Penny Foolish

I had a pocketful of change weighing me down—dimes, nickels and pennies—the other day and I wanted a candy bar. Seeing one of my favorites from years ago, I bought a Three Musketeers bar for 79 cents, gave the checkout girl eight dimes and received a penny change.

I had reduced the change in my pocket from somewhere around 140 cents to 69 cents, including nine pennies.

I do a fairly good job of limiting the amount of change in my pocket and having more than 40 or 50 cents is a lot for me. And if I have quarters, they go into a holder in the car and are used to buy coffee or feed parking meters. But I got out of my rhythm after spending nine days in Wales, which is burdened with the currency of Great Britain.

I received so many coins in Wales that the right side of my body started to sag. Consider that in the British system, there are pennies (call pence), two pence, five pence, ten pence, twenty pence and fifty pence. We in the States can relate.

But on top of the pence, the British also have a one-pound and a two-pound coin and no comparable bills. So if your change is, say 11 pounds 15, you can get a lot of coins to wear you down. I got pretty good at knowing how many pound coins I had in my pocket so I could use them and avoid filling my pocket with more weight.

I reminded one of the Welsh woman making change for me, one who shared my unhappiness with the coins, that the Australians had gotten rid of one-pence and two-pence coins in the 1990s. In fact, it happened between visits for us and I was more than happy to discover their absence. My body didn’t sag right.

It would be nice if Great Britain and the United States reduced the number of penny ante coins in the system. I understand that it cost more to make a penny than the value of the coin. Why keep making them?

An anglophile friend of mine defend the pound coins years ago by explaining to me that they last longer than paper bills and that reduces costs. You might say that the Brits are pound wise and penny foolish. But then, we are also penny foolish. In addition to getting rid of at least the penny (if not the nickel and the dime), why not convert the dollar bill to a coin? Why stop with the dollar?

I know some people will lament the death of the penny, but I haven’t seen penny candy in a long time and penny ante poker is now at least nickel-dime if not quarter-fifty.

It’s time to move on.


  1. I see the logic of your argument, but I love pennies!

  2. Couldn't agree with you more. Why do folks in stores, restaurants, bars, etc have to go with their items ending in pennies. One of the bars I frequent has figured the price of their items including the tax on it to always be in the value ending of a quarter ($10.25, $15.50, etc). Sure does make things easier. I wish everyone would do that. I've been lamenting the use of pennies for at least 50 years. Course then, the advertisers couldn't make you think your getting a steal for $9.99 instead of $10.00.

  3. I think carrying coins is a trait we carry in our genes. My mother stashed change in cans and I ended up doing the same thing. I always carried a bunch of change in my pocket and our son seems to have change everywhere. I cleaned out a car that he had owned and was trying to sell and found over $50 in change all over the car.

    Nice blog.

  4. Usually forget about the coins I'm carrying in my pocket until I start walking sideways. Then I make a mental note to use the change on future purchses. With the price of things today, doesn't take long before it's gone...most times one purchase.