Scott: If you see a penny, do you pick it up? It is the only copper coin but it doesn’t work in any vending machine. Well, Maggie Rulli takes a look at why the penny may be running out of luck.
Maggie: If I gave you this one penny, would you give me two of yours?
Maggie: Why not?
Teen: I’m losing money at that point.
Maggie: Well, that is kind of what is happening with our currency. It costs more than two cents to make every one-cent penny. That is why some say we should just get rid of the penny and round up to five cents. But others think this plan sounds, well, like nonsense.
So why does it cost so much money to make money? To get some answers, we headed to the source of moneymaking. The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia is the largest mint in the world. These machines behind me crank out more than 35 million coins every single day. Now, that is a lot of change!
The first penny was initially inspired by Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s. And today, it still all starts out as an idea. Before a coin ever makes it to your pocket, it has to first be designed, and all that magic starts right here with a sculptor.
Don Everhart: We start cutting away…
Maggie: Don Everhart and Joe Menna are part of a team of sculptors at the United States Mint. Congress tells them what coins need to be made and it is their job to sketch out the idea.
Joe Menna: We’re executing laws when we do our job. Our ultimate boss is really the president, which is cool.
Maggie: And it was here that Joe designed the back of our current penny, and he even has proof.
Joe: My initials: JFM.
Maggie: I met the initials of the penny. I am, like, famous by association right now.
All designs are judged by a committee, and it is competitive to get yours chosen.
Don: Although I’ve worked on hundreds of designs, not all those got chosen.
Maggie: But with Don’s guidance, I gave it my best. Just so that everyone knows that it was me that designed it…MR.
What would the committee say about this design?
Don: It wouldn’t make it.
Maggie: Once an idea actually gets selected, it enters production. So we gear up and head to the only transfer engraving station in the United States. Here, they turn that coin design into the first tool of many in the coin-making process.
We are making money here!
My mold will go on to make anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 coins. If you are sitting in a classroom out there and have a Fort McKinley 2013 quarter in your pocket, there is a possibility that it is a Maggie original!
We are now ready to stamp out some money. We have just got to get the materials.
Congress decides what each coin is made out of, usually copper and nickel. Pennies are made out of zinc with a copper finish. First, circles, known as blanks, are punched out.
It is so loud and you can literally smell metal everywhere on the grounds here.
Then the blank coins get stamped with their design.
This machine makes 12 pennies every single second. That is 750 pennies in just one minute!
Each batch of coins is closely inspected. Once approved, the pennies are counted, bagged and sent all over the country.
So, is that portrait of Lincoln in your pocket worth all of that?
Teen: I think you should get rid of the pennies.
Teen: I throw pennies away because it’s useless. Like, it doesn’t do anything.
Teen: Because if you find a penny with the head faced up, it’s good luck.
Maggie: Canada recently joined the growing list of countries who have stopped production on their one cent coins, saying that it no longer made economic sense. But a recent poll found that more than two-thirds of people in the United States want to keep the penny. They warn that without this little guy, prices could be rounded up, making everyday goods more expensive.
And in the fight over the penny, everyone seems to be giving their two cents, even President Obama.
President Obama: Anytime we’re spending more money on something that people don’t actually use, that’s an example of something we should probably change.
Maggie: So, does a penniless United States lead to the change we need? Or does pinching pennies still make sense?
Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.
Scott: So, we want to know what do you think? Should the U.S. get rid of the penny? Head to Channelone.com and tell us what you think. You never know, we just might use your comment in tomorrow’s show.