Though some prefer to think it's time to take the penny out of circulation, that is just a step too far in my humble opinion. But rather, what should be done is that the US government should, for the present time, stop minting new pennies. They cost more than one cent per unit to pump out, so they are the only currency that the government takes a loss on. In fact, it is more profitable to gather up pennies to melt them down for their zinc and copper than it is to spend them -- so much so that there's a law that bans that. But of the roughly 300 billion pennies that have come off the line in the history of the nation, it is estimated that between 140 billion and 200 billion remain in circulation right now,* and merely stopping production (without setting forth any mandate against at some point resuming the same) would not prevent those existing circulating pennies from being used. The US Mint estimates the life span of a penny at 25 years, so those coined as recently as just today will be on the market for a long, long time to come.

A penny production halt might nudge up the "collectible" value of pennies a wee bit, but not so much that this should influence anyone's behavior towards pennies as currency. But its more profound effect would be that it would also push down commodity prices for those constituent metals, making it cheaper for others to manufacture with them and boosting economies which require them in cheap supply (or better yet easing up some of the overly invasive mining and ore processing involved in obtaining them), and it would save the US government enough money to justify a short run respite. And, as small a gesture as it may be, it would provide to the people and the world a solid and visual symbol of the seriousness of the US in reigning in its debt.

And if, in the course of human events to follow, people should fall off in the use of pennies (after all those penny-packed mason jars sitting in cupboards have been exhausted), then their demise will come about as a natural force of the market, not as some mandate recalling them from use or eliminating their value.

* Source: The MegaPenny Project

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