would help replace the $1 and $2 bills, and possibly higher denominations. The cases for and against keeping the cent in circulation are strong and persuasive, but I tend to lean toward the eventual abolition of the cent, even though my collecting journey was started by a cent from my birth year, 2009.



Level 4

Quite the thought piece, eh? I am a Lincoln Cent collector so it would be very sad for me to see them be cut from circulation. I would like to see a change to the cent, though. We get a new reverse every 50 years, but we only got a 1-year commemorative reverse in 2009. I would like to see not only a new reverse, but possibly a new obverse as well. If we get it right, there will be a craze similar to what happened in 1909.

AC Coin$🌎

Level 6

Evolution within the US currency has been an utmost interest for many. However, at times changes in coinage have resulted necessary regarding popular demand on one side and, lack of prime materials on the other. It is nice to read your blog, quite descriptive. I sense indeed some changes soon in the overall appearance of many US denominations. Good luck . "Never give "

Long Beard

Level 5

A touchy and always debatable subject. Personally, I'd like to see both the cent and one dollar federal notes retired. And for the obvious reasoning, seigniorage (cost of metal to face value). For the cent, it should be returned to it's original copper composition and struck only for collectors, such as those found in sets. We already strike a dollar coin, yet it will not be accepted so long as the paper form co-circulates. Which is a shame where the Innovation series is concerned. Yet if you look at the latest figures, the cent is still requested by the financial sector (banks), which order them from the Federal Reserve who in turn places orders with the mint. 485,200,000 of them were struck in January of this year, so there is your answer. The Cent is going no where soon. If anything, look to the past. In 1873 silver as a metal exceed the face value, so they reduced the coin weights. Again, in the early 1960's. Clad coinage solved the matter in 1965. A simple switch in composition will occur long before the denomination is retired.


Level 7

There economy might be good but people are paying more for items. A family of four instead of charging a penny. They had no replacement so they round of food and everything went up more. Four in a family adds up more per month. And they asked parents if they keep there children to two they get a 750 break on taxes. That was before they got rid of the penny.

It's Mokie

Level 6

Canada has successfully eliminated the Cent, the Dollar Bill, and the Two Dollar Bill with no major consequences to their economy. On the issue of rounding up danger, Canada mandated that you could only round up on the total bill. For example, if you went to the grocery store and bought 20 items totaling $89.27, then the merchant could round up to $89.30. In reality the market pressures made it very clear to merchants that rounding down was the better strategy, in order to make the consumer happy and now a decade after the demise of the Cent, the Canadian consumer feels no inflationary effect while Canada saves millions by no longer producing the Cent, and the paper Dollar and Two Dollar bills. I very much doubt if the Cent is going anywhere right now as it would be another weapon by someone in our ongoing culture wars. But, I wish it would go away.


Level 7

I have dealt with this a hundred times since I have been here. The first cent made by the U.S. was the Fugio. It was voted on and the bill passed the first cent was made in 1787! It was designed by Benjamin Franklin. Do away with the cent and more money comes out of your pocket. They will round everything up to a nickel. Over a period of a month a regular household will be paying much more for goods.There were only four cents made during the civil war. Its good reading. There is more copper in the nickel. Did you know that a 1909 V.D.B. is on the front of the Mars Rover!! Right in front!! Do you think this country will lower money to round off. Right now if you haven't been shopping meat food fruits and boxed items have got smaller and your bill is also higher. Nothing will go down only up!

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