Pennies Are Lucky, But Not for Us

Why are pennies still around?

The US government loses money producing pennies, and by the US government, I mean the average American taxpayer. As reported by the Washington Post, it costs 1.8 pennies to produce one penny.

There’s a lively debate happening, coined 😉 the “Penny Debate,” regarding whether or not the US should pull the little Lincoln from circulation since it’s produced at a loss.

Despite this controversy, pennies are still around. In fact, there’s a lot of them around.

According to the US Mint, there are currently 666.4 million pennies in circulation as of 2015, between the production from their Philadelphia and Denver facilities, which accounts for around 43% of all circulated coins. This not-so-lazy research, combined with my own always-superior-and-never-peer-reviewed anecdotal and observational evidence, means that pennies are the form of denomination you’re most likely to find on the ground.

Maybe all these pennies on the ground are the result of the sheer volume in circulation. Maybe it’s a form of protest by anti-penny advocates. Thanks to xkcd, we know that picking up pennies is a possible financial loss, so maybe people are losing them and don’t care enough to retrieve them. Maybe there are those people out there, like me, who intentionally throw pennies on the ground as a positive anonymous act to spread good luck.

There’s an abundance of these pennies and when I see one I pick it up, and I know I’m not alone in doing this. My older brother said he picks up every penny he sees, though he says he spends them instead of saving, with the exception of an exceptional 1943 silver penny and one with an unstamped reverse side. Longtime MSN Money contributor Donna Freedman also picks up pennies and knows all the other good spots to find them. Lifehacker conducted a poll in which the largest percentage of votes indicated people are willing to pick up pennies.

Lots of people pick up pennies on the ground. One reason, as in the case for my brother and Ms. Freedman, is because pennies still rock value in our economy, making you a little richer and increasing your spending power. Another reason, which is the reason I pick up pennies, is because of the superstition that they’re made of copper-plated zinc and luck.

Fuzzy history says the whole “pennies found on the ground are lucky” thing descended from the notion that metal was a gift from the gods to protect us from evil. I don’t know. I’ve collected pennies and never received any good luck, even though I continue to pick them up.

Maybe pennies aren’t lucky because they bring us luck; maybe they’re lucky because they manage to survive and live for less-than-free everywhere on the ground while doing their best to disappear by the billions in a society where a large chorus of people want them to die out.

Pennies are lucky because they persist. At least until 2026.

in honor of friday the 13th

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