The Oddities in the News Page

In this month's Oddities in the News:

COVID-19 has created a coin shortage. Is it time to kill the penny?


Circling Ships
Red Hair
Animals and Coronavirus
Dog Noses
Fisherman’s Unique Catch
Dr. Helen Sharman

The coin shortage could be a rallying cry for a long-running movement that has lost steam in recent years: Kill the penny!


From NPR Planet Money, August 2020 -- Banks and laundromats are scrambling. Arcades and gumball machine operators are bracing for the worst. Grocery stores are rounding their prices to even dollars or rejecting cash altogether. The specter of the coin shortage lurks everywhere

Blame COVID-19. The U.S. Mint cut back on coin production this spring to keep its workers safe. Meanwhile, the economy is constipated. "With the closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy has ... kind of stopped," explained Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell last month. Coins sit idle in closed stores' cash registers and people's homes, and they're not making it to the banks and companies that need them for business.

The coin shortage could be a rallying cry for a long-running movement that has lost steam in recent years: Kill the penny! Last year, almost 60% of the coins that the U.S. Mint churned out were pennies. 60 percent. It made more than 7 billion pennies. Seven billion. That's a lot of manpower that could be used toward making coins we actually need.

The penny is basically worthless. Actually, it's worse than worthless. It costs the U.S. government about 2 cents to produce every penny. Pennies aren't even worth our time. Wake Forest University economist Robert Whaples has calculated that the typical American worker earns a penny every two seconds. It takes most of us more than two seconds to fumble around with change or pick a penny off the ground, which explains why there are so many pennies on the ground. Money is supposed to be the medium of exchange, not dead weight.

The congressman who tried to kill the penny

Jim Kolbe spent two decades trying to kill the penny. He's a former Republican congressman from Arizona, and he began his fight in the late 1980s. Initially, it was not a noble-minded quest to free us of the penny. He says, frankly, that he first wanted to help the copper industry in Arizona by getting rid of the paper dollar and replacing it with a copper-coin dollar. He saw polling that showed there was widespread support for killing the penny, so he and his colleagues bundled the idea of a new copper-coin dollar with the idea of killing the penny. (The penny is made mostly of zinc, not copper.)

But over time, Kolbe says, his proposal to kill the penny became more than just a way to help the copper industry. "It was a logical reform that would have saved the U.S. government a lot of money," he says.

By the 1990s, Kolbe says, he was introducing new legislation to kill the penny with every new session of Congress. But he kept facing resistance — for example, from the speaker of the House at the time, Dennis Hastert, who represented a district in Illinois, the home state of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, of course, is on the penny, and Kolbe says that proved to be a major roadblock. So were special interests such as zinc miners and the company that supplies the "penny blanks" used to mint the penny.

Penny defenders' strongest argument was that eliminating it would hurt consumers. All those $9.99 products? The prices would be jacked up to an even $10! They called it the "rounding tax." But Whaples, that penny-researching economist at Wake Forest University, conducted a study of convenience stores and found that the final digit of purchases, which usually involve multiple products and a sales tax, was pretty much random. "And so if you round it to the nearest nickel, the customer wouldn't get gouged," Whaples says. Sometimes you'd round up; other times you'd round down. In the end, it would basically be a wash.








































The history of the American penny

The penny was the first currency authorized by the United States from the Mint Act of 1792 signed by George Washington. The design for this first one-cent coin was suggested by Benjamin Franklin, and for over two centuries, the penny's design has symbolized the spirit of the nation, from Liberty to Lincoln.

The history of the Penny goes back over 1,200 years ago, as the first pennies were made all the way back in 790 A.D. The word “penny” and its variations across Europe, including the German “pfennig” and the Swedish “penning,” originally denoted any sort of coin or money, not just a small denomination. In fact, Great Britian is the only country to have a denomination that is officially called the penny. In the United States, we have been calling our one-cent coins “pennies” for centuries, largely because our one-cent coin was inspired by the British penny. However, the one-cent coin or “cent” is the official name of the coins we endearingly call pennies today. Over 300 billion one-cent coins, with 11 different designs, have been minted since 1787.

See more HERE

The Fugio Penny



On April 21, 1787, the Congress of the Conferation of the United States authorized a design for an official copper penny, later referred to as the Fugio cent because of its image of the Sun and its light shining down on a sundial with the caption, "Fugio" (Latin: I flee/fly, referring to time flying by). This coin was designed by Benjamin Franklin; as a reminder to its holders, he put at its bottom the message, "Mind your business". This design was based on the 1776 "Continental dollar" coin, which was produced in pattern pieces but was never circulated.

Some historians believe that the word "business" was intended literally here, as Franklin was an influential and successful businessman. It does not mean "mind your own business" as that phrase is used today, but rather, "pay attention to your affairs".

The reverse side of both the 1776 Continental dollar coins and paper notes, and the 1787 coins, bore the third motto "We Are One" (in English) surrounded by thirteen chain links, representing the original thirteen colonial states. Following the reform of the central government with the 1788 ratification of the 1787 Constitution, gold and silver coins transitioned to the motto "E pluribus unum" from the Great Seal of the United States.

The influx of counterfeit and lightweight coppers in circulation was a serious problem that hurt both laborers and small business and kept the economy from growing. Every time a worker or merchant accepted a lightweight copper at face value, they lost money because others would only accept these underweight coins at a discount, usually substantially below face value. Just as some states had taken action by minting their own coppers, the Continental Congress of the Confederation passed a resolution on April 21, 1787, for the contract coining of a national copper cent.

All Fugio Coppers are dated 1787, though none exhibit a denomination. They are referred to in government documents and in contracts by weight.

See more HERE and HERE