A Penny for Your Thoughts

The debate about whether the U.S. should continue to circulate the one-cent coin continues.

February 17, 2021

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Because the U.S. Mint spends roughly two cents to produce a new penny, the debate on whether the U.S. should retire the humble one-cent coin continues. From a convenience retail standpoint, pennies and other coins can slow the checkout line. Why should—or shouldn’t we—keep the penny in circulation?

“Money is a part of everyone’s lives, and it’s in everyone’s pocket,” said Zach Edick, who, along with his wife, Jamie Kovach, directed the documentary, “Heads-up: Will We Stop Making Cents?” This debate is literally “one that will impact every person in the country,” Kovach said on this week’s episode of Convenience Matters, “Should the Penny Stay, or Should the Penny Go?

This isn’t a new question about the penny’s future in American pockets. “It’s been asked for a long time,” Edick said. Congress considered jettisoning the penny in the 1980s, but the legislation didn’t pass. “This is something that keeps coming up for more than 30 years. We’re on a timetable that feels in the next 30 years it will happen.”

“It’s pretty startling how long it’s been an issue—40 years of people trying to get rid of the penny with no success?” Kovach added. “Government’s a slow-moving machine, and that’s one of the things we touch on in the film. Unlike other countries that have made this decision, like Canada, in the U.S., it has go through Congress.”

Kovach and Edick both see the currency landscape shifting away from coins and paper money in general, as more consumers embrace digital wallets. “The main thing is how does the public respond to the question [about whether to keep the penny] and the fear and anxiety that can come from change,” Edick said. “It’s kind of like a Y2K moment.”

For more about the great penny debate, listen to the podcast. Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 250 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and heard on YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than 200,000 times by listeners around the world.