For some people, pennies are so annoying, they don’t even bother picking up strays that end up on sidewalks and streets. Then there are those who eagerly collect the copper coin, living up to the Benjamin Franklin quote that a penny saved is a penny earned.
Assuming that the rest of us fall somewhere between those extremes, today I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few facts and uses for the lowest value coin in the U.S. currency lineup—the lowly penny.
Four, no more. Carry four pennies with you at all times so you always have just enough to avoid paying the odd cents when you make a purchase. This way you avoid getting pennies back in change. Serious “change savers” save other coins but want to get rid of the pennies as quickly as possible. This method will do it.
Tons of copper. Since its beginning, the U.S. Mint has produced more than 288.7 billion pennies. Lined up edge to edge, these pennies would circle the earth 137 times. The average penny lasts 25 years.
Big waste. It now costs more than one cent to produce a penny. In 2007, the U.S. Mint lost $31 million in making 6.6 billion new pennies.
Some rarities. In 1943, at the peak of World War II, pennies of steel-coated zinc were made for a short time due to war demands for copper. A few copper pennies from 1943 were produced by accident from the 1942 copper planchet remaining in the bins. Only forty 1943 copper pennies are known to remain in existence.
Nickname. We call it a penny but that’s only a nickname. The U.S. Treasury’s official name for the coin is “one cent piece.”
Make a washer. If you don’t have washers on hand and just have to finish a project, you can drill holes into coins and use them instead. Use a dime or a penny for a small washer, and a quarter or half-dollar to simulate a larger flange washer. Brass washers cost about 4 cents each and pennies cost, well, a penny.
Road safety. Place a penny in tire tread with Abe’s head sticking into tread and pointing down. See if the top of his head disappears between the ribs. If it does, your tread is still above 2/32-inch. If you can see his entire head, it may be time to replace the tire because your treads are too shallow and you could experience a blow-out. Tires do not wear evenly so be sure to check the tread on each tire to determine that the tread depth for each is safe.
Party entertainment. Grasp a penny with thumb and middle finger of your better snapping hand. Bend arm and tilt it so it’s parallel to the ground. Snap fingers, which launches penny with middle finger. Aim and repeat until you have everyone at the party engaged, amazed and having fun.
As payback. Has anyone ever said to you, “I want you to pay back every penny you owe me?” Take them up on their word and pay them back in pennies. Just don’t try it in Canada. One man went to a lot of trouble to show up at the tax collector’s office to pay his property taxes with 200,000 pennies. He learned that under the Quebec Currency Act, no one is obliged to accept more than 25 pennies as payment for any product or service.
As a tool. Use a penny for leverage to pry the lid from a difficult “line-up-the-arrows” childproof medication bottle. Or as a spacer when laying tile.
Balancing act. Slip a penny under a vase that sits a little wobbly to steady it.
Create ballast. Tape a penny to the tail of your kite for a little more stabilizing weight.
Remove a bolt. Use as an impromptu screwdriver in a wide slotted bolt or screw.
Build a sculpture. Follow this link for inspiration to make a penny sculpture that will amaze your friends and make your mother proud.
Leave a sign. Lay a penny on your loved one’s grave-marker each time you visit. Those who follow will catch on and follow suit.
Copper flooring. Are you looking for something new in your bathroom or kitchen? If you have lots of spare pennies, perhaps you should try the copper penny flooring. At $2.56 per square foot (256 pennies to the square foot laid 16 x16 in a grid pattern) that’s about as cheap as flooring gets. Not that ambitious? Go for a shiny new countertop instead.