Biz Features

Worth Less Than Nothing: How Pennies Are Hurting Small Business

by . April 20th, 2012

Pennies might not be a hot-button issue for US Small Business or for Americans in general. We tend to drag things along, no matter how logical and obvious a solution is.

Take the metric system. It has had the toughest time finding acceptance in the US, with cocaine and ammunition probably the only widely used products commonly measured in metric – while we have to include the cost of conversion for almost every item we trade internationally. Enough about that. When was the last time you had a good experience with a penny? Was the experience worth it?

The collective joy generated by seeing Scrooge McDuck swim and ski in money is probably worth more per coin than actual pennies, which actually manage to generate net negative value. Unfortunately, this isn't even a joke.
Image property of the Walt Disney Company

The answer could save the US economy billions within a year. At current metal prices, each penny costs 2.4 US cents to make. Nickels cost 11.2! Doing away with these denominations should make life easier for small businesses that deal primarily in hard cash. Basically every single business on main street.


Here’s most of what you need to know


…and then some. Note the figures have changed (for the worse) since 2010

Thousands of Americans, no doubt many of them small business owners have been traumatized by the mental calisthenics required to calculate incredibly petty amounts day in and day out. The time taken to do these mental calisthenics has actually been proven to be more valuable than actual pennies themselves.

Even worth LESS than you think they are

And if you think Obama Administration’s plan for plastic pennies makes sense, think again.

To put things into perspective: The cost of an average salaried American worker’s time equals a penny every two seconds. When was the last time it took you less than two seconds to deal with a penny at a counter?

If in 2008, it took you more than 6.15 seconds, your action was actually less profitable than the Federal Minimum Wage! Now it would be worth even less.

Getting rid of pennies is something we can –and should– all get behind, regardless of political affiliation. Fortunately, the battle to do away with pennies (and nickels, and dollar bills) is one that any logical society would find easy to win.

Unfortunately, self-destructive sentimentality is plentiful. And logic -unlike pennies- is always in short supply.


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.